I hate to publicly admit this but our family is severely dysfunctional. By the way, I looked up the spelling and was surprised that it had a “y” in it. I started off spelling it “disfunctional” but the computer kept putting a red line under it to indicate that something was wrong. The reason for my spelling problem was, I suppose, because nearly every item of value that we possess stays broken and so they do not operate properly. Thus I was translating the word as meaning “things that don’t function” and dis-function made sense to me. Just a dumb hick mistake I suppose.
Anyway our dysfunction is so deeply embedded that when I call daddy my first question is always, “What are ya’ll working on today” because I know that one thing or another is at least temporarily non-operational.
Our family history includes sordid episodes of broken down tractors, lawnmowers, cars, trucks, fishing poles, shotguns, tools, well pumps, chain saws, weed-eaters, and boats just to give you an idea. The list is lengthy and the prognosis is grim for any cure in the foreseeable future.
Let me give you a few case studies in our family history of dysfunctionalism (the meaning of which is a chronic and irreparable condition of broken stuff).
Daddy’s tractors — These have always been his pride and joy. I grew up riding these vehicles (doing various farm duties) until saddle sores appeared on my buttocks. Bush hogging was one of my principal jobs and unwittingly my escapades may have laid the foundation for our dysfunction problem. Just off the top of my head I can remember dumping the tractor off in a pond, depositing the back tire in an old well, running over objects that ruined the blades, flattening one or more tires simultaneously, and knocking off the exhaust pipe while “hogging” in close quarters under some pine trees. Each of these incidents required major repairs and may have possibly set an irreversible dysfunction pattern spinning into motion.
Equipment such as lawnmowers, chain saws, and weed eaters are continually in a state of disrepair. Between daddy, myself and my two brothers we keep the small engine repair guys backed up with business. We have now resorted to a full time staff member whose official job title is the Chief Corporate Engineer. His job description is to fix the stuff we have recently torn up and to be on call to restore to working order the things we will break this coming week. It is a dizzying inventory of items and requires no small measure of competence to get it all done in a timely fashion without loss of sanity.
Moving on, I will now give you some particulars on our private vehicles. My truck is one of the primary offenders. The two most recent dis-functions (think: ‘dis don’t function) have been associated with the heating and air-conditioning apparatus and a minor dashboard dilemma. The heating / air-conditioning difficulty is such that they will not work in concert with each other. If the heat is working then the air-conditioner will not and vice-versa. We have solved this by wedging a piece of paper into a small but obviously important part known as an actuator and thus in the winter I can enjoy heat. When the weather warms up each spring we take the paper out, let the little actuator spin around and place the paper back so that the air-conditioner will operate correctly. Jury-rigging is an essential asset when dysfunctionality is rampant in your family.
The dashboard problem is simple yet complex. My dashboard has completely dry-rotted and is falling out in jigsaw puzzle style hunks. We have set our Chief Engineer upon that problem and he has yet to come up with a feasible solution short of a complete dismantling but he’s working on it. Fortunately it’s mostly a cosmetic deal and I’m way past worrying about it with a veteran truck.
Next we come to boats. I’m going to give the nod here to my brother Terry’s beloved vessel, The Madame Queen as the quintessential example of un-workability. The craft has, for years, been a veritable black hole into which money for broken parts has been sucked down. She has made many a voyage into the Atlantic Ocean but I always wonder upon our departure from the dock if we will have to be rescued somewhere between Florida and Africa.
I paid a visit to dysfunction junction central (daddy’s barn) this week to see if I might get my leaf blower fixed. To my chagrin, but not to my surprise, I had to take a place in line behind three bicycles, a chain saw, a 1967 Ford truck, two major appliances, and some kind of weight workout station. The Chief Engineer was feverishly at work but my prospects looked bleak so I just left and didn’t bother the poor man.
I do not know if our dysfunctionality is curable. All I am sure of is that until a treatment is found we’ll continue to need the services of every available fix-it man in the county, my truck dash will slowly crumble to dust and the ultimate destination of our next salt-water fishing adventure may be the western coast of Africa.
Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at email@example.com.