A Need to Know

Bill is a fixer. If you’ve got a problem, and someone always does, it seems, he asks what it is and extracts every bit of information about it that he can. Why? Because without the details, without sufficient information, he can’t identify the core of the problem in order to solve it.

He exercises his life-long habit of probing and dissecting every example, every word, every step of the process, every person involved until he gets sufficient information to isolate the crux of the matter. Bill wants to know, even if he deems it something that can’t be fixed, because at least then he’ll have reached the point where no more can be done. He is only satisfied when he can offer advice, solve it himself, or issue an edict saying nothing more will make a difference or change anything. That’s the point where it becomes something one must live with or forget about.

Knowing all the facts is key to solving any problem. If something has stopped working, why? Isolate the problem. Fix it. Done.

It’s the investigator coming out in him, grilling the witness to the point of frustration, and if lucky, confession. Bill has always been after the truth. Not just part of the truth, but the whole truth, and nothing but. In some small way I can relate to the criminals he caught and hauled into the interrogation room. I almost feel sorry for them, though my empathy is short-lived.

Still, it’s not enough for him to know and understand. He has to fix it, too.

We stopped at Laura’s the other day, and Bill got roped into “fixing” the wasp/hornet nest (as in execute the little buggers and trash their nest), checking out a problem with the light over the garage door, and, as an added bonus, hammering the axle, with non-removable wheels, back into the grooves underneath the bottom of her garbage can. It sounded simple enough.

Laura had reluctantly called her special SWAT team to active duty when she tried to resolve these issues on her own but, due to extenuating circumstances, her efforts were to no avail. Now that Bill was on the scene, there were the requisite questions concerning how these things had become problems. If you recall, this is the man who, if you ask what time it is, tells you how the clock works first so you can better appreciate the information you’re given. But once she’d satisfied Bill’s need to know, he willingly offered up his time and muscle.

Bill wanted to know how the wheels had come off in the first place because it would have taken no small effort to separate the axle from the groove in which it had been previously seated. Laura said the trash collectors had thrown (not “tossed”) her can to the ground last week, knocking the wheels off, then feigning ignorance about how it had happened when she called to complain about their disregard of her property, as it was not the company’s can. It had to have been thrown hard onto a hard surface – not tossed onto the grass as they claimed. Despite Laura’s eye-witness account, no one took responsibility, a disturbing condition in our society in these days of “Not me. Not my fault.” Nothing is anyone’s fault – but I digress. That’s another topic for another time.

Whether at home or at work, it’s all the same – Bill is unable to turn off his “investigative mode” button. It has taken me years to accept that this will never change, so it is I who must adjust. And Laura, and Jeff, and Kearsti, and Rick, and Dawn, too.

What we can count on is that when Bill takes on a job, he sees to every detail, precise and unrelenting when something’s got to be done right. If you can fix things, people will stop crying. Stop complaining. Stop asking for someone to do something.

There are a lot of men like Bill. They feel they have to fix any and all problems that arise. It’s ingrained, especially with men of his generation, and his is perhaps the last generation that may consistently think this way.

And there’s another thing that can still be said about a lot of men, too. If the problem concerns a personal issue, an emotionally-charged issue, or a matter-of-the-heart issue – we are standing on much shakier ground. We’re talking possible earthquakes here. It’s easy enough to fix a poorly-running car or replace the wiring for a light socket but not so easy to mend a broken heart, an injury that can’t be seen as easily or in the same way as the rotten board in a picnic table. We must mind the words we choose, monitor body language (the other person’s and our own), and take care with the tone of our voices (next to impossible if we’re communicating via text or email).

It requires knowing the difference between objective and subjective assessment. Sometimes the greatest help comes not with the use of a wrench or a hammer but an arm placed gently, and without comment, around one’s shoulder – sans advice.

Bill squeezed the life out of every question that lingered in his mind until he was satisfied he’d gotten all the answers he needed and that they were satisfactory, i.e. complete, either sating his curiosity or validating his instincts. Preferably both. Then he proceeded to explain what he thought should be done.

As we were leaving Laura’s, she threw her arms around Bill and thanked him for spending part of his Father’s Day fixing her problems. Oh, if only all our problems could be resolved that easily.

We don’t know what problems will arise next, nor to which category of problems they will belong, but Bill will be there to help regardless.

Mr. Bill is a fixer. And we can count on him to do just that – fix things or die trying.



One thought on “A Need to Know

  1. Sue

    This story pegged my Dad to a tea.. My Dad has always been willing to help me out to and that is what makes me love and cherish him so much. I have been his daughter for over 50 years and remember nights at the dinner table where my Dad would keep questioning my brother and I about our day ( for example school) until he was satisfied with the responses given.


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