For the past year following the sale of our house and my office building I have prided myself upon relief from the exigencies of property management. That reprieve ended today. Because of a leaking toilet at my elderly mother’s house, I met with a plumber there to oversee its repair. I insisted that while the plumber was there he examine the other two bathrooms in the house and any other plumbing features throughout the house, including the kitchen sink and the laundry facilities in the basement. His examination disclosed that the sinks in all three bathrooms are corroding underneath (pointedly invisible from casual superficial views). He also discovered that there was a dripping joint in a pipe connecting to the hot water tank and that the cement laundry tub is cracked in several places.
Not only does this catapult my mother into an entirely unanticipated realm, it also forces me back into property management. The harder sell however is convincing my mother that after fifty years the original fixtures of her then newly constructed house are becoming dilapidated. If ever there were an example of being overtaken by the imperceptible progression of time, this is it! Add to that stark recognition the further dimension of fashion – the tourquoise, pink and yellow sinks are now hopelessly dated – and the effort of persuading my mother becomes decidedly uphill. My mother, who is about eight weeks from turning 89 years of age, is adamant that her colour choices made a half-century ago are sustainable. I have attempted to correct her view by pointing out that a perfect match between the sinks and the other fixtures will be highly unlikely but she rebuffed my initial protestations.
Happily my mother’s opening gambit appears to have altered as she reconsiders the matter on her own time. She has begun to embrace the logic of not throwing money away on a colour scheme which, as a matter of resale alone, will probably be unattractive. As a result I have been instructed to redirect the plumber to abandon the search for colour matches for the existing sinks and instead provide samples of replacement sink and toilet fixtures. This will naturally entail consideration of new taps (though we have agreed to abandon the thought of replacing the tubs at this point). It may be that the replacement of the toilet tanks entails repainting of the anterior walls, but that is a demand which will simply have to be met if and when encountered.
Part of my disenchantment with my mother’s original reticence to consider these changes springs from what I know to be the characteristic intransigence of my parents to champion any need for maintenance at all. Apart from very limited decorating my parents have never undertaken much in the way of maintenance of their house. They were people who for most of their lives lived in accommodations provided by Her Majesty. Even on foreign postings, my father confined his own capital improvements to gardening. The matters relating to hardware and structures were entirely ignored in anything they have rented or have since owned. Now however the admission is inescapable and its weight is falling hard upon my mother’s unsuspecting shoulders. I am certainly doing nothing to cushion the blow as I have always secretly harboured a disdain for my father’s erstwhile “duct tape and binder twine” remedies which he succeeded to force upon my mother through nothing more than bloody mindedness. I have also had some personal experiences in management of my own former properties which encourage the taking of fresh and significant steps rather than makeshift ones. I am familiar with the resale process and can safely predict that market preferences do not currently include turquoise sinks and toilets.
Note: The digestion of this overwhelming amount of information has not been easy for either me or my mother. After tossing and turning in my sleep I rose from my lair and composed an email to the plumber asking him to outline the matters of pressing need or urgency, advising that I wished to review it in further detail with my mother before encouraging her to take any step in particular. Notwithstanding that the fixtures were installed when the house was built in 1966 they may still be useable without maintenance or replacement. In any event the speed at which this has all unfolded is making things uncomfortable so I am seeking ways to slow things down if for no other reason than to permit my mother to absorb it all and make a decisions with which she feels comfortable. The additional background matter of concern is that we mustn’t avoid doing anything which will contaminate a possible subsequent insurance claim in the event of a loss.