Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Lawn Mower Saved My Marriage

By Douglas V. Gibbs

Today I found out that Dad is in the hospital.  We think he had a minor stroke.  We are still waiting for the details.  Jerry was in the United States Marine Corps, and is as tough as nails.  He will probably get through this episode with hardly a scratch, because he is just too ornery to go down for the count.

I talked to Mom while she was in the Emergency Room.  Though I am sure she was very distraught about her mate being in the hospital, you could not tell in her voice.  She said to not have everyone calling her. The last thing she needed was for her phone to be ringing off the hook.  She would call me when she knew more.

As Mom explained it, Dad is the type that doesn't need alarm clocks. If he needs to wake up at four in the morning, he just does.  If he needs to wake up at five, then he does.  This morning he overslept, which was strange for him, and when he finally awoke after a long twelve hour slumber, he was numb over a large part of his body.  He thought it to be strange, so Mom took him in.

The local hospital was maxed out at the ER, so Mom drove him to the hospital where he works in Orange County.

I was surprised he let her even take him in to the hospital.  I would half expect him to just get dressed and go to work, though he felt strange.

Anyway, after Mom and I talked about the situation, the discussion triggered memories from my childhood.

As a Marine, and remember: Once a Marine, Always a Marine - Dad was respected and feared by his two sons.  Even to this day we give him a respect that I don't see most kids offer anymore to their parents. Dad is a jack of all trades. He's the type that can do just about anything, and if he can't, he'll figure it out.  He's competitive, though he won't necessarily let you know he's competing with you, and he has this funny notion that he is always correct.

Dad has two rules.

Rule number one: I am always right.

Rule number two: When I am wrong, see rule number one.

This is why nobody complained about the fact that the lawn mower that should have died before I was old enough to push it, but somehow dad kept the old thing running, didn't have a grass catcher.  I am not sure if he just refused to put it on, it broke, or got lost - but one thing was for sure, the ol' lawn mower had no grass catcher, which meant if the lawn was mowed, somebody was going to be raking the loose grass off of the lawn.

Dad said it was good for the grass, like messaging a bald man's scalp.

During my early teenage years Dad and I traded off.  One Saturday he would mow, and I would rake.  The next Saturday I would mow, and he raked.

One Saturday we skipped the ritual because I had signed up for a Walk-A-Thon.  I had collected signatures and money for the good cause, and then prepared to walk the twenty miles by myself.

A train of unfortunate circumstances made me run late, that morning, and when Mom finally dropped me off at the starting point, the main crowd had already launched twenty minutes before.  Equipped with Levi Jeans, Vans on my feet, and a terry-knit shirt, I decided to run to catch up to the group.

After a while I caught up to the stragglers, then the main body of the group, and finally I ran right passed the lead walkers.

"Well, heck," I thought to myself, "I've run this far, I might as well run the whole way."

By the time I finished, I was the sixth person to come in across the finish line.

As a mediocre basketball player, and a baseball player that did okay until I had a bat in my hand, I was pretty jazzed that I had discovered I was a good runner.

At home I bragged about my prowess as a runner, and Dad made some remark about "No kid will ever outrun me."

I challenged him to a race, and he agreed.  I mapped out a five-mile course in the hills a couple blocks up the street from our house.  We planned to run the race at 6:00 am, Saturday morning.  The wager was going to be that the winner would mow the rest of the summer, and the loser would have to rake the lawn all summer long.

The alarm in my room went off, and Dad was already up and ready to go.  The tough old man had been up and warmed up before my eyes had even considered opening.  I got dressed, we walked to the bottom of the driveway, and Dad said, "On your mark, get set, Go."

We ran up the street together, to the end of the road, and into the dirt trails.  Up a short hill and to the left we jogged together, and then I kicked it into high gear.  I didn't even look back, but saw him as I made a turn, pacing himself, sure that the young kid would run out of steam like the rabbit in the race with the tortoise.

Five miles later I ran triumphantly up the driveway.  I trotted happily into the house, around the entryway, and into the garage where I opened the garage door, and grabbed the rake to present it to Dad when he finally came running down the street in defeat.

I waited for a while, but Dad wasn't appearing at the top of the street.

"Mom," I said after running into the bedroom.  "I won! I won!"

"What? Huh? Oh, yeah, that stupid race."

Mom got out of bed, threw on some clothes, and walked outside with me.

There I stood, with the rake in hand, grinning from ear to ear.  The woman, however, was not smiling. She was worried.  It wasn't like Jerry to fall behind in a challenge.  In fact, he normally won any challenge he faced.

"Is your dad okay?" She asked.

I said something about thinking that he may have slipped on one of the turns, but I figured he was okay.

At that, Mom began to worry.  In fact, her concern for her husband grew so great that she decided to get her keys and jump in the car to go looking for him.

About the time the car began rolling down the driveway, at the top of the street appeared Dad, half running, half walking.  Tough as nails, but slower than the tortoise.

When he finally joined us, he said proudly, "I never stopped."

"I believe you," I said smiling, and handing him the rake.

Later, he said to Mom, "I don't understand - my knees just turned to rubber."

"You are getting older," she said."

The ol' Marine was not prepared to accept age as an excuse.

Based on that win, I decided that my inclinations were right - I am a good runner.  So, I joined the Cross-Country team at the high school.  Running twenty, and more, miles per day paid off.  Though my first year I was not exactly the quickest, or the one with the most stamina, I learned from that early year of running, and became a better runner the following years.

I ran on the team for three years, from my Sophomore year to my Senior year.  I received a Varsity Letter during my Junior and Senior years.

My Letterman's Jacket had a descending dove stitched into the back, and it was that boldness of proclaiming my Christian principles that attracted my future wife to me, on that high school campus. . . well, that, and my green eyes.  She followed me to each class, eager to meet me, and finally, at a Halloween Party during my Junior year, and her Senior year, we met.  We danced all night to "Endless Love" by Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross.  Our love was instant.  Love at first sight, I suppose.  She was lovely, bold, and sweet.  Besides, she had the longest, most beautiful legs, I had ever seen.

We have now been married over twenty-eight years, we have two adult children, and six grandchildren.  The woman that followed me around to my classes as a girl became my high school sweetheart, and ultimately my soul-mate.  We have had our up years and our down years, but in the end, we have continued on as a couple. Our marriage has stood the test of time, but the old lawn mower finally mowed its last lawn.

Dad raked the lawn that entire summer over thirty years ago, and I grinned each time I pushed the mower across the grass, and that old machine spit out more severed blades of grass across the lawn for Dad to rake up.  The bet was worth it.  Not only did I not have to rake the lawn all summer long, but also the race had convinced me to become a runner.

After high school I ran in a couple marathons, and the ability to run long-distance served me well in the United States Military.

Looking back, I find it interesting how important to my life was the old man's decision not to attach a grass catcher to that old lawn mower.  Because of the arduous job of raking the lawn, I decided to challenge my dad to that race, wagering the rake.  Because of that race, I decided to join the cross-country team. Because of my running career I received a Letterman's Jacket that caught my future wife's attention.

If Dad had decided to use the grass catcher, I may very well not have wound up marrying my lovely wife.

That old lawn mower, spitting sliced grass out of its side, is one of the reasons I am married to my wife.

A lawn mower saved my marriage. . . before I was even married.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary