Lawns, we’ve had a few.
As a kid growing up in the country, it was my paid job to mow the lawn. True, that pay amounted to a buck a week, and even that was seasonal, but hey, a dollar went further back then, right? And the lawn looked pretty afterward as I gulped a big glass of Lipton Instant Iced Tea, admiring my handiwork.
When Brian and I tied the knot, he became our primary lawn crew. I didn’t mind, and didn’t even need to pay him a dollar. That continued at the houses we rented, but once we bought our home, we shared mowing duties.
After our second son arrived, I worked part time, and Brian’s career typically required 60-hour weeks. A Friday “day off” might mean I would mow, clean house, make a grocery run, and prepare supper before before heading to someone’s Little League game. Full day but no big deal. Life.
I would have been in my 30s and 40s then. It feels so long ago when I think of it in lawn years and energy levels.
Before he retired, Brian assumed all the mowing-and-trimming work. It became a point of pride for him not to need a rider to get the job done. He didn’t even use a self-propelled model. In his 50s and through his middle 60s, Brian considered it exercise.
Before I ever gave spring grass cutting a thought during Brian’s chemo winter, the topic had appeared on his radar. He knew his energy level wouldn’t allow push mowing this summer.
We discussed hiring it done—words my fella finds more difficult to swallow than I do.
“They’d probably charge 50 bucks a week,” I said. “At that cost, we could have a chunk of a rider paid for in one season.”
In March, the John Deere rolled off the delivery truck. Son Ben was there for the occasion as the three of us gathered in the garage, all smiles, watching the green machine ride down the lift and roll into our lives.
Soon, when the grass did what grass does, Ben showed up again to launch mowing season. Brian and I sat on lawn chairs on the back porch, clad in winter attire, watching Ben lap the lawn and cheer him on each round, as though he were a rookie in the Indy 500.
I figured one or the other son would appear weekly and get the job done. But before that could happen, one day I looked up and what do you know? There was Brian, buzzing around the lawn on the new ride! He hadn’t nearly regained his strength, but there he sat, riding tall in the yellow saddle. I posted the special moment as my Facebook profile photo. A glimpse of normal felt amazing.
I kept telling Brian that he should teach me how to use the rider, and explain the meaning of each knob and pedal. Being the fully capable woman that I am, I would take over the task—that was my pitch, anyway. Besides, I knew I’d enjoy it.
For years I’ve heard friend Sandy Moore speak of how some of her best thinking, planning, and praying are done while lapping her large, farm lawn on the mower.
The good thing about being married almost 43 years is that Brian and I have lived a lot of life together. We know each other’s stories. But knowing each other’s stories has a down side.
I knew why my husband was hesitant to turn me loose with a riding lawn machine. He was fine with me driving a load of baseball kids to Arkansas, Michigan, or Ohio for tournaments back in the day, but mowing our lawn was a different animal.
He couldn’t quit thinking about an incident of 40 years ago.
I almost put my dad’s new three-wheeler into the farm pond. With me on it. And I mean, it was close.
Dad hadn’t given me enough instruction before letting me take his new toy for a spin. That, or I got foot-tied when I went roaring confidently through the barn lot, and forgot how to stop.
A mere few feet away from pulling an Eva Kineviel and taking it airborne before splashing down, I found the brake.
Guess you can’t unsee something like that.
One day Brian mowed in the backyard while I worked on the porch, minding my own business. He motioned me over.
“Wanna mowing lesson?” he asked.
“Are you serious?”
It was the senior version of, “Hey, baby, goin' my way?”
He walked me through it, even though I mentioned that there is a pond on the other side of our back fence. Just a moment of full disclosure.
Guess he figured it would take a lot of horsepower combined with very little horse sense for me to crash through the fence to get there.
Pleased that I didn’t destroy any property or christen the mower that first slow-motion outing, Brian believed I was ready for prime time. He had a plan.
“With you on the rider and me trimming, we can knock that yard out in 20 minutes,” he said, fairly beaming.
He’s said it more than once, as though we’re on a stopwatch, and that some kind of productivity boss is standing by with a clipboard and hardhat. I didn’t ask the question on my mind: Why does it matter how long it takes? We’re retired!
Sometimes it’s best not to say a word, other than to offer support.
“Yeah, I bet we can!” I responded.
The truth is, I think we make a pretty good team.
Donna Cronk’s Next Chapter column appears in the New Castle Courier-Times and Shelbyville News the second and fourth Saturdays each month. It runs in the Connersville News-Examiner the first and third Tuesdays of the month. Connect with her to continue the conversation via email: email@example.com.