You'd think when a kid like me grows up to be a 42-year-old woman, wife, and mother to four boys of her own...
Her fear of her own dad "getting mad" would subside.
Nah. It doesn't.
This little ditty is part of a much bigger story that I have been working to cut into segments for my blog for months. The big story is that my mother convinced me to tackle a huge home improvement project for her while my father was out of the country.
Home improvement projects, in and of themselves, are rarely pretty. Less so when you are trying to do it for your mother. Even less so when you are doing it for your mother while your father is out of the country because your father would FLIP OUT if he knew ANY home improvement project was occurring.
I have officially become an accomplice in a crime that will be etched into the walls of my parents condo for eternity.
So - THIS part of the story comes at the end of the home improvement project. The last little tiny finishing touch which I couldn't get finished before dad came home. I did not get the towel rack hung in the upstairs bathroom.
Everything else was finished (including the other rooms involved in this project which as a whole I lovingly refer to as "Project Hell").
In the upstairs bathroom, I had carefully chosen and hung a few pictures that my mother loved, yet complimented the decor. I placed a couple decorative pounded copper vases with leafy sprigs in a way that would draw the bathroom user in... and make them want to kick up their feet, and stay a while.
But the towel rack. I had not gotten the towel rack hung up yet. So I had to go back to my parents the day after my dad came home from his 3-week adventure overseas adventure.
When I got there, my dad was dressed as he usually does when he is lounging around the house - in his seersucker bathrobe, my mother's purple slippers with strange enormous flowers on the sides, and a towel wrapped around his head.
He gave me a kiss on both cheeks when I came in.
Me: So! How do you like the changes? (I try to act super positive and cheerful)
He shakes his head...
Papa: You know... you're mom... she shouldn't have asked you to do all this for her.
Me: No! I didn't mind. I finally have time, and she's done of a lot stuff to help me out - so it's not problem. It really wasn't that hard.
Okay - that has GOT to be the biggest lie I have ever told. For God's sake - I've named it Project Hell.
Papa: Well. It looks good. You did a nice job.
He sees that I have a bucket of tools with me.
Papa: What are you doing now?
Me: Oh I just need to hang this towel rack in the bathroom upstairs - then I'm all done.
He peers into the bucket.
Papa: Is that a drill?
Papa: Do you know how to use that?
Now I'm irritated. If I could give him a play-by-play of the 24-hour a day, 7-day Project Hell, he would step back in awe of me and say "Drill away my fantastic, skillful, eldest daughter!"
Me: Yes dad. I know how to use it.
His eyes narrow as he looks at me skeptically. He lowers his voice and leans towards me as if we are part of some drill mafia or something.
Papa: What do you need that for?
I mimic his stance, look, and voice....
Me: I need to drill the screws in the wall to hang up the towel rack.
Actually - let me now impress you with my towel rack drilling expertise. I learned over the course of Project Hell that there are such things called "wall anchors" - which one needs to use if the screw one is putting into the wall is not going into a stud. Up to this point in the project, I needed to drill a narrow hole into the wall so I could gently tap the wall anchor into the drywall. Then I would use the drill to securely screw the screw into the anchor.
Papa: Do you need any help?
Me: No. I got it. Don't worry.
I walked into the bathroom and began pulling my tools out of the bucket and placing them onto the bathroom counter.
My dad was right next to me. Looking at everything.
Papa: Who does this belong to?
It belongs to the hardware store I just robbed.
Me: It's Paul's.
Papa: And he knows you have it?
Me: Yes dad. He knows I have it.
He nods his head, still looking at the tools.
Me: Dad? Why don't you just let me surprise you, okay? Let me do this. I'm going to close the door, and when I am all done, I want you to come in and see the project all complete!
Please... please go away.
Papa: Okay. I'll go and watch TV. I'll be right next door if you need me. You're sure you don't need my help?
Me: Yup! I'm sure. But thanks. And I will come and get you if I need help.
He leaves me in peace to work.
So I pull out the screws and wall anchors for this towel rack... but man o' man... the anchors are HUGE. I look 'em up and down and I can't figure out why they are so fat. I convince myself that they must be big because they need to hold the weight of bath towels...
I drill a small hole in the wall so I can tap in the anchor. I try, but the hole is WAY too small.
I get a bigger bit and drill a bigger hole.
Then I get an even bigger bit and drill an even bigger hole.
I do it one more time - one bigger bit for one bigger hole. Surely my mad skill at towel-rack hanging will not be thwarted by this last project?
"Now!" I think to myself, "This has GOT to be big enough."
I place the anchor up to the hole and ever so gently tap...
And with that - the anchor goes right through the drywall along with my hammer head leaving a hole in the wall a bit larger than the size of a half-dollar.
"Oh shit." I whisper.
All that stands between my father and me is one layer of drywall.
My mind start racing and I begin to hyperventilate.
"Okay. Okay. It's okay Najla. Just think. Think," I whisper, looking frantically around the bathroom for something to cover the hole with.
I find a picture I was going to leave off the wall, and extra nail and I hang the picture over the hole. It looks like something is very wrong. The picture obviously has no reason being hung in that spot... but at this point, I am thinking of my children. They can't grow up without a mother.
Then I compose myself and walk out of the bathroom.
Papa sees me.
Papa: Are you done?
Me: Oh...uhm... no. Not yet. Don't go in yet, okay. I just need to make a few finishing touches!
I need to find my mom. I start hurrying around the condo half yelling/half whispering "Mom! Mom!"
I find her in the living room. She sees me wild-eyed and panicked so she starts to panic.
Nana: What! What!
Nana: (whispering) What?
Me: You have GOT to get Papa away from that room he is in. He cannot go into the bathroom.
Nana: Why? What happened? (she is really panicked now)
Me: I put a hole in the wall.
Nana: Oh God, Chino!
Me: Okay - seriously mom. You have got to protect me. If he finds that hole in the wall, he is going to go ballistic and the only reason it is there is because you wanted me to do this project. You have to keep him away! Please. PLEASE don't let him go into that room!
Nana: What am I going to do? How am I going to do that?
Me: Mom. I don't know. You take care of Papa, I'll take care of the wall, and everything will be okay.
Now, let me just say my dad isn't some sort of crazy family-abuser. But... when a mother and daughter conspire to do a major home-improvement project that he would never have allowed had he been in the country... and when his daughter walks into his bathroom with tools that he is surprised her husband allows her to take with her unsupervised... he's gonna get mad about a hole in the wall.
Nana: Okay. What are you going to do?
Me: I'm calling Paul. He'll know what to do.
So my mother goes off to distract my father and I go outside to call my husband on his cell.
Cell phones, in my estimation, are for emergencies. When someone calls me on my cell, that suggests to me that they really need to talk to me right now. If they didn't need to talk to me, they'd call me at home and leave a message with one of my children which I will never get. My husband never answers his cell which drives me crazy, especially when I really need him... like when I am about to be hung out to dry by my father for putting a hole in the bathroom wall after I had told him I was completely capable of hanging the towel rack on my own.
I leave a message.
Me: "Paul. You need to call me as soon as possible. This is an emergency. Please call me now!"
I sit on the front steps of my parents condo for a few minutes. Then I walk back in toward the bathroom.
Nana: Your dad is in the bedroom now taking a nap.
Me: Oh! Thank you!
Nana: Did you talk to Paul?
Me: No, he hasn't called me back yet.
Nana: Okay - show me the hole.
We walk into the bathroom and I remove the picture.
Nana: Oh my Gaaad!
Nana: Do you think Paul can fix it?
Me: I know he'll know what to do.
My cell rings.
Me: That's Paul. (pause) Hello?
Paul: (very calmly) What's up?
Me: Oh my God Paul. You have to come over to my parents house right away and help me. My dad is going to go through the roof! I put a huge hole in the bathroom wall trying to hang up the towel rack.
There is silence for a split second and then he bursts out laughing.
Paul: How did you do that!
Me: Paul! (my voice has fear, anger and a hint of panic mixed in) Seriously! You need to come and help me!
Paul: Well, I'm not at home... I'm out at Menards right now and I need to run a few more errands.
Is he kidding me? Errands? My life is in danger and he has errands to run?
Me: Paul - seriously. Please! I don't know how long I can keep my dad out of the bathroom!
Paul: It'll be fine. I'll come over as soon as I can.
It seemed like an hour, but he came over after about 20 minutes. I sat in the bathroom with the door locked so my dad couldn't get in... and periodically left to check the front door. I also did NOT want my dad to see Paul come in -- THAT would create great suspicion.
Paul: Show me what you did.
I grab the picture and lift it.
Paul starts laughing again.
Paul: You made it sound huge!
Me: Hello!? It IS huge!
He starts going to work to make it right...
Paul: How did you keep your dad from seeing it?
Me: My mom helped distract him and I have been locked up in here.
Paul: Oh my gosh Najla.
He keeps chuckling to himself.
Me: I just don't understand what I did wrong! Look at these anchors Paul. They are huge! I didn't want to drill too big of a hole and I really super gently tapped the anchor in and it just went right through the wall.
Paul picks up the wall anchor and looks at it.
Paul: Najla, these are screw in anchors - the other ones you have been using just needed to be tapped in.
Screw in anchors. What the! Shouldn't there be something on the packaging that says, "Hey! Girlfriend! These anchors aren't like the other 10,000 you have used so far to hang up towel racks, hooks, and shelves. These are different just because we want to make life difficult for you. They are called screw in wall anchors."
Paul: This is going to be a cinch. The towel rack holder is going to cover the hole perfectly.
Me: But will it be strong enough?
Paul: Yup. It'll be fine.
Paul finished putting it up for me and quietly left the condo.
I cleaned up the bathroom, and then brought my mom and dad in to see it. My mom kept looking at me wondering what happened to the hole.
Papa: Well... you did a good job Chino! I didn't think you knew how to do it - but it looks great!
I just stood there and smiled.