157. August Snow: Mistaken Identity


So Grace has been home this last week visiting with little Leah, the one and only grandchild, spider monkey, and boo boo bear. Her husband, Leah’s Daddy, is in survival school for helicopter pilots in Alabama, eating snakes and grass for a week while trying to avoid capture by fellow soldiers pretending to be the enemy. Go Stu! Grace is a really good mom, highly patient and attentive. Over the weekend I felt like a sixth string quarterback in the NFL, however. I could get some baby reps only if Grandma or Erin or Mom or Jess or Johnny the dog was finished playing with the baby. I went to church alone. All of them stayed home to maximize Leah time. The path of the maternal grandpa is a lonely and twisted one. Grace tells me, “You are a good man, Dad, but a strange man.” She does not approve of my kitchen booty dances (“No child should ever be subjected to that sort of writhing by their father.”) or my slightly obtuse sense of humor. My odds got better by Monday when Erin went back to NYC and Grandma went back to work. Unfortunately I had to go back to work as well, and Grace called up Grandma Theresa for some fun time. Hmmmm. Is there no justice? Or at least vengeance.

In an attempt to give solo baby time to Grandma Theresa, some exercise to herself, and a thank you to us, Grace decided to mow our front yard. However, she has been gone in marriage for four years and sort of forgotten where things are in the garage and how they work. So she called me for directions on how to start the lawnmower. I explained how to prime the push mower, attach the bagger, and pull start. It all sounded good over the phone. She was going to cut the front yard and bag the clippings.

When I got home at 7:30 p.m. I immediately noticed that the yard had been mowed neatly. We started to go for a family walk at my wife’s insistence. “But I just got home”, I protested. “You’ll live” she corrected. “I’m hungry.” “You’re not gonna die.” We walked down the street with Leah in her stroller. Grace began her confession after I commented on how nice the yard looked.

“Dad, you know our conversation about the mower and gas and everything?”

“Sure.”

“Well, I followed them with that other machine in the garage, what I thought was the third lawnmower. ”

“You mean the snow blower?”

“Yeah, it kind of looks like a yard machine and it’s the same color and brand as the push mower.”

“So what did you do?” I could not imagine mowing anything but snow with the snow blower.

“I primed it and pulled on the cord. It started right up.”

“Fantastic, cuz it never does in the winter time.”

“So I didn’t know any better. We never had a snow blower when I lived at home, and no one has one in Atlanta or Tucson or Alabama. ”

“Okay, blame us and various Southerners. When did you realize you were pushing a snow blower?”

“Well, I started trying to cut the grass at the corner, where that divot is. I ran a row and then looked at where I’d been. I thought, ‘This thing isn’t cutting at all; it’s just scuffing up the grass like a golf club’. So I turned it off and put it back.”

“Nice work, Gracie, tenderizing our sod. If you have ever doubted that you are your mother’s child, doubt no more.”

We were laughing and strolling down the street.

“So I eventually figured out that the other machine was the push mower, and I got it going while Theresa played with Leah.”

“Great story, Grace. But I’m not sure I’d tell anyone else about it unless you’re in a dumb and dumber contest and you need to top someone else’s stupid pinnacle. Didn’t you just graduate from law school?”

Every time I think of that episode I imagine Grace jumping up with the “mower” as it rototilled our grass and how she desperately tried to will that snow blower into a lawn mower. It just had to be… it was the right brand and color, and it was in the same garage. Heck, it even started up and sounded like a lawn mower. I’ll smile this winter when I’m at the frozen helm and feel a touch of summer’s joy then.

Most, if not all, of my favorite memories are unscripted. The time I bought apple cider vinegar for my wife when she had her wisdom teeth extracted and asked me to run and get some apple juice. Actually, her mouth was stuffed with gauze and she was a little loopy from the medication. I lovingly poured her a tall glass of vinegar which she swallowed with anticipation, and then gagged and spit it all up along with nine feet of used, rolled up gauze. Looking back, I think the vinegar probably worked as a nice solvent and antiseptic, but she didn’t see it that way. Anyway, she has a lovely smile today and I can take a little credit for that, very little.

When I was a teenager, 17 or 18 I think, I decided to cut the big branch off my parents’ elm tree. It was in the front yard and had grown out over the power lines above the curb. I rented a chain saw and got to work on a hot summer Saturday. The problem was and remains that I am a mechanical idiot. Rather than cutting the long branch in 1/3’s or 1/4’s, or even a 1/2, I decided to simply cut it at the point of outgrowth from the trunk. When I did this maneuver, the branch fell down on the power line and kicked back against the trunk, stuck in place just as if it had grown that way. In the mean time an arc of electric vengeance struck the dry summer grass up and down Dorset Drive, starting a thin fire line an inch wide and about two feet from the curb. I put down the chainsaw and ran on this thin fire line to smother the little flames that erupted. My heart was pounding like a snow blower in August. I gasped for air like I had sucked up a pint of vinegar. I finally stomped out all the flames and returned to the branch from Hell. I was not sure if it was conducting electricity, but I knew that I had to cut it free this time. Which I did, but like the vinegar and snow blower experiences above, it was a much better story because of the stupidity. I feel sorry for folks who do things the right way all the time. They have no stories to tell.

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