Life, Loss, Thefts, Dremels, Renovations & Restorations

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Someone stole the writer’s Dremel. (Courtesy picture)

“The art of losing is not difficult to master; so many things seem filled with the intention of being lost that their loss is not a disaster. – excerpt from “One Art”, by Elizabeth Bishop

The Dremel I ordered last week arrived in the mail today. It’s my second. No, the first one didn’t break. It was stolen.

A Dremel is a very handy little gadget; it’s a kind of low-calorie, low-fat electric drill for the masses not very carpentry savvy. I had detailed – or tried – the elements of the gas stove burners, which consist of a few bits of metal that get grimy. I realized that if I still had the Dremel, problem solved. Alas, no Dremel. Till today.

I bought my first Dremel years ago while working on DIY jobs for a house I bought in North Carolina.

Then I sold that house and moved back to New Jersey. I also sold the electric miter saw. I kept the Dremel.

I learned a lot from those years of Do-It-Yourself. I learned that you don’t saw drywall; you mark it and “rip” it.

It’s more like breaking a cracker in half along the perforated line than filing your fingernails (or sawing off a piece of wood). When it just breaks, it’s incredibly satisfying.

Much to my delight, I also discovered that there was a lot of overlap with sewing or quilting and carpentry.

“Ease” in sewing is called “tolerance” in carpentry; the straight grain applies to both fabrics and to the grain of the wood, and Lord helps you if you’re laying tiles and haven’t broken good plumb bobs, which are analogous to a seam guide. If you’re making a quilt, you get the principles of tiling. Seam allowances are like grout lines.

But the most useful thing I’ve learned over these years is how to use the phone.

Now, when something like this must be done, for the sake of all that is holy, Call someone! Call on the experts! To have their to do it!

I gained immense respect for the carpenters, plumbers, tilers, electricians, and painters of the DIY days in Carolina.

But I had kept the Dremel. You never know when you’ll need a Munchkin version of a power drill.

Years ago my dad mentioned Dremels and told me he was considering buying one. Dental technicians use a desk-mounted drill that has attachments very similar to those made for the Dremel. Obviously he had a case that required a difficult angle to achieve with the desktop drill, so he figured he’d buy a Dremel.

I said, no need: believe it or not, your English teacher, sometimes a university professor, has one. Just keep. Happy Dremelling!

When I entered the family home after both my parents were no longer living there, I started emptying it. I took pictures, anything sentimental and anything I found useful.

I noticed that all of the dental technician’s equipment had mysteriously disappeared. Disappeared, without explanation. The outlines of where these machines had sat for over 50 years were still imprinted on the Formica countertops.

Other things were also missing. My mother’s diamond wedding ring: missing. Hand tools and other workshop-type equipment: missing. A vintage typewriter that I gave to my father: gone. Other jewelry and household items: missing. The house had been “pre-cleared” by a stranger or strangers who must have been well known to my mother as there was never a break and enter report. And believe me, I would have been the first one she would have called.

Diamond jewelry has some resale value and household items have their uses. Annoying but logical. The really mysterious thing was the missing dental lab equipment.

Not too many people even know what these machines were used for, and certainly most people don’t even know how to use them or know where they could possibly be resold. I can’t imagine they had much resale value. Replacement value, yes. The replacement value could have reached tens of thousands of dollars. Someone literally “made himself a bandit”.

Someone who knew what they were, knew how to use them, and had a practical use for them was most likely the one who walked into the house and used themselves.

This same person took great advantage of an elderly widow with dementia, who did not know what she had in the house or what she was worth.

Then I looked for the Dremel, the first one I had bought.

Gone too. Even that was gone.

Surely there’s a special and rather uncomfortably warm place in the afterlife for anyone to take advantage of an elderly widow who, in her later years, was, to put it bluntly, “a little confused.” And yet that is exactly what happened. Since I was executor, all sales, donations, or dispositions of real estate had to go through me, and yet… no such luck. Not such respect, rather.

This week I bought myself a new Dremel.

I will probably use it to detail the elements of the grill on the stove. I can’t recoup the thousands of dollars for specialized equipment, but I could buy another Dremel, so I did. They aren’t that expensive and can be a nifty tool for the job box.

“Losing something every day,” said Elizabeth Bishop. “The art of losing is not difficult to master.”

Sometimes we have no choice.

One of the biggest mistakes we make is assuming that others have the same sense of ethics as we do. Kind reader, make no mistake: the world is full of vicious, dishonest, conniving people who would rip off a 90-year-old relative if given half of it. Just because you wouldn’t do anything doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t. Expect anything from anyone and you won’t be disappointed.

I’m just glad I’m not that person or those people, because, as the ancients said, “There’s East a God.”

Cherie Calletta was born and raised in Hammonton. She graduated from Saint Joseph’s High School in 1977, then graduated from Rutgers College in New Brunswick and went to Japan for four years to teach English as a foreign language. She then spent about five years in Germany outside of Frankfurt am Main. After several years in Charlotte, North Carolina, she moved back to Hammonton in 2002, where she and her husband made their home.

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