Just over 10 years ago, my then-husband and I took on the tough challenge of raising my two little grandkids. Our friends thought we were crazy to give up snowbird delights and other freedoms. (Sanity, too?) Well, we did. In spite of all the sacrifices, we decided that we’re in it for the long haul. But, there was one Christmas when we almost reconsidered…
The toilet’s plugged again. Merry Xmas! My husband, shrieking from the head: “What the Hell did the little XXYYZZ!!’s put in it this time?”
General answers : “I dunno”.
Another yell: “Where’s that thick old brown towel we always use?” (to place around the toilet so it doesn’t leak all over nearby carpeting.)
He gets everything set and tries a tentative flush. Minor flood.
“Oh, this is just great! And we’ve got company coming for Xmas dinner later. And, for the past two days we’ve had the worst snowfall in years!”
Tries our old and well-worn toilet plunger. Doesn’t work. Tries a different plunger which he borrows from the neighbour. It doesn’t work either. Trudges to the shed in the snow to get the snake. No go. Grumbles. Much groaning and wrenching. The kids watch from the doorway, fascinated. Last time he had to break the seal, take it off and haul it outside. Still more trudging and griping. This time it’s to hook up the garden hose and haul it in the high-up bathroom window. Oh no, there goes my beautiful Christmas window ledge display. Have to grab it quick before it ends up in the toilet, too! Blasts the toilet with water. No dice. The kids are now hanging onto the door frame, heads craned, with gleeful expressions on their faces.
“Grandpa’s gonna have to take the toilet off!”
They love this part. One hour till company arrives and the toilet still won’t flush. We only have one bathroom. T.G. he finally found a spare seal in the garden shed which he has saved for just such a contingency. Hauls the massive toilet outside. Me warning and cautioning all the way.
“That’s a ‘Peach Bisque Elger Donegal Elongated’ custom ordered from the U.S. of A. I waited two months for the darn thing to come from Texas. When I built the house, the plumber had to temporarily install a white one. Six months later, my lovely peach creation arrived to match its complementary tub and basin.
“Be very careful, hon, one crack in this thing and I’ll never be able to replace it.” (I haven’t seen a colored toilet anywhere for about 15 years!)
He hikes the massive thing out the door in spite of the snow. He has set up large wooden blocks at the side of the house. Kurt is 6-foot-3, so setting it up high takes the strain off his back. It also gives the hose more “whooshing power” (to quote the kids). He places said toilet on top. A bit wobbly, like a pink leaning tower of Pisa. The kids race outside; I with the camera. He flushes it repeatedly with the hose. Camera at the ready, we take a picture of Grandpa, foot up on the side of the toilet like a big game hunter. Trusty, but dangerous, nozzle in his hand. Flushing it into submission with the garden hose. Out poops a suspicious stream of Matchbox toys! (Pun intended.)
Our little entourage follows him triumphantly back into the house as he lugs in the monster and reinstalls it — just minutes before our Christmas company arrives!
Guess what our old neighbour got from us for a Xmas present on Boxing Day? A new toilet plunger which DOES work. (In case we have to borrow it from him again next Xmas!)
Joy Sheldon is a retired Cowichan teacher and a member of the B.C. Federation of Writers. In 2019 she has published two books, one titled Whoopee, I’m A GRG! (Grandparent Raising Grandchildren). This story begins the anthology.