Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey

Kenneth Lourie

So I've been told mnemonically for years. But when you're home and automotive-repair challenged as I am, everything is much easier said than done, especially when the mnemonic device is easier to handle/figure out than whatever tool and/or schematic is necessary/advisable for the at-home/in-driveway repair. (We don't have a garage, or much of a basement for that matter. It's more of a cellar, actually. In fact, I call it "the dugout," so lack of spatial accommodations can exacerbate the problem.)

And that's sort of how I feel whenever I attempt a home/car-owner-type repair. Soon after I organize whatever thoughts and tools I guess I might need: within minutes of the initial effort, I will have likely complicated the repair and will be forced to dig myself out, sometimes literally. I'll spare you the details, but suffice to say, I am a man of my word and that word is disaster. To invoke the great and often-quoted Dirty Harry: "A man's got to know his limitations" (Magnum Force, 1973), and believe me, I do.

Granted, replacing bulbs in my house, as written in the final paragraph of last week's column: "What To 'Ware," ranks pretty low on the home owner's list of honey-can-you-do?. Nevertheless, challenges do present themselves, especially when height and a ladder - or a step stool, with no spotter, are involved. And when I'm looking up with arms outstretched attacking the problem: light fixture from multiple angles, sometimes, when I place my hand on the bulb, I begin to lose my orientation and am unsure where's 'Righty' and where's 'Lefty.' And even though I always remember 'Tighty and 'Loosey,' when 'Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey' doesn't immediately bring results, I tend to lose patience - and confidence, and slowly retreat to lower ground to reassess.

Unfortunately, there's no one to call. I mean, when you fail at the most basic and fundamental responsibility a home/car owner has, it's difficult, even for someone with as little ego as me, to admit abject failure. Repairing a toilet, installing light fixtures and/or ceiling fans; sawing, sanding, measuring, leveling and drilling; lifting, balancing and carrying; and anything else involving plumbing, electrifying; and even hammering and screwing in general, are tasks I don't mind asking and/or paying for. Having been down this road many times before, I know it's a path that won't lead to my redemption.

So not wanting to make a bad situation worse, or create a problem where one or two previously didn't exist, I have to employ the simplest of solutions. And what's simpler than "a pithy observation that contains a general truth:" an aphorism (Dictionary. com), an aid to one's lack of memory and ability to perform even the most basic of tasks, particularly as it pertains to a home owner: bulb replacement.

Not that this inability is at all defensible. It's not. It's totally indefensible and one whose defense is not all explainable by the most offensive of terms: cancer. Which as you regular readers know has been the bane of my existence going back to late Feb., 2009. That's when my Internal Medicine doctor called me at work to share the results of my previous week's surgical biopsy. His suggestion was that we met in his office to discuss the results. I shook my head in disbelief. If he wants to meet me in person, the results must be bad, I thought. Otherwise, he'd just tell me, right? I asked him to hold on as I found a private office for us to talk (me to react) and braced myself. He told me the growth was malignant and suggested I see an oncologist as soon as possible. An appointment was set for the following Thursday.

Much has changed in my life ever since that fateful day, but not as it concerns this home/car owner's inability to handle the most mundane tasks. Might haven actually gotten worse. As for "the cancer," as "Forrest, Forrest Gump" described the cause of his mother's death, not so bad. I am alive and reasonably well, eight years and nearly two months out, six years plus past the end date of my original "13 month to two year" prognosis. Of that I'm proud. As for the home and car repair deficiencies, I could care less. I have to admit though, it is laughable - and pathetic.


Kenneth LourieMr. Lourie’s columns can be found at www.kennywithcancer.com

"This column is my life as one of the fortunate few; a lung cancer anomaly: a stage IV lung cancer patient who has outlived his doctor’s original prognosis; and I’m glad to share it. It seems to help me cope writing about it. Perhaps it will help you relate reading about it."

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