by MILLIE BAKER RAGOSTA
Vince is convinced he is a handyman; I’m convinced that, given his head, he’d blow up the house.
Not that he is a dummy. He’s curious and vitally interested in everything from anthropology to zoology. Once, he showed a district attorney friend of his where to find some point of law the DA couldn’t locate in his own law library. Vince knows more about his own profession, casualty insurance, than many heads of companies.
But when it comes to home improvement, he makes Tim Allen look like Bob Villa.
Once he installed an overhead lighting fixture in our kitchen. When we sat down to eat supper, Vince, with a proud flourish, turned on the light. The miniature fire-works display over the table lighted up the whole dinner. Another time, when the carpenter who had just installed a new window in the kitchen went off to eat his lunch, leaving the window trim lying on the counter, Vince said, “I’ll just nail that on for him.”
“Oh, honey, maybe you’d better not … ” I said.
He looked at me in exasperation. “Millie, you think I can’t do anything,” he said and swung the hammer at the nail he was holding, knocking a huge chunk out of the marble windowsill the carpenter had already installed.
When he attempted to install ceramic tiles in the bathroom without opening the window, he got higher than any flower child at Woodstock on the adhesive fumes. I never could explain how I—105 pounds soaking wet—managed to haul 190-pound Vince down the stairs and into the fresh air.
He keeps on trying, though. The day 6-year-old Kevin broke a window that faced onto our front porch, Vince said there was no way he was going to pay a carpenter to do such a simple job as replacing a broken window pane. He measured the window carefully, removed the porch swing from its chains, hung them out of the way and then went to the glass shop.
When he got home with the carefully wrapped pane, a glasscutter and a box of glacier’s points, he discovered he had measured too long.
“Not to worry,” he said blithely. “I’m prepared for anything. I’ll just cut off a half-inch with the glass-cutter.”
He even measured twice to be sure. The glass shattered at the first stroke of the glass-cutter.
He went back to the glass shop and bought two panes, just to be safe. He undid the package, putting the extra pane carefully against the porch wall. Kevin bumped it and broke a corner off.
“You kids all get in the back yard,” Vince thundered. As they scurried around the house, he shook his head ruefully and said, “Good thing I bought two panes.”
“I’ll just see that the kids stay out of your way,” I said and followed the kids.
After all, who could replace a broken glass with seven little kids watching? Maybe all Vince needed was a little peace and quiet. In any case, it sure couldn’t hurt.
In half an hour, he called us sounding jubilant. We rounded the house to see Vince, grinning from ear to ear, admiring his newly installed windowpane.
“See, Millie? I’m not a total klutz,” he said proudly.
“No, that’s beautiful. Really, Vince,” I said. I wasn’t kidding, either.
He released the chains from which the swing hung. “Can you help me hang the swing back?”
Just then, Kevin, the wild-child, came around the house. “Whoo-ee, you fixed the window, Daddy,” he shouted and made an exuberant swipe at the hanging chains.
What happened next seemed like that commercial on television where the lady tries to catch the cranberry juice before it hits her new carpet. The chain swung slowly back. Vince made a dive halfway across the porch in an effort to catch it. His fingertips came that close … just before the sound of tinkling glass filled the air.
MILLIE BAKER RAGOSTA is a freelance writer sharing life from Pennsylvania.