I stood at the sink in what had been my grandmother’s kitchen, looking out from her favorite windows across the fresh-cut grass toward the road where Amish families rode by on bicycles and in horse-drawn buggies.
And then I remembered why I was there: a drink of water.
I pushed on the single, lever-action handle for a shot of water.
It was evening, headed toward dark. And just as I was about to settle in for an evening of baseball on TV, the whole faucet popped loose and leaned back hard from its moorings.
I might have questioned my strength if I had been working out these past few months of COVID-19 self-quarantine. But if my muscles have done anything since the virus arrived in March, they have withered.
And if brute force didn’t cause this sudden malfunction of the most important part of any kitchen, what did?
I pursued an answer to that question by first asking my dad, who lives in that house where he was born, whether he had noticed anything unusual about the kitchen sink.
I warned him to hold the base of the faucet when he used it next, and offered that we would either fix or replace it the following day, a Saturday, last month.
He might have been upset if not for the promise of a replacement. In fact, he later said that if the faucet failure had happened midweek, when I was not around, he likely would have headed to the garage for glue and car-repair putty called Bondo to goop it back together.
Believe me when I tell you that this man who has been known to duct-tape his tattered jeans together would have gone straight to Bondo within a matter of minutes.
Instead, with his blessing, Daughter No. 3 and I crawled under the sink the next morning in the light of day (assisted by flashlight within the sink cabinet), and found that country well water had not been kind to the nuts and bolts that held the fixture in place.
In short, they had rusted and rotted away.
The faucet fixture, a basic model, had been bothering me anyway. It leaked from the point where it swiveled, and it was short, providing little clearance for washing big dishes.
Also with Dad’s blessing, we went to the nearby Amish mega-hardware store (not kidding; it’s huge) the next morning and bought a new faucet. It is a wonderfully modern fixture that does not leak when it swivels and offers a built-in sprayer that can be pulled easily from its holder to rinse dishes.
In all, it took about a half-hour to remove the old fixture and replace it. That includes the time my daughter and I used fine steel wool and polishing compound to clean up the old stainless-steal sink on which the faucet sits.
We spent more time at the hardware store than we did fixing the sink.
Either way, my dad was happy to have a new fixture — and that he didn’t have to install it.
Alan D. Miller is a Dispatch who writes about home maintenance and historic preservation.