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Friday, October 2, 2009

Leonard's Foot

Today, October 2nd, is the Feast Day of Guardian Angels. I have a story about mine.

Growing up, my mother told all us kids the "name" of our Guardian Angel. I don't know if she had prayed about it, or heard about somewhere (wouldn't surprise me if it was from Archbishop Sheen) that it's a good idea to name one's Guardian Angel. I just remember as a young boy, maybe five or so, my mom teaching me that God gives every person a Guardian Angel when they're born, and they protect and guide us throughout our entire life, and we'll finally meet them when we die.

Mine is named Leonard. She was into alliteration, so maybe it is, maybe it isn't - that's besides the point. But I've never forgotten all these years. If I pray a rosary before falling asleep at night, I tell Leonard to take it up where I left off should I doze off before finishing. (Did you know you should have your Guardian Angel pray with you when you're by yourself? "Where 2 or 3 are gathered", you know...). If I narrowly avoid an accident - ever have a doze-off moment when driving, and then you suddenly wake up just in time to swerve back into your lane? I give Leonard a huge "thank you" whenever that has happened. I heard about a woman who, when going shopping, would always ask her Guardian Angel to get her a good parking spot before arriving at the store - according to her, it's worked every time.

I've passed this lesson on to the Sons of LarryD - they know their names, and I remind them from time to time to thank them for keeping them safe - physically AND spiritually (they're fighting off demons all the time) - and for keeping them company. I don't recall where I read it or heard it, but neglect of one's angel can be spiritually damaging. Not to mention a disregard for one of God's gifts. They work 24/7, so we ought to manage more than a daily "thanks, buddy", right?

Anyway. My story.

We had just moved into our new home, about ten years ago. I was in one of the upstairs bedrooms installing a ceiling fan - the room has a vaulted ceiling, so the idea was to put in a ceiling fan with a light fixture. I've installed many a light fixture and a couple fans before, so for me, it was no big deal.

I'm standing on a collapsible, folding step stool, wiring up the fan and fixture, working above my head, screwing the light fixture onto the fan housing. Awkward position, sweaty, holding up the entire blasted unit with one hand while manipulating the screwdriver with the other. And it's not going together all that easily either. The project wasn't going all that swimmingly - there was something about this contraption - it wasn't assembling all that well. Sure, I could have consulted the installation instructions, but....hey, like I said, I've done these before. I knew what I was doing. Instructions are for rookies, guys who had never done this before.

The first screw wasn't threading properly - that should have been a clue that I was doing something wrong! - and my arms were getting tired and sweat was getting in my eyes and my language was getting a bit salty and the screwdriver tip kept jumping out of the screw and I was trying and retrying to get that darn. screw. in.

And then that darn stubborn screw dropped to the floor. Not good. Because the ceiling fan was really only being held up by two things at this point of the installation. My aching arms, and the wiring. If I let go, then I'd have to rely on the wiring to keep the fixture from crashing down. I may have been cavalier about reading the instructions, but I wasn't so foolish as to rely on a couple twist wire connectors. Even if it was just for a couple seconds or so to retrieve the wayward screw.

So, with saltier language being guttered about, I had to undo a bunch of work and put the fixture on the bed, all to find that suicidal screw.

OK, fixture's on the bed. Let me describe the room a little bit. A queen-size bed. A dresser. My step stool. Me. That's all that was in the room at the time. The floor was covered with Berber carpeting- real tight pile, brownish color. Not the kind of floor that would swallow up and hide a grey screw.


I spent nearly ten minutes looking for that screw. At least it seemed like it. I put the step stool on the bed, got down on all fours, eye level to the carpeting even and couldn't find that stupid screw to save my life. Mind you, this was an important screw - four were required to assemble the fan, and without that screw, I only had three. It was imperative that I find that screw.

No luck. But I wasn't about to declare defeat. Like any guy who owns a home and has completed countless projects, I had amassed a collection of screws. So I tromped to the basement, dug out my machine screw box and rooted through it and found a screw that was close enough. It wasn't a perfect match, but no one would ever be the wiser once the fan was assembled.

Back to the upstairs bedroom. Rewired the darn thing. Started assembling the housing mechanism whatzit to the motor mount thingamabob. And wouldn't you know it, the new screw just wasn't working. I had more trouble with that one than the original. Undeterred, I decided to assemble this fan with only three screws. Risky. Dangerous. On the edge. Dumb. The first one went in with some effort, and I started working on the second.

As I was recklessly assembling, a nagging thought was pushing its way towards the front of my severely thick rock-filled head. What if I was doing this incorrectly? Would it kill me to look at the instructions. I mean, it's not as if anyone would ever know I read the how-to-install step-by-step instructions. My rugged individualism would remain intact.

Hmmm. Would discretion win out, or would willful stubbornness emerge victorious.

With a humfph, I stepped off the stool and grabbed the instructions. Sure enough, I was installing the fixture incorrectly. And not just in a small way. In a major, if-someone-turned-on-the-fan-after-installing-it-the-way-I-was-about-to-install-it-then-serious-injury-would-result kind of way. The way I had connected the fan wiring to the lighting fixture wiring, the wires would have been sheared inside the housing when the fan was running. I hadn't fed the wires through a very important slot to keep them out of harm's way.

Realizing my mistake, I wired the fan correctly, and wouldn't you know it, the screws threaded with ease. My original attempt caused improper seating between the fan and the light fixture, which resulted in the screw from going in smoothly. Fifteen minutes later, the job was complete.

OK - so then why is this post titled "Leonard's Foot", you ask?

After getting the ceiling fan installed correctly, I gathered up my tools and collected the fixture packaging. Then I collapsed the folding step stool.

Looking down, under the step stool, was the screw I had dropped. In plain sight. In the middle of the floor. Where I know I had looked, repeatedly.

It had been under Leonard's foot.