Tuesday, February 11, 2014


As I’ve previously stated, my family is rough on cars.  They look for weak points then attack. If I don’t intervene with oil or something the vehicle could be reduced to a driveway paperweight. These days in Maryland, all cars with regular tags must be able to move at least once every two years - up to the emissions testing station to be sure it’s not polluting the environment sitting in your driveway not running because you are rebuilding the engine. Sure you can buy a waver which temporarily buys some pollution plenary indulgences absolving you of any legal jeopardy for not proving your cars isn’t polluting sitting there in the driveway with no engine.  This situation posed a problem for my son Matt. He bought a car and we did the necessary repairs to pass the notorious Maryland safety inspection where the garage that gets to most likely repair your car also gets to say what’s wrong with it. Buying a second hand car includes the detective story of it’s life on the road. In this case it had run off the road near as I can figure it and damaged some of the passenger side suspension which had to be replaced. That was the easy part. Hidden in the belly of the beast was a cracked heater core. Replacing a heater core means pulling out the dashboard, airbag and anything else in the way. I made Matt do it. Fortunately these repairs were done then we switched inspection stations with a different one as the original inspection was now void anyway and I damn sure wasn’t going to reward that establishment for finding all those flaws in the first place.

But the car passed inspection and my son was happily motoring around town. However, lurking deep inside his Eclipse engine is a paper head gasket put there originally by the manufacturer in a cost saving move. Apparently they last around eighty thousand miles or so and Matt’s had ninety thousand showing on the odometer. The car began spewing oil out the back of the engine through the blown head gasket. But because the problem was external I foolishly thought I’d only need to replace the head gasket and doing so take all the parts off I’d just put on doing the timing belt about a week before. We pulled everything apart then the emissions warning letter came in the mail the following day. This put us under the gun time wise. Mind you by this time I can only work on Matt’s car while I’m not looking after Kylie. In addition I’m out in the open and subject to the whims of the weather. This can be aggravating because there are perfect days that I’m watching Kylie then when her parents have her it’s poring rain. Even so I pushed forward and got his car back on the road only having to buy one emissions waver from the state of Maryland.

My son was back on the road and all the other cars in the family fleet were running good. Well after I put a timing belt and tune up stuff on my son-in-law’s Camry the cars were running smoothly. Then I got to thinking about my weather problem. I had replaced my old windows with new thermal windows when we first bought the house. I still had the old windows so I decided to use them to build a greenhouse/car port. That’s just what I did. It only took me a couple days work and I had a nice greenhouse built mostly from these recycled windows and some wood my buddy Ricky gave me for free. It could have used a bit more paint but it was nice. Plus I noticed right away that it was toasty in there on chilly days due to the greenhouse effect.

It was a good thing I had the greenhouse as this was when my wife blew her car up and I had to replace the engine. Man I took my time, worked at night and even in the rain. My productivity soared! On top of that I started using the greenhouse for starting seedlings for my raised bed gardens getting a jump on the growing season.

Yes indeed I was feeling rather happy with the way things were going. As is normal under these conditions life intervenes. It was a Friday and the caller ID showed the call was from my sister’s house in Virginia. I grabbed the phone and said hello. It was my mother on the line as she’s been living with my sister for a couple years since having a medical crisis. She was over ninety at that time but her health had improved since she’d been sick and hospitalized. My sister is also a nurse like my wife and had gotten mom’s health headed back in the right direction.

But be that as it may, mom was on the line and she was pisses off. “Come and get me now dammit!” She demanded on the other end of the line. I tried to explain to her that my house was filled up and I had no extra bedrooms. She’d have to sleep on the sofa to which she declared she didn’t care if she had to sleep on the floor. Needless to say mom, my sister and brother in-law had a bit of a falling out. It’s understandable. I love my mother but the truth be told she’s hard to live with. It’s her way or the highway. As Kathy nursed her back to health she was setting in motion the conflict that would ensue as mom developed the strength to begin running Kathy’s life again.

So there I was with my ninety-one year old mom sleeping on the sofa in the living room. Don’t get the wrong idea. Mom was real happy about the setup. She got to see my kids and her great granddaughter Kylie more than once or twice a year during the holidays as was the case normally. The stress was gone from the conflict with my sister and brother in-law. Plus I was getting her espresso every morning which she loved and cooking her food for her including the bread which she’d given me the recipe for that I had been using for Deni and her coworkers. So mom was happy despite the situation. But for me it looked like a hell of a thing especially after retrieving her things which had been unceremoniously packed into black trash can bags that now filled my living room.

I needed to get mom her own room and I had an idea. I could get an RV and park it in my driveway. Then I could connect sewage into my t-junction clean out pipe on the side of the house. All I’d need to do is figure out how to hook up electric and water and I have in effect an efficiency apartment for mom. So I began hitting the craigslists ad and looking at RV’s. I found the Ford we decided on up in northern Maryland in Carroll County. I paid a few thousand for it and began to drive it south to Edgewater. Then I noticed the damn thing running hot. So I pulled over and Deni followed suit in the car behind me. I popped the hood and verified what I suspected the problem to be - a stuck thermostat. So I sent Deni home for the tools, she returned and I did a roadside extraction of the thermostat. A car doesn’t actually need a thermostat to run but you won’t have heat in the winter without one.

I managed to get the RV into the driveway finally and began preparing it for mom. I hooked up the sewage using a macerating pump that allow the tanks to be easily pumped out into the t-junction. I got a hose that came with a heating element so it wouldn’t freeze up in the winter which was fast approaching now. Mom was anxious to get into her RV which she could see from the living room window. I got the electric hooked up after having the power converter replaced and installing a new power cord then put all of mom’s things away inside. The big day came for mom and we moved her into her new place. She was shocked as it was much nicer inside than she’s imagined especially with all of the wood paneling. In addition it was narrow which made walking back and forth easier with things to grab a hold of. Also, I place some grab bars in key spots.

Mom settled in for the winter in her new RV driveway apartment. Her rent was zero. She had no utilities and I rigged up a buzzer she could ring if she needed me. So what could be wrong with this scenario?