My niece and her husband had just driven out of the driveway when I realized that I had forgotten to warn him about the missing wall in our bathroom. That must have been a shock. I mean, it’s not open to nature or anything, but there’s no sheetrock. We had a suspicion, shortly after moving in eleven years ago, that there was some water somewhere that it shouldn’t be. It just smelled wet. Of course, they couldn’t find anything wrong before the contractor went bankrupt, but a few years ago a neighbor with the same floor plan mentioned that they had discovered that the builders had screwed the shutters on right through a drainpipe. Eureka! David and a plumber friend repaired the pipe, but by this time the sheetrock, insulation, subflooring, and studs were rotten. We did what we could and then found out that a complete repair and reconstruction would be about $4,000. We couldn’t believe it, but we got three bids, and they were all over $3,000. At this point, it won’t get any worse, and David has new studs in there next to the rotten ones, so the house won’t fall down. After about six months, we figured that, since it was dry, we should probably add some insulation for the sake of our heating bill. Now we’re contemplating sheetrock. We’re not contemplating paying someone $4,000 for the repair any time soon, since this is just one in a long line of demands on our money.
I was talking about the lottery with my sister recently. The jackpot had probably gotten over $300 million, which is about where I start to think it might be worth whatever it costs to buy a ticket. I’ve never actually bought one. It’s not that I have moral objections, although someone might be able to talk me into that, but I’m just way too cheap. I can’t imagine spending my money without a guaranteed return. Anyhow, we agreed that we didn’t have to be fabulously rich, but it would be nice if we could actually afford the lifestyle that we’re now living. How peaceful it must be to just fix everything that’s broken: all the appliances working, all of the cars running well, and even the exterior of the house in such beautiful shape that you’re an HOA’s Yard of the Month.
I drove home from work a couple of weeks ago to find my son in the driveway near his car. David was doing yard work, so I knew he didn’t want me to pull into my usual spot, and I wanted to know if Michael was leaving and needed me to move my car. I couldn’t catch his eye, so I bumped my car horn—and the air bag light popped on. I knew there was a short somewhere between the horn and the air bag light, but it hadn’t come on for six months! I’m not sure if it’s just the light that is the problem, or if the air bag is actually disabled, so I really should get it fixed. I could tell you that the light is never on when I’m going by the dealer, but in truth, I just keep hoping it will go off and stay off, which it does a lot of the time! To ratchet up the stress, I walked upstairs ten minutes later to find a notice from the North Carolina DMV, telling me that it was time to renew my registration, following a safety inspection, of course. Happily, the light went out the next afternoon, and I got the car inspected as quickly as possible. Passed! The light hasn’t come on since.
“Rich” is such a relative term. Another niece of mine is just returning from a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, where her group helped the locals to build shelters from whatever they could find in the dump: cardboard, sheets of corrugated metal, or whatever came to hand. They have no sewer system, so the church group helped them to dig outhouses and waste areas. They played with the beautiful children and tried to spread the news of happiness beyond this life. American television could convince me that everyone else drives beautiful cars and has every gadget known to man, while I am frustrated that my old DVD player has more idiosyncrasies than a cosseted old lady. But I do have a DVD player and enough money to have a disc-only plan with Netflix. Such first-world problems!
My dryer— which is now out in the garage waiting for the time when I can replace it and have Lowes take it away— was held together with masking tape at the end of its days. We tried duct tape, but it left a sticky goo when it was heated. Masking tape worked better, but it kept drying out and had to be replaced. Eventually, David installed a brass latch that one usually sees on a door. It worked, and we were perfectly happy with our Harvest Gold contraption until the heating element gave out. Thirty-two years is a good run for any appliance, so we are now borrowing Michael’s dryer, which was stored in our garage until he gets a job and moves out. I’m not sure what will happen then, but I will definitely not get a dryer with a door that opens sideways, as this one does. The wrong side, too, although I’ve been told that you can turn it around. No one has actually done this, though, so the folding process goes like so: bump door over with hip, pull out one item, fold, put in pile. Bump door over with hip, pull out one item, rinse & repeat. I have also been told that there is a buzzer somewhere, but it has been disabled, and no one can remember how to reverse this modification.
However, I do have clean, dry clothes, which are washed and dried inside of my clean, dry house, and some of the cleaning is actually done by our new robot! David may be driving around with the Check Engine light on sometimes, but he is smart enough to know what is wrong and what to do about it. It will become irreparable eventually, but we’re okay for now. We can have faith in more than lottery tickets because we see that we are truly quite rich in all of the things that matter and many of the things that really don’t. I have a family I love and even a job that I love, live in a house and have a car to drive, and have plenty of healthy and unhealthy food to eat. We have a great church and a faith that points us to true riches that never break down. Perhaps our struggle in America is to find contentment, to somehow squelch the desire to say with Janis Joplin, “Oh, Lord! Won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?”