Feeling Needed

Katie Young
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Wednesday - April 07, 2005
| Del.icio.us

It’s nice to feel needed. It’s also nice to feel useful. I think the same holds true no matter what our age or gender.

But the intensity of these feelings change as we get older. As babies, we need our parents; as young adults, we struggle to find our independence and place in the professional world.

When we become parents ourselves, we have someone who needs us all the time. By the time our own babies are grown, we’re facing retirement and the impending inevitability of senior discounts and old age — and eventually, needing someone else to help us do what we could once easily do for ourselves.

My father has talked to me about his own feelings on the subject over the years, especially when he retired this past summer after working in the professional world for almost four decades.

He admits to conflicted emotions about the change. On one hand, he’s happy to finally have time to pursue his other interests like photography and writing. On the other hand, he misses not being part of the corporate “combat team.”

Plus, his only daughter, me, has grown up and, with my own handyman boyfriend named Sebastian, I don’t ask dad to fix all the little things with the same frequency I used to.

When dad’s toilet broke last month and needed replacing, he was faced with another reality: Lifting the porcelain bowl on his own might be too much for his 60-year-old body to handle.

He opted to hire a professional instead of risking a hernia from dragging an old and new bowl in and out of the house.

It was a sobering experience. My father, a macho guy with a Ph.D. in engineering, had fixed everything for as long as I can remember — from clogged sinks to overflowing washing machines and every car repair in between.

“Dad, the dryer won’t run.”

“Dad, the sink is stopped up.”

“Dad, I vacuumed up Pono’s rubber carrot and now it’s stuck. Help!”

Who would have thought my father would miss being needed for these tedious tasks?

So we were both a little relieved when the Badger broke. What badger, you ask? Well, the one under the sink in our kitchen — the one that disposes of all our food waste.

Mind you, it’s not an actual badger harnessed under the sink that eats our garbage — though I have thought on occasion that attaching Pono, the wiener dog, under there might be pretty efficient.

Our Badger 5 garbage disposal is the original one my father installed a good 25 years ago. We were surprised it lasted this long. Glad, also, that it lasted this long because now my father had a new home improvement project to tackle.

“Dad, the garbage disposal is broken!” I yelled from the kitchen. “The sink isn’t draining!”

Both my father and Sebastian came running into the room, tools in hand, ready to pull apart and tinker with the old Badger. My father won out, however, as the man who would get to install the new unit.

He was a little tentative, as he had not undertaken a major household repair like this in a few years. What if the pipes were rusty? What if the bolts were stuck? What if the new disposal didn’t fit?

Luckily, the company still makes the identical Badger they did almost three decades ago — apparently it was a decent animal.

A day later, I came into the kitchen to find my father sprawled on the floor, head under the sink, tools and towels strewn about the kitchen.

Within a matter of minutes, the new Badger had been snapped into place. The box hadn’t lied; it was “fast and easy installation.”

Triumphant, my father rose from the ground with a giant smile on his face. He flipped the switch and voila: gnarling, gnashing Badger at full power.

Age has a way of sneaking up on you. Young people will do anything, try anything. We’re young and quite capable.

It’s hard, sometimes, to admit the toll that age can take. As a retiree, my father was not ready for a rocking chair (he does still tap dance, after all), but he did feel physically more limited than he once was. Now, at least he still has some bragging rights — not able to handle the toilet repair, but quite capable of replacing a Badger under the sink.

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