Screen and the Gift of Apathy


I replaced the screen in the back door for the 20th time today.  It seems big fun for Bethany to occasionally take a good swing at it – send her fist through it or at least get it to tear a bit.  She’s learned that if she can’t get through it in one punch, several follow-up visits usually does the trick.

She seems to love hearing me say, “dammit, knock it off”, must be music to her ears because she keeps doing it.  If not the back door, then its the screen in her bedroom.  She’ll leave it intact just long enough for you to think your safe, and then around midnight you hear this terrible crashing noise followed by a deep, sinister laugh.  Once she manages to rip it out of the window casing, she tosses it over the top of her half-height, bedroom door and down the stairs.  Again, the deep laugh.

I’ve gotten pretty good at repairing them, stitching tears, smoothing bulges, grafting new skin on old screens.  The door itself is over 20 years old and has been carefully patched, not unlike the corpse of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.  His body’s been on display in Moscow since he died in 1924, no doubt the guy that occasionally has to “patch” him had an autistic daughter as well – where else could one become so skilled at seamlessly repairing old things so they look unscathed?

Today when I came around the corner and saw the mangled screen hanging from the frame, torn and twisted – I knew it was time to head to the hardware store.  I knew that I should have bought bulk screen in 30 or 40 foot rolls, but I keep imaging that one day she’ll simply stop punching them out.  I know the entire stock of the local hardware store; size, color, material.  I know when’s the best time to use fiberglass, when is metal preferred.  I know how much of an impact with be visible with bright aluminum and where black works best.  I know what tools work, and which ones are marketed to people who don’t replace screens.  I’ve watched as various screen manufacturers began to shift their marketing efforts from selling mesh with children in mind to a more lucrative sell, the pet-owner market.  Nothing’s too good for Fido.

The best part about today’s task was the luxurious ride in the MGB on the way to the hardware store.  A bright, sunny Saturday – our helper was here to take care of B so time was not of the essence.  I drove to and then past the store, headed out into the country well below the posted speed limit.  Didn’t care that people passed on both the left and right, didn’t care that they had soccer matches to get to, didn’t care if they tailgated, didn’t care if they had pet-proof screens at home.  For 30 wonderful minutes, I didn’t care about much more than the road, the sun and the simple fact that I’d not gone insane. 

I was tired and he gave me rest, hungry and he supplied a helper.  Broken and he provided screen, emotionally naked and he provided me autumnal clothing – warm sunshine, turning colors, and oblivion to the drivers hurrying past.

I got the screen I needed, eventually.  Even bought one of those “pet screens” that used to be marketed to keep your kid from running through the lower part of your screen door – I just mounted it in a scientific manner, I had B come and take a swing at the door so I knew where her hand typically landed and then put the big, expanded aluminum section right there at fist level.  The door looks like something from an inner-city convenience store, designed to keep looters out in case of a riot.  I believe that in some small way I won this one, I had to destroy the village to save it but in this war it’s more important to win than to be right so I’m ok with the looks.

Best part of it all though was that 30 minutes of driving past my objective, bathed in the glorious gift of indifference.  I’d have never imagined that God would use apathy as a gift for survival.  Today, it worked wonders.

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