Cutting the Grass

I’ve mentioned before that I used to get a small allowance as a kid. But, my Dad figured that my duty for that small amount of money would be mowing grass.

I started cutting grass when I was 9 years old. My Dad taught me the basics of grass care and lawn mower maintenance. How to carefully fill the mower with gas, check the oil after each use, how to overlap on each pass slightly as to not “miss a spot” Our yard over on Simmons Street seemed the size of Forest lawn to me and it seemed to take forever to cut it. It was boring, so I daydreamed about playing baseball. I was old Mickey Mantle in the 9th inning of the World Series getting the winning hit. In the end the grass got cut.

Down the road a few years later when I was 12, if I wanted money I had to work for it. At the beginning of the Summer in 1962, my Dad said “Go out and get you a few yards to mow.” So I went out and asked. I got Mr and Mrs Smith’s yard in the two story white house across from the mill. Mr and Mrs Cohran’ s house beside them, and the Smith’s two adult daughters who lived behind them on fifth street. I had a couple of them up on eighth street too, The William’s house and old Mr Crawford’s house. Mr Crawford was a character. He had been in WWI, and had been gassed with Mustard gas. Even though that had given him lung problems he still worked very hard at the Mill as a sweeper. He was quite a talker and I learned a lot from listening to him.

I got so many yards to mow, that I was super busy! The first couple of weeks were not so bad, but then there was ball practice….extra ones even, due to the fact that our coach really wanted to win first place. My client’s yards started getting long and Dad ended up “helping me out” so I could keep my yards and get my money. Dad didn’t complain. That’s just the way he was.

We won first place in little league that year, and I know Dad was proud. Tired from having to help me mow yards, but proud nonetheless. I continued to mow these same yards for years after that because Dad had “saved me” that year. I think my brother Mike Bowers kept on mowing them after I went off to West Georgia. Dad continued to help me if I needed it, and he would always check to make sure I hadn’t missed a spot. He did the same thing when I washed the car too!

I’ve tried to live the same philosophy. Let people work when they can, help when they need it, and tell them when they have “missed a spot”

Eli, Rue and the rest of the Crew- from 2015

There are stuffed animals lined up in the hall. Three Teddy bears being taught by a monkey in a green plastic chair. I know this because that is what my three year old Rue told me. She showed me a page with super hero stickers all lined up in a row and told me it was her “lesson plan” I’m sure the monkey can handle it.

Outside next to my storage building is a little pile of rocks of different sizes, shapes and colors. This is Eli’s collection from our hike across the old apartments lot on Park Avenue yesterday. I let him out of the stroller and he picked and chose, throwing the ones he didn’t like as far as his little arm could chunk them.

Paula and I have been keeping these two for over 3 years now, since they are both closer to 4 than 3. When we started, I was still a very sick man. I struggled with heart and chest pains. I was on the verge of diabetes and had very little energy. As these two progressed from helplessness to walking, to running, to talking and thinking….to becoming little humans, I realized that I would like to be around with them a little while longer. I didn’t do much about it at the time though. When I found out last year that Matt and Courtney were finally having a baby, I decided to become more active.

So I started walking. I went to the gym because Paula was doing rehab, and I have kept on going.

I got one of those fitbit things for my birthday back in October and as of today I am nearing a million steps on it. I still am not “healthy” as a normal person by any means, but I think having these youngsters and now a new baby have kept me from going downhill. Instead I have come uphill a bit. I still go to sleep all the time. Rue was poking me this morning while she was sitting in my lap in my chair saying “Wake up Papa…wake up”

I have beautiful teenage granddaughters I want to see graduate from high school, and a young adult granddaughter I want to see get a good start on life. I’m trying to teach Auttie a little guitar too. She’s doing really good.

Not even to mention my three children who are my friends and my dear wife. We have a fiftieth wedding anniversary coming up in a few years, and I got to make plans to be here for that. I think we are going to Disney world.

Yet…my goals are all attainable short range deals. One day at a time, and stack them up like bricks at a kiln.

So, I’ll leave the stuffed animals where they are for now, and the rock pile too. They will remind me of the two who put them there and how much I love them….and how much I love them all.

Familiar Streets

I walked around town in the mist and drizzle yesterday. It was one of my better walks in a long while, despite the weather. I felt strong and the lungs and heart were good, so I did almost five miles.

I always long to be outside. I started out yesterday going down towards the river, but then reversed my course and went down the sidewalk on Park Avenue. (It’s always better to walk with the wind at your back!) That old sidewalk along Park avenue is the same one which has been there all of my life. It is a bedrock of memories for me. I remember walking to school down that concrete path when I was as young as eight years old. I continued to walk that way until we moved in 1962 up to eigth street and then I walked from there to school. There was very little danger in a young kid walking to school back in 1958. We didn’t think a thing about it.

I also remember going that way on Saturdays down to the old theatre to sit all afternoon watching some Cowboy movie, or a rare Science fiction fare. Dad always told me to just stay on that path and not wander off, and I would be fine. I always was.

I remember going towards school that way one terrible morning when my Mom had her first nervous breakdown, and how she ran after me that day…scared that something was going to happen to her. So much sorrow yet to come, and as that day unfolded and I had not the least idea of how to handle what was taking place. I had no idea that I would soon be staying with my Grandparents for a few months while Mom was in the State hospital. How I wish we had the treatments available back then that we have today.

But I love the outdoors, in all places, but especially familiar places.

I remember my friend who lived on that street who passed away much too young. I remember that he wanted to be outside as he was dying. He sat in his front yard, bundled up in coats and blankets looking at the wonderful world around him. The sky and the clouds. The rain and the sun. I know he did not wish to leave it, and my heart broke for him.

If I had a choice, which I know that few of us do, I would choose to die outside under the full moon and a sky quilted with billions of stars, on warm summer’s night…..gazing up into the Universe beyond where we exist and wondering what lies ahead.