Keeping a house in shape when you are incapable of making even minor repairs is tough on any homeowner.
Not being very handy, my week's vacation plan was to do the manual labor - like removing screens and replacing them with storm windows - and leave the stopped-up sinks, dripping faucets and non-working light switches to the experts.
There were other unimaginative labor choices. I could clean out the studio and remove the season's leaves and weeds from the patio, or hang a painting - a gift from an artist daughter - that had been leaning against the dining room wall since Christmas.
My father had sons and used them well for just such chores, leaving him free during his two weeks away from the factory to watch the horses run at Suffolk Downs. But this type of labor fell into my sofe hands when the girls left for college.
Being away from the place where you earn your living is a vacation, and being home is better than speeding along highways, terrified or swift-moving trailer trucks whose drivers may be making dates with loose women on CB radios.
When you work from Monday to Friday, a vacation shouldn't legally start until Monday, the day you are due in. So my weekend was spent in splendid leisure while I planned Monday's attack.
On Monday it was raining, luckily, so I used the day to unwind, meaning that I was still dialing 9 for an outside line on my home phone.
It would be a week of tiny bits of work, a chance to see a 9:30 movie without the vague feeling of having to get up in the morning.
Or a lazy drive into the countryside on old, slow roads, to have lunch in some historic inn whose menu features prune juice along with shrimp cocktails for appetizers; or a meal at dockside in Annapolis, and a night of smoky jazz.
There is something about a rainy evening that makes the movies a good place to be. But the movie, billed as "humorous," opened with a man in his late 30s being told by a doctor that he was dying of a rare blood disease. And no one seemed to care, including his estranged wife, his parents, his young daughter, his best friend and his hipple girl friend. Near the end, one scene had him trying to drown himself while Frank Sinatra sang, "I Did It My Way." At the close there was a long shot of him struggling on the beach with an escaped immate from an asylum who was trying to stab him to death.
Tuesday was better. The rain had stopped and the temperature was too uncomfortable to do anything, so I reread an old, favorite book, "Two Years Before The Mast."
Each evening at home dinners were lovely, the food chosen and cooked with care. No concern about a waiter from a faraway country mixing up your choices while he practiced his English on you.
The kitchen chores were equally distributed, new receipts tried with the excitement of discovery, and the pits and pans were cleared during conversation that later moved to the porch with dessert and brandy.
Wednesday morning I dialed whether without first dialing 9 and, now unwound, it was time for a new adventure.
A ride to White's Ferry, a way out along River Road in Maryland, took me far from storm windows and weed-covered patios.
It's a narrow part of the Potomac that you cross on a three-car ferry to get to Leesbury, and a wonderful escape from cities and cement and brick buildings.
We set a rule early in the week that each evening we would be sitting sipping a cocktail by five o'clock right on our own porch, and it worked.
Thursday none of the chores I set out to do had been done, but the vacation was getting better with age.
Three books had been put away for another reading some day, as I remembered the words of a retired teacher who once said, "Never keep a book around that you won't read again." He was right. Coming to the end of a book you enjoyed is like having a friend leave for a long time.
Annapolis was great on Friday. The table at lunch was close to a big picture window overlooking the dock.
Vacations spent among people who are at work give you a smug feeling, and the men with ties and suitcoats walking up and down the streets of Maryland's capital all looked warm and unhappy.
Driving back from Annapolis at 3:30 in the afternoon with a trunk full of lobsters and clams on an empty highway feels good when you see the bumper-to-bumper traffic headed for the beaches.
The martinis on the porch were perfect, the lobsters big, fat and tender. The white, fresh corn baked in the husks was like candy to a child.
The vacation was over by my Monday-to-Friday rules, and while stretched out with a brandy and a cigar I forget why I had taken the time off.
It all came back to me on Saturday morning, and with restored energy and the memory of an editor who once said, "Italians love to work with their hands," I did it all, storm windows, patios, old leaves, all before noon, knowing that the rest of the month I would sit and read while the light switches didn't work and the faucets dripped.
And finally decided I didn't think the painting looked too bad leaning against the dinning room wall.