Sometimes it’s the smallest things that trigger my realization that Dad is gone. Yesterday was one of those days.
For years, my friends laughed at me because Dad would drive over to Lake Charles every other week and mow my grass. I could and did mow it, but he liked being useful. And I guess he thought he was helping out (of course, he was). My yard isn’t exactly huge, and I could mow it – – back and front – – in twenty minutes. But he’d come over and trim with a weed-eater as well.
When I did mow, sometimes I couldn’t get the mower started. Sometimes the gas was gummed up (or whatever). Sometimes things needed cleaning (spark plugs?). And over the years, sometimes it was just that a mower was going out. I’d make some comment about buying a new mower, and Dad would automatically say that he thought he could fix it. And so I’d see him sweating in the sun, with lawnmower parts around him, and within an hour the mower was usually running again. When I did need a new mower, before I actually could buy one he’d usually leave one for me.
In Egan, when we bought some land and moved a house from the Sun Oil camp onto it, our yard was large enough that Dad bought a riding mower. He never had trouble getting us to help him mow. We all enjoyed driving that riding mower.
By the time I had moved back to Egan, Kay and I were taking turns mowing the yard. When I was living with Dad, I mowed most of the time. Now that Dad is gone, Kay and I have been taking turns mowing. Of course, week before last when I tried, the mower’s belt snapped. When my neighbor Charles and our handyman Mack hauled it over to Iota, we discovered that lots of repairs are needed. Rather than make that investment yet (only this past week we had to pay for a new engine for our mutually owned Ford truck), we’re having Mack mow for us.
In Lake Charles, my friends chuckle, because while I’ve been mowing in Egan, I’ve been paying someone to take care of my lawn. He mows and trims every other week. When necessary, he cleans out overgrown plants from the flower beds. I have a mower in my storage building, but it doesn’t work. Now that the truck is working, I’ll have to take it for repairs.
But here at the beach, Kay and I had nothing. So on Saturday, I went into Galveston and bought an old-fashioned push mower, as in a rotary mower. Not successful yet with thick, overgrown grass. I still need to use Kay’s method, mowing with a weed-eater. Luckily the yard here isn’t very big.
But all this has made me think of Dad. How he was so much part of my life in so many ways. There was a point yesterday when I almost called it to ask about using the new mower. Then I realized that I couldn’t do that. Not anymore.
Dad taught me many things. I learned to take the U-tube apart under a sink and find my dropped contact lenses. I learned to change tires. I could check oil in a car. Over the years, I became pretty handy around my house. I could research something and figure out a lot of things. But he was always cautious about my use of some power tools, especially saws. He enjoyed helping, but I also think he enjoyed watching me learn.
Of course, many things around the hose are beyond me. I can’t do electrical work (he was an electrician). I know something about it, but never learned how to do anything. He simply wouldn’t trust me. I can use a power drill. I know how to use a hammer. I helped to put down flooring. I painted entire rooms by myself, even taping and mudding some sheetrock. Yes, he taught me a lot of things. But some things? Like the mower questions? I need to ask him. I think about calling him.
Those are the moments when I am really caught up short. I’m 62, and for most of my life — and certainly all of my adult life — when something mechanical didn’t work, I could call him and he’d try to figure out what was wrong. Over the phone, if possible. Looking at it, if necessary. Some things he never could figure out. Only then would he “let” me call someone professional, or take the mower to a repair shop.
Now, though, he’s not there anymore. I can’t make those phone calls anymore. I can’t describe what a machine is or isn’t doing, and he can’t diagnose the problem.
Today I’ve really been aware of the phone calls I can’t make anymore. The phone line doesn’t exist anymore; Kay and I gave up the phone in Egan. And even if it were still there, the call would only echo in a house that we only visit. No one would be there to answer it.
I guess I was spoiled, in a way. Spoiled in the sense of knowing I could always call for assistance, even if that was verbal. But I was also the opposite at the same time, because he figured girls — and women — needed to be independent and how to do things.
So here I am, retired, ready to mow a tiny yard, and needing to male a phone call.
Unable to do that, I’ll just punt and come up with another possibility. He taught me how to do that, too.