As a kid I used to watch as my neighbor Joe would mow his lawn with a shining gold beer can in his hand.
I imagined if he were my dad, I would buy him a cupholder to attach to the handle of his mower. Think how much simpler it would be if he could use both hands while mowing.
Joe’s backyard was barren and grassless, which I enjoyed when it rained so I could make mudpies with his kids. I often wondered why he never filled it in with grass, but now I know he probably just didn’t want to have to mow it all summer.
Meanwhile, my father turned our backyard into his own oasis, with banana trees and a water installation. He even let me pick out a stone elephant that sprayed water from its trunk. I named him Edmund.
Granted it’s too humid in Southeast Texas to actually enjoy the outdoors, but my sisters and I would look at the windows and share our appreciation of Edmund and the surrounding foliage from the air-conditioned living room.
Today, my yard isn’t beautiful by any means, but when my husband is home, it is well-maintained. When I see him out in the yard, pulling weeds, edging, fixing broken things, I realize just how much like my father he is.
The two never met, but I know if they did, they would talk about their lawns, the best brands of tools and the benefits of keeping emergency kits in the trunk of the car.
My father’s yard was beautiful and I appreciated it, but now that I’m an adult, I can relate a lot more with Joe.
I hate mowing the lawn. It’s the worst way I can imagine spending my Sunday, but with my husband off training this month and then deploying soon for nine months, it’s become my chore, my burden.
When I politely whined about this through email last week, my husband responded, “Get used to mowing the lawn.”
I just sighed and remembered how easy life was when I lived in apartments. Not only does living in a third floor walk-up apartment keep you in better shape, there’s no lawn to mow.
I do, in fact, enjoy getting outdoors, but I’d much prefer to use my daylight hours poolside reading a chic-lit book with a hot pink cover while drinking sangria. Instead I’m sweaty and dirty with arms so sore and shaky from holding up the weed-eater I can’t even keep a book eye-level — much less pour from a pitcher.
Yes, I suppose I could hire a lawn guy, preferably a handsome young man like John the gardener from “Desperate Housewives,” but something in me can’t do it. My mother, too, hates mowing the lawn, but because it was something my dad loved and cherished, she does it all herself. Even after once ending up on crutches because of it, she still gets out there and mows nearly an acre of land on her own.
And now I get it. I’ve yelled at my mom for years for not hiring help, but I suddenly understand.
For some reason I feel connected to my husband when I help with his chores when he can’t.
When he calls from downrange, I’ll have something to tell him about my day we can both relate to, something we can share and understand during a time when our worlds will be so incredibly disconnected from one another.
And when my mother makes it up to heaven and sees my father with that silly grin on his face, I know exactly what she’ll say to him, “Just so you know, I took care of your stupid lawn.”