Posted by: philipfontana | May 29, 2014

Repair & Replace


Repair & Replace:

That Season of our Lives



     Our 1885 Dutch Colonial that we have called “home” for the past 39 years. For future reference in this article: 1) Take note of the large dormer on the right front of the house, where it meets the roof above the bay window; & 2) Notice on the “porch” roof, left side of house, the window-well cut into the roof-line under the window. Read on!


     Excuse us for living, but I think I had it about right with that subtitle above this page, “Making our way through our retirement years.” We seem to be giving those words new meaning with the latest in this season of our lives. We find ourselves frequently repairing and replacing the material things and goods that surround us. – -Indeed, the autumn of our lives.

I always prided myself to my wife, Geri, and sons, Andy, Peter, and Tommy, on my high sounding words over the years. “These things are material goods, mechanical, and you have to expect that things will break and need repair. Just accept it.” My forced attitude of forbearance came from my childhood experience. We were a family of modest means growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s; “poor” I think they call it today!

And carved in granite to my memory was the occasion when the household refrigerator, clothes washer, and vacuum cleaner all gave up their ghosts and needed replacement in a single day! My father was not a happy camper and I can still hear his voice yelling and cursing both in English and Italian! Ah, but this fate, this state of mind, would not happen to me. I would do better when I grew up. Accept these developments as merely a part of life. Keep calm, cool, and collected. Face what comes my way with dignity and maturity and repair and replace whatever it be with, at least inwardly, a smile on my face. Be thankful that I could afford to maintain my standard of living!

Before I enter into my diatribe, let me say how grateful we are for our blessings. All it takes is to flip on the TV news to witness the devastating tragedies of loss of life and property across the USA, not to leave out the same around the world, due to natural disasters. Right here at home in New Jersey and the New York area are thousands of people still suffering the effects of Superstorm Sandy. Our hearts go out to these people, some friends and family. – -So I write this, though in humor, with a guilt and appreciation for the fact that we are, indeed, fortunate to have such insignificant, so called, “problems.”

Fast forward some 40-50 years from my childhood to the present and to the last year and a half. As background, I reference you to my post, “Old House,” found in the right margin here by clicking on “March, 2013,” which will fill you in about our home, an 1885 Dutch Colonial. We have lived here for 39 years and enjoyed a pretty good streak of four problem free retirement years of traveling together since 2009. Then, as if someone turned on a switch, came January 2013 and it has been an increasing hell of repair and replacements ever since.

First came replacing the basement backup refrigerator in January 2013; 39 years old, how could we complain, and not worth repairing.

OK, then March 2013, we “elected” to replace the half-bathroom sink fixture of 32 years; the old one started to have its “problems.”

Then came summer 2013 and one of our six wall and window air conditioners “gave it up;” surprising since it was a 34 year old Emerson Quiet Cool in a spare bedroom and we were anticipating the 47 year old Westinghouse in the kitchen to go first! That one is still humming along beautifully!

Oh, and then there was that downpour of a rain last summer 2013 that brought a trickle of water into the bay window ceiling and onto the formal draperies in the living room; a little clear caulk and tar where the aluminum trim meets the roof on the dormer outside, touch up stain killer and a top coat of paint inside on the ceiling, and dry cleaning the drapes…that was all it took!

Life was still good we felt, no complaints, and off we went on a wonderful trip to France, end of September into October, 2013; it was then when we returned that all hell broke loose and “it hit the fan,” as they say.

We returned October 6 and two days later the County began a long anticipated repaving of the road we live on, Route 202; the front of our old house is eleven feet from the road, so between the soot covering the front of the house and repairing damage to our driveway, field-stone curb, and walkway, I had my hands full.

OK, that next week, mid-October 2013, our plumber finally made a long 6 month awaited appearance to replace a lid on our basement sewer tank which holds and pumps the water from the washing machine, etc., up to the road level; “no problemo,” great job, except wife Geri always bakes a batch of almond tarts for our plumber. What?

That’s right. “Phil, this oven is not baking right,” said Geri. “I have to set it on 450 degrees to get 350 degrees.” – – A 20 year old stove. With Thanksgiving just weeks away, we had to have a stove capable of cooking a large turkey to entertain the family for dinner. Call that GE serviceman! “Customer Service?” “Only $100 for the service and that can go toward a new stove if needed,” she said. – -Not music to my ears! “No LA,” diagnosed the GE serviceman searching his computer for the needed part, i.e., “part No Longer Available,” translated the serviceman. – -Nice guy though! “Are there any parts available for this 20 year old stove?” I asked. “No,” the reply. “Fraud,” my response, to make a long story short. We got a new GE stove delivered, installed, within four days for a discounted price as a result of my “discussion” with GE over the telephone.

While we were dealing with the stove episode, the two “old” TVs in the kitchen and our bedroom started to show signs that it was, indeed, replacement time. We had put a nice HD TV in the family room a few years back and were waiting to replace these TVs when they “go.” – -But now? – -And both? – -When I get to it!!!


         This photo is now framed & sits on the water box of the toilet pictured here. The inscription reads, “October 30-November 3, 2013. Thank you, toilet! I really enjoyed spending the past five days with you!”  P. Fontana

     Meantime, two days after the stove was delivered and installed, I said to Geri, “There is no emergency but look at this.” – -A rust spot in the living room ceiling above the fireplace. “I know what it is. The wax ring is probably shot around the upstairs toilet.” Now this is not your ordinary toilet bowl. We are talking old, very old, with the water box bolted to the wall and a goose-neck like pipe connecting the water box to the bowl! Unfortunately, I have in my past (Don’t ask!) experience as a plumber’s helper and have done such jobs on my own twice before. Honest, it was not to save the money, but it took me five days to complete the job! That thing must have been there 50+ years since being “operated on.”

Ah, but it was just into early November 2013 by now and time to get ready for the holidays. We enjoyed the holidays, entertaining our growing family, uneventful regarding “repair and replace,” thank the Lord, now referred to as “R&R” around here.

After the holidays we spent our usual winter weeks 2014 painting and decorating a room as we do each year at this time. This year it was the living room stairwell and that bay window ceiling for a full, proper fixing and painting. We were slower than ever and finally finished as March approached. But putting the grandfather clock back in place, we noticed the chimes stopped serenading us every quarter hour. “Time for a cleaning and adjustment by the Clock Doctor,” said Geri. And, as if in sympathy, my favorite and sacred old upright piano, in our family room, gave up the “B natural” key above the “middle C.” – -Stuck the key would get as you played it. “Well, long overdue for a tune-up,” said I.

Next, now it was March. Our PC computer CPU power source had to be replaced. The fan was the issue, as a component part of the power source, making assorted strange noises. Our techie son took it away and returned it repaired all in the same day. We ask no questions!

Ah, but not so fast! April 3 Microsoft sends us a notice, which pops up on our computer screen, that as of April 11 Microsoft will discontinue support and updates for our Windows XP, the computer program that runs our computer. – -Nine days notice! Thank you, Microsoft. Our other techie son purchased Windows 7 for us on a DVD, ready for installment in the upcoming weeks.


             Geri pays her last respects & makes a sad farewell to out loyal GE dishwasher of 39 years, plus the 6 years before we moved in, making it 45 years old!

     But the piece de résistance of “repair and replace,” “R&R,” came the day after putting on Easter Sunday dinner for the entire family, April 20, 2014! The long awaited demise of our 45 year old GE dishwasher came to an end. It was still running! The only repair was a new water pump decades ago. Then, of course, there was my auto body filler on the plastic interior over the years. But in the end, the old friend leaked out the door at the bottom. The more I cleaned the soap build up (mistake!) off the gasket at the door bottom, the more it gushed like Niagara Falls. – -Immediately replaced within days! “If I knew the install would go so smoothly…” never mind.

Oh, wait! Life cannot be that easy! The night before the dishwasher “delivery and install,” we had 3-5 inches of rain in less than a day. In the spirit of “R&R,” we had a small leak in our enclosed porch/family room ceiling. – -The old window-well cut into the porch roof design under our master bedroom window needed caulking and tarring once again! – -Done immediately. – -Then the interior ceiling touch up. – -Makes you want to hold your breath! It’s only May and the year is young!

Excuse us for living, but what did we expect with an old house after all these 39 years? – -Maybe the “repair and replace” spread out a little over time? Oh, the grandfather clock started chiming again all on its own! And that “B natural” above the “middle C” came back on that old “pi-ano” and it’s playing like a charm! Sorry to cut this short, but I’ve got to go out and buy two HD TVs before something else needs “repair and replace.”

   Comments: OK, I’m ready for the onslaught!

   Sources: None were necessary!



  1. Great read and photos Phil! 🙂
    I enjoyed reading about your escapades with an ‘old house’ very much. At least it keeps you busy and you’re never bored! 🙂
    Lots of love to you and Geri! ♥

  2. Patty, Your comments hit it just right! I’m busy & never board thanks to the old house! Is it how I would like to be spending my time & life? NO. The alternative, to sell, has it’s problems of certain items to be corrected before sale. Thanks & hi to Danny! Phil

  3. Great read Phil. As I was reading along I was thinking… it’s not only us then! We have a run of things here and it drives us insane. Our house is not quite as old as yours but there is always something that needs sorting. Our dishwasher is presently functioning with a door hanging on by one hinge. We have had to have it repaired that many times but will they give us a new one…?? Nah, don’t be daft. Good luck with anything else that may or may not happen! 🙂

    • I thought you had left the internet 😀

      • Shaun, No, I ‘ve been addressing all those repairs & replacements, plus writing about it, & everything else in my life from family & social. Also, edited my “Disaster Relief” post & got it published in a state-wide New Jersey newspaper chain. Thanks, Shaun for looking at this! Phil

      • No worries… My pleasure

      • No, I am still here. 🙂 Plodding along. Just not about as much. 🙂

      • Shaun, Oh, sorry, I get it now….you were responding to Jade!!!!!!!!!! Phil

  4. Jade, Thanks so much….like a support group of our own for “House Insanity”!!! It’s hard to move forward with improvements, isn’t it, while we are moving backwards with repairs! DISHWASHER!!!! OMG!!!! But ours had a good run of years. In the “end,” the more I cleaned up gonked up soap at the bottom of the door gasket, the more it gushed water!!!!! We had to laugh or go crazy!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks so much, Jade!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Awesome story Phil, I dare you to get a quarter of time out of any modern appliance. Bright side I guess is the efficiency of power consumption is probably through the roof. You are way ‘greener’!!

    • Patrick!!!!!!! Great to hear from you here! Thanks for the comments! You are absolutely right about the longevity of the new appliances. We NEVER pay for the maintenance plans but we DID this time on the dishwasher! We hear from family & friends how appliances don’t last these days. I anticipate the power efficiency but I’ll wait & see….. The new GE dishwasher cycles take 2 1/2 hours. Our old GE took 45 minutes!!! I’m sure the power usage will be better or my face will be greener! Phil

  6. Phil, I was exhausted by the time I finished the article! I thought I had it bad this year, but I dare not compare my experiences to yours!

    • Sandy, Many thanks for reading that long piece!!! Sorry to hear you had some of the same. Maybe it’s our age along with that of our appliances, etc. Ha! But I am glad you indicate that our experience HAS BEEN UNUSUALLY INTENSE!!! We have managed to keep as sane as possible & keep our cheer! Purchased one HD TV & one more to go! Both piano & grandfather clock are still working……so far! Thanks for the comments! Phil & Geri enjoyed this too!

  7. OMG Phi & Geri-
    You really had me laughing. What you needed to do was have a “funeral” for all the appliance, toilet, sink, etc; that “gave their all” lol….You are indeed a great write but more than that-you have the patience of a saint.

    I can’t wait to love on a certain little fella! See you at his birthday party!

    • Marg, Thanks, Marg, for laughing too! We tried to keep sane & our humor too! An appliance funeral! Great idea!!! This was an easy “write” all done for me by the years of wear & tear I guess on all that surrounds us!!! But I DO have patience from a not so easy life of hard work. YES!!!!!!!!!! JAMES BIRTHDAY # ONE!!!!! We can’t wait as well! See you soon! Phil & Geri too!

  8. When it rains – it pours! Sounds as though you and Geri have a ‘money pit’ there (ever see the movie? – after all your experiences – you’ll get a big kick out of it!)

    • gpcox, Oh yes, we know the movie, “The Money Pit.” In fact, I wrote about that very thing on March 7, 2013 on “Excuse Us…” But I said this was not “The Money Pit.” Take a look at Thanks! Phil

      • Yes, I see – you took a wonderful attitude to it all – NOW, get back out to Home Depot! 😆

  9. Welcome to my world. This is the reason gasoline and matches were invented. You managed to get a plumber in six months -now this really is a fiction blog.

    • charleshome, Thanks for taking a look at this! Honored! Agreed! I have thought of fire as an answer many times & fear I may jinx myself!!! Plumbers! You’ve got that right! Easier to get to see a surgeon when you want your usual “good” plumber!!! Phil

  10. The house wanted a face lift–and you cared. Very nice.

    • Bernadette, Yes, good way of looking at it!!!!!!!!!! But I hope the face-lift slows down a bit just so we can do it all more reasonably. But you know all about what life throws you. You have to deal with on it’s schedule, not ours!!! Right? May all things be going well! Phil

  11. Reblogged this on The WordPress Blogatorium and commented:
    Always willing to spread the word, reblogged to the WordPress Blogatorium, a place to discover new blogs, authors and views. Follow us on WordPress, Facebook (, Google+ ( and Twitter (@theblgatorium)

    • Martin, Many thanks for the reblog on Blogatorium!!!!!!!! I can see the effect in my stats!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s great!!!!! Thanks! Phil

  12. Hi Phil – found you by way of Martin at The WordPress Blogatorium. I enjoyed reading about your many escapades with the old house. I’m glad your in good spirits through it all. I guess like us, when we get on in later years, houses need that tender loving care, too. 🙂

    • Pat, Thanks for the Like & the comment here & on the Old House post too! I’ll reply there too! Ah, Martin & the Blogatorium! Yes, we are lucky we are surviving our possessions & able to replace all we are blessed with! Agreed!!!!!!!! Thanks again! Phil

  13. Great read mate…

    • Shaun, Thanks for reading this….nothing exciting! But my highest “hits” are on such posts….People like common stories & a laugh at yourself!!! This hit 214 views in 2 1/2 days so far. Thanks! Phil

      • Quality over quantity mate….I deleted a blog with 2,000 followers +

        Has to be fun


  14. Well Phil, as they say, “It can only happen to you.” I enjoyed your misery – well done. Now my advise, lock the door, throw away the key, and move to a God’s waiting room with us. 🙂

    • Vin, Thanks!!!! Sounds like a good idea! But we would have a certain “must fix” list for any hope of sale. Otherwise, sell to a contractor for investment, fix it up, & sale. Thanks again! Phil

  15. It’s a really beautiful looking house. 🙂

  16. Kev, Thanks so much for coming on over to “Excuse Us…” That was some tribute Patty gave you & so well deserved! From all that you do on your website, you are a Renaissance man!!!!!!!!!!!!! Phil

  17. lovely piece Phil hope you made your 9000 love reading your posts 😉

    • Brian!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Much thanks!!! Yes, my troops came through with 9,007!!!!!!!!!!! Fun & games we play, right Bri???!!! Thanks for the kind compliment! Phil

  18. This was so good to read.. My mom could use some help with our old house if you ever want some “R & R” in FL. Visiting Joe in NJ right now. We all send our love as always.

    • HEATHER!!!!!!!!!!!! “R & R” in Florida!!!!!!!! Would be a pleasure to help Mom! How great you are visiting Joe & family….very special I know! Thought you might be coming north from that comment on FB re Virginia & “close.” Say “hi” to Joe & April & Tinleigh!!! Phil

  19. Again I am late to this party, but I thoroughly enjoyed this post though my sympathies are with you. I am jealous of you and the longevity of your appliances. I will be married 25 years next month and I have been through at least 6 pairs of washers and dryers in that time…and I am not exaggerating. If I could get anywhere near 45 years out of any of my appliances I would be a happy man and TVs, I don’t have a single one that I had 25 years ago. It just kills me…oh the money I could have saved. Keep up the great writing, I’m really enjoying it.

  20. Dom, I’ll take the sympathy!Yes, we hear our appliances did well from what people tell us! Six washers & dryers!!!!!!!!!! My wife told me to tell you to buy Sear’s Kenmore!!! TV’s? The two non-HD TV’s we have to replace may be 20-35 years old! You are too kind about my writing….so encouraging! My thanks! Phil

  21. 🙂

  22. Jixi! You sure are getting around here! Thanks! phil

  23. Beautiful old Dutch Colonial house. I am impressed that it was from year 1885 – there must be lots history inside of the house, including 39 years of yours 🙂 Thank you for sharing your beautiful recollection 🙂

    • Indah, Many thanks! Yes, the old 1885 house has a history & touches/amenities different than new homes like built in corner hutches/cabinets in the dining room & kitchen, We love it despite all the work associated with any old house. And true, our 39 years here are filled with scrapbooks of memories!!! Thank YOU for caring!!! Phil

      • I imagine how special the house for you and your family 🙂 I enjoy reading it Philip. Have a great day! 🙂

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