There is a picture of me as a little boy that will tell you a lot about the way my mind works. I am sitting on a horse on a merry-go-round but instead waving to my Mom, who I’m sure was standing nearby watching me, or pretending to be a cowboy, I am looking up at the mechanism above me to figure out what makes the horse go up and down. I liked to know how things work. As a result, I spent a lot of time in my childhood taking things apart, things like old radios and mechanical toys that didn’t work any more. There was no plan other than to see what was inside. But eventually, I discovered that … sometimes … I could I could take things apart that weren’t working and fix them. Sometimes. I loved it when that happened.
Sixty or so years later, that hasn’t changed. I love to fix things. When a virus turns up on my desktop computer, there is a part of me that loves the challenge of figuring out how to kill it. My grandkids love it that I’ll spend an hour fixing a buck and a half toy that nobody in their right mind would fix. Friends and relatives call me when their computers misbehave, and I am Mr. Fixit for anything electronic at the 12-Step office where I volunteer each week. I’ll fearlessly tackle electrical wiring, car problems and plumbing. But being Mr. Fixit isn’t always a good thing. I’ve been known to spend hours trying to fix some software error that could be remedied in ten minutes by reinstallation and on occasion, I’ve killed off a piece of electronics as I tried to fix some annoying malfunction. Sometimes my plumbing adventures have turned into all weekend projects.
This week, I was one for two. Sunday afternoon, I was doing a little container gardening in the back yard when I noticed a sprinkler malfunctioning in the back lawn. Before I knew what I was doing, the forty-year old in my head had me digging up the offending sprinkler head in the humid Socal afternoon air. Two hours later, I was sucking down liquids in the family room, dehydrated and exhausted from working in the heat … and the job was unfinished. In removing the old sprinkler, the pipe had become fouled with dirt that I couldn’t get out. Fortunately, my son was able to finish the job … in about fifteen minutes … on Monday. On the other hand, when my beloved Google Nexus 7 Tablet would no longer take a charge, I found a video on YouTube showing how to replace the powerport and the part for $35 on Amazon. Replacement was easy … except for having to remove and replace two of the smallest screws known to man … and my baby is working again. Yay!
But here’s the thing. When you are Mr. Fixit for most of your life, you begin to think that you can fix people, too. When my kids were little, I could make them do what I wanted which only added to the illusion. Then they grew up. At seventy, after twenty-something years working the twelve steps, I realize I can’t fix anyone but myself. Sometimes, that just plain sucks, like when someone I love is headed down a path that seems less than wise. Then again, I know, wherever they go, it’s their deal, not mine. That’s not as good as getting them to do what I want but at least I’m not responsible for what they do. Computers, Mr. Fixit can handle. Sprinklers, sometimes. People? Never.
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
If that was only easier to remember.