Fixer Upper

“Nothing is permanent. When you understand this, you can do almost anything you wish because you’re not trying to hold on to anything anymore.” — marcandangel


by Marcus James

I am a fixer; a do-it-yourselfer. I’ve always had an inclination toward learning how things work and how to fix them, but this inclination has turned into a dominant character trait in marriage and as we’ve grown our family. From vehicle repairs, computer repairs, plumbing, and just about anything you can find answers to on YouTube, I am somewhat adventurous when it comes to fixing things. For most of our marriage, this characteristic has served our family, and me, well. It has saved us incalculable amounts of money and has helped keep our home and lives running smoothly.

There is another side to this characteristic that has certainly not gone unnoticed within me, but I actually lean into as a healthy outlet. Being a fixer is very therapeutic for me. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and reminds me that even when things in life are out of my control (i.e., I can’t fix them) there are plenty of things that I can fix. 

Over the past five years of our marriage, fixing things has become my mode of operation. I’ve further refined my shade tree mechanic skills and am willing to take on just about anything. It has certainly been my way of dealing with the hard things in life, as my wife has had to face childhood trauma, which has impacted marriage and family life. We have taken on these challenges together. Not for a lack of trying, I’ve never been able to fix our personal stuff, and I’ve come to accept that I never will be able to, but fixing the material stuff has become my escape. 

When we lost our precious baby girl, everything in life stopped. I could not bring myself to do anything but just be with my wife and children. Everything else took a back seat, as it should have.

About three months into our grief journey, I noticed a small leak on my water pump in my vehicle. I was not thinking clearly, and I decided to tighten the bolt a tad, which snapped, leaving the bolt without a head in the timing cover. To make matters worse, I tried to get it out, which only lodged it in more securely. In short, this turned into a costly repair, and my inner turmoil came rushing out in the process. I then vowed that I would not try to fix things until the intensity of our grief had subsided.  This led me to a much needed season of sitting with my grief and being with my wife in it even deeper than before. Months three through eight of our grief journey would prove to be some of the most trying times of my life, but also some of the deepest. 

Roughly nine months in, I felt some of the heaviness of grief begin to lift enough that I felt I could start fixing things again. I began to realize just how much had been neglected with vehicles, appliances, finances, so on and so forth. Since that time, for the past four months, I feel almost as though I’ve been in a fixing frenzy, and I haven’t been able to catch up. In fact, I’ve felt as though the list keeps growing and growing. Faster than I can fix, things are breaking, finances fall further out of control, the lawn keeps growing, and it all is just so overwhelming. It has also become a way of busying myself so as to not sit with the grief, but you can only run from grief for so long.

Tonight I decided to tackle some of the to-do list in the back yard. The grass hasn’t been cut in three weeks, a leaking above-ground pool needed to be thrown out, and a rotten wooden play set needed to be demolished. It’s been raining here so the nice long grass was saturated with water, mud and soggy dog mess. As I cut up the play set, that our kids have played on and swang on for the last seven years, emotion began to surface, and I felt the grief again so deeply. I realized that life is out of my control, certainly the temporal aspects of it, but even more so the emotional. Really, it’s been that way since May 22, 2017...out of control, and there are no signs of letting up, as it seems, not even 13 months later. Life just keeps spinning, and it seems the things that were once easy, are anything but. It used to be easy to stay on top of the finances. It used to be easy to keep the grass cut every week. But now, nothing is easy.

As I dredged through the grass, mud, and dog crap, my thoughts went to the reality that nothing is permanent. Everything is passing. Something that sure, we all know, but those who grieve learn the reality all too well. I thought of my little girl and how she is gone from this life, as everything and everyone else will follow. My thoughts also went to a life that is permanent and one that she now is a part of.  

While here, I may be able to fix some things, but there are many things I can never fix on this side of heaven. And while I will keep trying to fix, I can’t shake the feeling that I might never catch up.