They Don’t Break All At Once

Dearest Rachel –

So, I’ve just done three loads of laundry and run the dishwasher, all in a single afternoon. Not out of some sense of nostalgia for appliances that will soon be pulled from the house and discarded – odds are, I’ll still need to do a load or two yet between now and when the installers come late next week – but from sheer practicality. The dishwasher was full, and I happen to like having the laundry bins empty (and besides, even in this sort of semi-retired phase of my life, I don’t spend all my time at home, and when I do, I don’t always think about the chores that need doing. So when I do think of them, I’d best get on with them, or they’ll sit around, waiting to be done, for at least another week).

Unlike my letter to you some months ago, they’re not giving me all that much trouble in terms of functionality, and this is where I think about you, and how you’d react to the upcoming work on the place. Because I imagine you would have a problem with the fact that they work just fine, even as I’m planning to get rid of them. “They’re perfectly good as they are,” you would probably ask, “Why are you throwing them away?” It’s the Brave Little Toaster situation all over again.

Still, you should remember how we promised ourselves that we would remodel the kitchen at some point, especially given the fact that certain cabinets (all of which were this weird pink steel covered with a fairly unsightly wood pattern veneer) were not the most accessible…

This is as far as I can open the cabinet where we keep the glasses, for instance.

…and that decision was further reinforced when the built-in wall-mounted oven gave up the ghost some seven or eight years ago – since which, we’ve been using a toaster oven that manages to fit inside the oven cavity.

Like so.

It’s serviceable, yes, but it doesn’t really do everything you might expect an oven to do, like actually baking. It doesn’t even crisp up a pizza crust adequately (hey, laugh all you want, but these are my priorities, honey). But we made do, because we had to; we hadn’t the wherewithal to make the necessary changes until just three years ago. And since then, we’ve not been able to do anything simply because there was no way we could make changes to the house with all the stuff that cluttered it up. I used to kid you that we’d never be able to make the sort of changes we always wanted, because I’d have to clean the place out after you, and we both knew that you would outlive me, for so many reasons.

I have so few regrets about our relationship; there was never anything that we left unsaid between the two of us that I wish I’d told you. But this particular line of thought is one that I regret having expressed. I never wished you gone, true, but to even say this sort of thing seems to have tempted fate. Sure, I can make those changes now, but what has it cost me?

But it’s not enough that I’ve cleaned out so many of the things you kept for one reason or another (even if it was only because you simply couldn’t bring yourself to throw them out). The fact is, I’m not just getting rid of the broken oven, or replacing the poorly laid-out cabinetry. That, I’m sure you could live with, were we to have done it in your lifetime. What would get under your skin, I’m sure, is the fact that, in order to remodel the kitchen (and, even more so, the laundry room – although you’d agree the cabinets needed to go there as well, what with the doors falling out and the like), everything has to go. That includes the dishwasher, the fridge, the stove – all of which are still perfectly functional, even now.

It’s not the sort of thing you would necessarily countenance. And yet, honey, it can’t be helped. We can’t wait for everything to conk out; these things aren’t going to break down all at once, if at all. Who knows how long it would take for that to happen, either; everything in the kitchen dates from before we bought the house, so that’s at least twenty-five years ago. And who knows when the previous owners bought them – it seems unlikely they would buy new appliances just to leave them behind, so they probably had a few years on them already. They’ve held up really well, no doubt, but there is a time to let go and redo it all. And if that means junking stuff that’s still in fairly good working order, well, that’s how it goes, sometimes. For what it’s worth, I dare say you were in pretty good working order yourself, honey, but when the recall order comes, there’s no opposing it.

I do sometimes wonder how long you would have let things go if you stayed around. Would everything need to fall into disrepair beforehand? After all, when we replaced the hot water heater, we were stunned to learn that it had outlasted its expected lifespan by nearly double – and it was only through sheer chance that we noticed the lack of hot water before the sediment filled the tank completely. Might we have gone on using everything until it wore out, and the kitchen was on the verse of collapse, like the house of Ussher? I wouldn’t begin to guess.

And it’s not like we get to experience that timeline to find out. So, whether it would bother you or not (and sometimes I think it might; hence this apologia), I’ve made my commitment, and things are about to change yet again in here. I hope you’d at least be pleased by the results (and, given that you’re outside of time these days, who’s to say you haven’t already seen what it looks like?)

Talk to you later, honey. Love you.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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