I met Donald in 1984.
We had just started dating when he came to my apartment one evening to watch a Braves game with me.
I was a huge baseball fan - he was not.
While we were watching the game I noticed he seemed more interested in the hanging shelves on the wall surrounding the TV and I thought, "oh, goodie, he's interested in the books."
After awhile he said, "who hung your shelves?"
I, very proudly, said, "I did."
and he nodded.
We watched the game a little longer, and then he said, "Did you use a level?"
I looked at him like he's lost his mind.
"A level? Why would I have a level?"
"Well, 'cause you like to hang stuff."
"No, I don't really like to hang stuff, but I just do it 'cause I want it done."
"So. What do you use to make sure your shelves are level and stuff won't fall off them?"
Mistakenly thinking he was applauding my handiness, I walked across the room to where I had a pottery Tic-Tac-Toe game sitting on a table. I picked up one of the pottery "O's" and handed it to him.
"I used this."
He just looked at it and held it for the longest time before he finally looked at me and said "This. You used this as a level?"
Still grinning and still proud as punch, I said, "Yes! Pretty smart of me, huh?"
"Kaye, this little ball is not round."
"Yes, it is too round."
By now he was laughing and NOT trying to hide it. "It's not round enough to act as a level. Actually, it's pretty flat in some places."
Me, being me, snatched the little ball and put it back where it belonged.
"I think the shelves look great. I love them. AND, I'm pretty damned proud of myself for hanging them all by myself."
"I'm pretty impressed that you did that too."
He shook his head and said, "But Kaye, those shelves are crooked as hell."
I was crushed!
"They are not."
"Yes. They are. But if you're happy with them, that's what counts. So. What did you hang them with?"
He nodded. "Do you have a lot of tools? Other than a level - I know you don't have a level."
"I have a hammer and I have a screwdriver. My dad gave them to me."
He nodded. "What else?"
I think I looked at him like he was nuts here. "That's all. What else do I need?"
"Just one screwdriver?"
"Yes." (I probably said this pretty sharply).
By now he was up looking more closely at the shelves and he did exactly what I was praying he would not do.
He picked up the one book I was hoping he would not pick up.
It was one next to the bracket I had had particular trouble putting up.
He wasn't looking at the book, he was looking at the hole surrounding the bracket.
"Wow. That's a pretty big hole."
"The toggle thing didn't want to go in."
"I really had to fight to get it to go."
"What did you finally do?"
"I used a spoon."
"Mm hmm. And don't think I'm so dumb I don't know you're making fun of me here. I don't want to talk about this any more. I'm sure you would have done a better job."
"I am not making fun of you. I'm just - - - admiring your creativity. And, like I said, I'm pretty impressed that you did all this all on your own. Really. But I'll help you the next time."
And, unbelievably, by now I was actually laughing. Because, yes, the shelves were crooked as hell. Even I could see that. And yes, some of those holes were awfully big. So - somehow, while my feelings could have been hurt, the man made me laugh. And made me realize how good it felt to laugh with someone. At myself. Someone I liked lots.
And sure enough - several months later we decided to move in together (very long story for another day), and he did hang shelves for me. A lot of shelves.
We moved again and he hung shelves.
We moved again and he hung shelves and put together bookcases.
We moved to Boone in 1996 and he did it all again.
And now he's putting together more bookcases.
When I offer to help, he always says, "I'll holler when I need you."
And he does, always, holler when he needs me, but it's never when he's working on shelves.
And, he's still making me laugh.
even at myself.