I didn’t even want a microwave but it was cheaper than getting a vent hood and is convenient for a quick defrost or boil. I knew it would be mounted above the range, under the cabinet above it. I knew we had an electrical outlet in the wall right where it would go. The truth is I thought it would be so simple I didn’t even allow any time in the schedule for it. But just like I’ve realized repeatedly over the last two months: renovations are the most poignant metaphors for life and this installation was anything but uncomplicated.
I’m good with an instruction manual; I can rock an Ikea guide, which comes with no words at all. This microwave came with TWO books; one for installation and one for usage. I was overwhelmed but my father, the lead contractor on the job, makes me feel everything is easy – even if it’s not as straightforward as promised in the texts.
First, we had to prepare the vent which entailed unscrewing the back panel, taking out the wire, rotating it, rewiring it, and reattaching the back panel. Easy peasy. (Not really.) Next, we had to put a support metal panel onto the back wall. This came with explicit instructions to secure with two toggle screws and one metal screw into a stud. This would have been simple enough if my drywall wasn’t half the length of the toggle screw. My father, the superman, attempted to break the screw and when that didn’t work (because he’s merely a human man), used a metal nail file to “Shawshank Redemption” style wear away at it until it was thin enough to break. Miraculously it worked but by then the screw was threaded and the toggle broke off, defeating its purpose.
The comedy of errors continued when the hole we drilled was too big and another hole was not big enough. The template they provided for the top cabinet (another way to secure the microwave) didn’t fit our cabinet and the top screws were misaligned. When we finally got it all correct and plumb, I had to hold the cabinet myself over my head as my father secured it. This was when two phones rang at once. He had to get his because it was his dying sister calling from the hospital.
“Go ahead,” I urged him. “I’ve got this,” as I precariously balanced the 700-pound unit over my head, leaning my elbow on a step stool for support.
After five minutes I said loudly, “OK, say hold on a second, I can’t handle this anymore.”
It was time to pick my daughter up from school. The hours had evaporated and in the time I thought all four appliances would be installed, we hung one. I felt frustrated and defeated.
As I recounted the pitfalls of the day to my husband, I realized my father handles these construction challenges with so much more grace than I do. Normally he is easily irritated and infuriated (especially in traffic and in waiting) but not in matters of building and repair. He confronts each obstacle like a puzzle, a welcome brain stretch. Nothing is impossible or can’t be figured out; it is purely a matter of thinking about it in a different way or considering another tool. He is king of “outside the box” thinking.
I’m convinced they based the character of MacGyver on my father. I can think of dozens of times he has used the equivalent of a paperclip and gum to create a bomb. In high school, he drove around in a small, powder blue Hyundai. Everything was hand operated in the car: the transmission, the steering, the windows, the seats. One afternoon my father picked me up and it was torrential downpours and the wipers had died, without a backup system to operate them. My father hacked a system using a series of rubber bands and a wire hanger he sculpted into a handle. I peed my pants within two minutes as I watched him steer with one hand, shift gears with the other, and use a magical third hand to pull the newly created hand-operated wiper system. It wasn’t glamorous, but it got me home safe – and dry – every time. During these roadblocks in life is where my father soars. He’s in his prime when he is saving the day, especially for those he loves.
This terrible flood which turned my family’s life upside down for a few months has somehow had secondary beneficial consequences. One is a new kitchen, another is a newfound appreciation for my father, and of course, the knowledge of how to hang a fucking microwave.