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You know the problem…low water pressure, rusty water in your glass, a leak in the attic dripping down through a light fixture onto the bathroom floor, the rattling and chugging sounds as the water heater struggles to deliver hot water to your shower.

Or maybe you don’t know the problem…yet…but if you live long enough in one place, you will.

What does it mean to re-pipe a house with new copper pipes to replace your deteriorating galvanized water pipes? Jeez, the metaphors are robust: Renewing the arteries of your life? Banishing the sludge from your thoughts? Reliving your youth? Getting a second chance? Turning the past into the present?

On and on they spill from my mind these crazy similies, but it wasn’t until the re-pipe was completed that I understood its true message.

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They came early, before 7:00 a.m. First, a colossal man carrying a load of pipe. My first thought was that this guy ain’t gonna fit in my attic where most of the pipes live. Turns out, he was only dropping off the pipes from a copper-pipe supplier. He would not be cramming himself into my crawlspace and falling through my ceiling onto the kitchen counter.

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The plumbing team arrived at 8:00 a.m sharp. Then quickly came the breaking into walls, the cutting out of the old pipes from the attic, from the hallway, from the bathrooms.

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By lunchtime, I realized all the old pipes had been torn out and the new pipes had not yet been run. What did it mean to have a house without a single trace of pipe within it?

It struck me that it was not a house any longer. Without water, the stuff of life, this wooden shell was not a place for people to live. My poor house had become something other, something empty, hollow, lifeless, a primitive cave.

It was odd to see it that way. But further revelation was still to come.

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During lunch, I spent a few private moments peering into the clogged, galvanized interiors of the old pipes that lay about the yard. It was creepy to see the carnage of time so close at hand. Fortunately, lunch ended and the team began in earnest to install the new pipe.

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I was buoyed when the soldering of new copper linked our house to the city water so that it became a home once again. And I was downright cheered when I heard the splash of water in the various sinks, showers, and tubs as the foreman went from room to room testing everything, including the toilets and outdoor spigots.

It all worked beautifully! Our little home, the first home we bought as mid-twenty kids, bearing and raising our own kids here, was once again itself, once again our shelter from the storm.

When the owner of the company arrived to review the finished job and present the bill, he say with equanimity…”The copper pipes are warranted for fifty years.”

I looked at him incredulously.

“They’ll probably last longer,” he smiled, “but my warranty is good for fifty.”

And then it came to me, the moment of revelation.

“Fifty years!” I heard myself exhale, “Five decades?”

I silently added up those years to my current age…64 + 50 = 114.

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There was no way I would see these pretty pipes behind my jasmine wear out. I realized rather shockingly that I would not be here when re-piping would be needed again even if the pipes met only their warranty period.

My old galvanized pipes were warranted for 25 years, but had lasted 40 years. These copper pipes could easily go 75 years.

75 + 64 = 139 years-old.

My kids would be nearly my current age by the time these pipes spring a leak.

It was sobering to see the terminal calculations of life so clearly illustrated by this copper re-piping. Infinity beckoned. My time on this planet was being counted now by those things that would easily outlast me.

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I thought of the things I owned…my golf clubs, for instance, with their graphite shafts. 40 years? Sure. My fishing gear, also graphite and stainless steel? 50 years? No problem. Even something as unassuming as my old ski jacket made of some Gore-Tex-like material would surely last countless years hanging in my closet.

I couldn’t stop my mind…the swimming pool, the deck, the new paint on my walls that covered the patched holes of the pipe job itself challenged me to calculate. 40 years? 60 years? Our new set of bone china that we got last month…100 years?

All around me, the artifacts of my life shimmered with their own life, and mocked me with their own luxurious lifespan.

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Then time itself addressed me in the form of my prized Blancpain automatic watch. It was a 30th anniversary gift to me from Annette. This magnificent timepiece was designed to last decades, to be handed down to multiple generations in fact.

I saw then clearly the process of my life rolling out before me…

I saw the Blancpain on a wrist in the distant future. A wrist of someone who was an elemental part of me. The wrist of some descendant of mine, perhaps a grandchild through a marriage of some kind with my children, Graham & Miles, or perhaps their children’s children, or with my great-great-great grandchildren whom I will never meet but who nevertheless one day, maybe on a Father’s Day like today, or on any bright morning or any sunny afternoon or in a quiet twilight washed with shadows they will set the time of this watch, adjust the date, snap the buckle and walk out into their own infinite future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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