Let Inga Tell You: Couples must plumb the depths of romance


My husband has always maintained that I married him for his skills with a sewer auger, but that’s only partially true.

It wasn’t long after my first husband and I divorced in 1983 that a friend perused my 11,000-square-foot lot and observed, “You need a lover who likes gardening and pool maintenance.”

Please note that I’d traded every asset of the marriage AND took out a second mortgage to buy my former husband out of the place, so I brought this on myself. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Stability for me and the kids. Nice long-term investment.

Little did I realize how fast the place would suck me dry. Every leaf in my high-maintenance yard seemed to have pressing personal problems. And as big a fan as I was of child labor, you can’t really put a 3-year-old behind a lawn mower. (Well, without getting a visit from the nice social services people.)

Meanwhile, my gardener guy was making twice what I was per hour at my entry-level job at UCSD. Although every time he brought out the chain saw, I concluded he was underpaid.

As for home repairs, if it couldn’t be fixed with picture wire, duct tape or hair scrunchies (a grossly underutilized tool), it remained, by financial necessity, broken.

Except, of course, for plumbing disasters, which maliciously refuse to be ignored. My 1947 built-by-the-lowest-bidder home was one chronic plumbing crisis, aided and abetted by two little boys who delighted in toy flushing contests. Oh, the chortles of glee as cascades of water overflowed the bathroom and gushed into the hallway! Even when I had the kids sedated, er, otherwise occupied, tree roots were an ongoing source of backups. I pretty much had the plumber on speed dial.

Until Olof entered the picture four years later. I would like to say for the record that I did not specifically select Olof for his skills at pulling a toilet and extracting rocket parts. But this is not a quality you should overlook in a man.

Olof, who was also divorced and had been a friend since high school, maintains that it was far easier to woo women in their 30s than it had been the first time around when they were less interested in his prowess with a pipe wrench and more interested in romance.

When you’re a 35-year-old single woman with two little kids and The House From Hell, it’s amazing how fast the definition of romance changes.

Of course, Olof had many other attributes besides plumbing skills. He was positively dazzling with wood glue. One weekend when the boys were 8 and 10, we returned from a brief walk to find the louvered door between the kitchen and TV room suddenly louver-less.

The kids insisted that they had been quietly watching TV when the door spontaneously disintegrated. Scared the daylights out of them, they said. Any suggestion that one kid might have been chasing the other and the first one had thrown his weight into one side of the door while the other crashed into it from the other side were met with looks of stunned incredulity.

But over the course of an entire weekend, Olof reconstructed it on a sawhorse on the patio, louver by back-breaking louver.

The “kids” are now 30 and 32, but I still remember the moment Olof hung the door back on its hinges. Because that’s when I knew: It was love.

Look for La Jolla resident Inga’s lighthearted looks at life every other week in The La Jolla Light.