There is a man child living in my house. I don’t mean the tall one with grey hair and a pension, I mean the 12-almost-13 year old who is recently grown taller than me and whose voice is lower than his father’s. Of course, the grey-headed one is a man child, too, but for different reasons.
It’s like the changing of the guard around here, and it is kind of fun to watch. Today, for example, the Mowing of the Lawn was a rather large to-do. My husband, Mike, the grey-headed man child, has recently had back surgery. This makes a lot of tasks that are normally on his list, like mowing the lawn, difficult. Jacob, the younger man child, is perfectly capable of mowing the lawn and, perfectly willing to mow the lawn, go figure, only he doesn’t ever do it because of the clash of wills that occur from the Alpha Dog asserting his dominance over the young whelp who will one day take his place. At least that’s how I see it. Mike will tell you it is because of Jacob’s bad attitude, and Jacob will tell you it is because Mike is an overly-critical control freak. They’re both right.
I myself am perfectly capable of mowing the lawn. I did it for years before I got married and one of the lawnmowers we have is still the one I got for $50.00 at a scratch and dent sale sometime in 1996 from Home Depot. I bought it because the one I owned previously was stolen from where I had it chained up to my fence in Decatur, back when I lived there. When I bought the new one, I got some neon paint and painted “Lori’s Mower – do not steal” and my address on the mower. The paint is still there, even though I haven’t owned that house for thirteen years.
Mike was still in bed resting his back, when Jacob and I announced to him that we were going to mow the lawn so he didn’t have to worry about it. He immediately gave us a list of instructions. “Pick up the sticks first. You can use the wheelbarrow or that garbage can we keep outside or I think it is easier to get the garbage can outside and drag it around because it is easier to move the big sticks in it. You can get the rake and just rake the sticks around the outside and scoot them into the woods or the lake. Move the car so you don’t blow dirt all over it. The lawnmower is hard to start. I’m probably going to have to start it for you.” I kissed him, thanked him for worrying about us, but assured him that we were perfectly capable human beings who could successfully accomplish a simple task like mowing the lawn. After all, it wasn’t exactly lush sod we were mowing. It was dirt patches and clover and crab grass, with the occasional lonely, hopeful remnant of fescue poking through.
There had been a storm recently, and great big sticks that might more accurately be called logs filled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow and got dumped in an area of sticks I call the snake pit. When it was clear enough, Jacob went out to the shed to get to the lawnmower. He announced that there was a newly found type of creature in the shed, some kind of enormous freaky cricket/spider antenna-sporting critter that was eating a smaller spider. But, like the man he is becoming, he did not run away squealing, just kept his distance, and wheeled out the lawn mower. He started it on the first pull and started to mow the perimeter of the yard. I kept picking up sticks and pine cones and hickory nuts so they wouldn’t come flying out of the exit chute and impale anyone. Mike came out, and expressed hurt surprise that the lawnmower cranked without his necessary intervention.
Every once in a while I would stop and look up at my sweaty boy, arm and shoulder muscles straining as he pushed the ancient, rusty mower up the slope of the yard, and my heart would try to leap out of my chest with pride. I also wondered when he actually got arm and shoulder muscles. Wasn’t it last week that he was a six and a half pound peanut who was soft and squishy everywhere? I have a picture of Jacob, at maybe four or five days old, snuggled on his father’s broad chest, his whole curled up body not even reaching from sternum to belly button. Mike, at the time, had more pepper than salt in his hair.
I’m not sure what I think: in turns pride and sadness and love and true wonder, about the ascent to power of one of my men and the waning strength of the other. I love them both. I’m proud of them both. Even when they lock horns and try to throw each other off the side of the mountain.
Lori B. Duff is the author of the Amazon ‘Hot New Release’ Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza, a collection of autobiographical humor essays. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/loribduffauthor. You can get her latest writing and news and more information about Lori at http://www.loriduffwrites.com