Friday, April 10, 2015
Blades of Grass
One of the things Mom always took great pleasure in was mowing her yard. She had three acres of land that sloped uphill, riddled with ditches and bumps and holes, and for years she mowed it with an old Husqvarna riding mower that backfired and died more often than it worked. In addition to the ditches and holes her yard had a lot of very old maple trees,and their roots broke the surface of the earth, massive and gnarled and waiting to snag the blades of the mower. They also covered the lawn in an assortment of sticks in all sizes, and my job when I was growing up was to run outside and gather up all the fallen sticks and pile them up to be burned at a later time.
Eventually Mom grew tired of the jolting, jostling riding mower and bought herself one of those fancy John Deere zero turn radius lawn tractors, and she would ride up and down the slope of her yard, carefully turning circles around trees and nimbly avoiding the ditches and maple roots. She loved to listen to Maroon 5 as she mowed; she said they were the perfect band to mow to and would grumble "Doesn't Adam Levine know that I have grass to cut?" every spring when they hadn't released a new album yet.
She wouldn't let any of the dogs outside while she was mowing, except for Alfie, who knew not to run in front of her as she rode up and down the lawn. Alfie would trot along behind her as she made each pass, trailing her the whole way, frolicking and rolling in the clippings that flew like confetti, pouncing on any snake or other creature disturbed by the mower's wake.
As years passed and her illness progressed, she still climbed onto that mower at the start of the season even after her hands couldn't quite grip the handles anymore. I bought thick black lengths of foam that's used for insulating pipes and fitted those around the grips to give her something more substantial to grasp, but finally between her hands and her growing frailty she couldn't do it anymore. In 2014 she reluctantly gave up the task to my husband, which she hated doing, especially because Adam viewed the mower as something more akin to a go-cart. "He mows too fast! I swear I saw him catch air when he went over that one bump" she would complain to me. "He doesn't mow in the same pattern that I did. The grass doesn't look as nice." To me, I could see no real difference, but she fretted and complained about it every time he mowed for her. I think it was less the fact that he did it differently and more that she could no longer do it herself that bothered her. Giving up caring for her yard hurt her more than even giving up driving had. Despite all evidence pointing to the fact that she was only getting worse, she stubbornly held on to the belief that one day she might at least be able to mow the yard again. Of course, that never did happen.
Before she passed away, she made sure that Adam would inherit the lawn mower. It's too big for our yard, really. We have a relatively small lawn and using something like that to take care of it is overkill. But it sits in our garage, a hulking beast that has eliminated Adam's parking spot. "Are you actually going to use it?" I asked him, and he just shrugged. "Maybe. I've got a sentimental attachment to it." My husband is particular about his lawn, though. His grass is green and lush and he has his own patterns, using an old push mower that had also once belonged to my Mom. He worries about introducing weed seeds into his lawn and so the few times he has taken care of a neighbor's yard for them, he has used their mower rather than risk "contaminating" his. Since we've had buckets of rain recently, the grass has grown fast and thick and was in dire need of cutting already, so during the brief break between storms Adam mowed our lawn with the push mower. Next door to us is an empty house, a foreclosure with a yard choked by weeds that no one comes out to cut, so after he finished our yard he decided he'd break out Mom's mower and do that one as well.
In addition to inheriting Mom's lawn mower, we also inherited her dog, Alfie. He'd been unwanted by anyone else. I worked with rescues and foster groups and shelters and there simply was no room for an 11 year old terrier mix with ridiculously floppy ears. Adam had always insisted that we'd never have pets, but he broke that vow to take in Alfie when it became clear that the humane society would be the only other choice. In the house, Alfie had slept through the cutting of our grass, the sound of the weed whacker and the leaf blower. When Adam fired up Mom's mower and rolled out of the garage on it, Alfie started to go ballistic. He barked and howled and scratched at the door like mad. I couldn't figure out why until I realized it was the sound of the mower. Every spring and summer for 9 years he had trailed along behind that lawn mower, tracking back and forth with Mom and then later on with Adam. He didn't quiet down until I put his leash on him and took him outside, so he could watch as Adam zipped up and down the yard, spinning and weaving. I thought "Mom would absolutely kill Adam if she could see him driving it like that." But I bet it would also make her happy.