Old House Handyman: Dad no longer needed, and that's OK

The latest home project in our family was 34 years in the making, and I wasn’t involved.

When I realized that a significant bathroom makeover was well underway, it hit me that she didn’t need me anymore.

I was bursting with pride that my eldest daughter fearlessly and confidently dove into a big project without any help from Dad. It also left me a little misty-eyed that my baby didn’t need my help.

I’ll get over that. A parent’s role is to raise children to be independent, right? We want them to learn a lot, find fulfilling jobs, make good decisions and be successful in life.

From the day we took her from the hospital nursery to her room in our first old house, Daughter #1 has been near or involved in old-house renovation projects. The same is true for our twin daughters, whose first home was that same 1876 Italianate with arched windows; foot-thick, brick walls; 11-foot ceilings and both a front and back staircase.

We moved from that house when the younger two were 2, so they don’t remember it. But our eldest daughter has faint memories of the place she called home until she started kindergarten.

And throughout her life, we were perpetually involved in some sort of project to restore Old House #1 or Old House #2, where we still live and my bride and daughter #2 just repainted our bedroom. (It was the first makeover since 29 years ago, when all three daughters “helped” strip wallpaper from that room and then “helped” paint it pink in anticipation that one of them would be occupying that room. Plans changed, and that pink room — now light blue — became Mom and Dad’s room.)

I learned about our eldest daughter’s bathroom project the way most parents these days learn about anything involving their children — in a text.

Old House Handyman: Dad no longer needed, and that's OK

The text included before and after photos, first of the old bathroom, and then the bathroom minus toilet, sink, vanity and medicine cabinet. The “after” photos showed freshly painted ceiling and walls, and a rusted, angry-looking flange where the toilet had been.

Daughter #1’s husband helped with demo work, and she took the lead on the rest of it.

She determined that the waste-pipe flange would not support the new toilet she had purchased, so she did some YouTube sleuthing and found helpful videos that showed her the parts she needed to fix it and how to install them. (Sniff! No call to Dad. But truth be told, I wouldn’t have had the answer for her. She did the right thing.)

She and her husband installed new flooring, plumbed in the new waste-pipe flange, put in a new vanity and sink, and hooked up the plumbing without leaks. The new sink faucet includes a ring light that magically illuminates the water as soon as it starts to flow!

The project took about a week, start to finish, and everything I know about it came to me through a text message or a photo.

Each one made caused a little lump in my throat, not because I wasn’t helping with the plumbing (which I hate), but because I’m so darn proud that if my daughter learned nothing else from watching her parents renovate two old houses, she learned that she could do it, too.

Alan D. Miller is a Dispatch editor who writes about old house restoration and historic preservation.