June 2, 2012
While the world economy had its Wile E. Coyote moment this past week, I got bushwhacked.
This wasn’t the kind of bushwhacking that took place during the Civil War around here, where gangs of armed men rode down from the hills to rob and plunder the hapless farm families who struggled to survive being caught between the armies of the North and the armies of the South. It wasn’t even the kind of civilized bushwhacking that goes on around here these days, where you pay a guy on a big-ass tractor/mower to come in and clean out the ten acres of brush infested land you just bought to build your doomer house on.
Nope, this was the down and dirty, personal kind of bushwhacking where you put on your gloves, take up the clipper, pruning shears and hacksaw and go mano a mano with all the weedy, junky stuff that has grown up between the side of the house and the neighbor’s fence while you studiously ignored it for a year or two. You just don’t ignore brush around here; eventually, it comes for you.
When I poked my head around the lilac bush last week, to see what might be growing there, and found I could no longer wiggle, crawl or scrunch my way through to the other end of the house, I knew I’d been bushwhacked and it was time to whack back.
I was still sixty-nine when the neighbors and I got together and had the old elm tree at the back corner of the house cut down. It had lost its head in the ice storm of 2007 and had become too dangerous to let stand over the subsequent winters. Over the rest of that spring and summer, all sorts of things began to grow on that north side of the house in the sudden sunshine that flooded in once the tree no longer shaded it. My son kept it mowed back there and I went along after, pulling weeds and clipping seedlings and small saplings that were too close to the house and fence for the mower to take down. Old age still seemed a long way off.
That November, when I turned seventy, I thought, Phsst, not a problem. I’m doing fine. The following spring, I planted my garden, but it was an unusually warm spring and I found myself putting off the weeding and clipping after my son finished mowing on that north side of the house. I chopped back the big poke plants and left the rest. By fall, most of it had died back anyway. I took down my garden and never gave the north side of the house another thought.
My son had been dating a young woman he’d been friends with for several years and by last November, when I turned seventy-one, he and she were seriously becoming we and were making plans to move in together. Still, seventy-one felt no different than seventy had. I was still doing fine.
By January, my son had moved out and the tenant had moved in. No problem. Until, some time over that next week, I looked around at all the repairs that still needed doing around the house, realized that many of them I simply couldn’t do and wondered what on earth would happen to me, now. For the first time in my life, I felt old. I moped around for another couple of weeks and might have gone on moping for another year, I suppose. Then, the dishwasher downstairs quit working, the man who came out to do the wiring for the tenant’s wi-fi found water standing in the basement and I realized, for the first time since my son and I had bought the house, I’d have to take care of those things on my own. So, I did.
It felt so good, I sat down and made a list of those other things that needed to be done, decided which ones I could realistically do myself and which ones I would have to find someone else to do, then found someone who would come in and do the repairs I coundn’t. And each month, this spring, I’ve done one of the things I can and paid someone to do one of the things I can’t.
While my son has come over in his spare time to mow the lawn and work on fencing in the back yard, I’ve been clipping and weeding around the front and south side of the house in preparation for painting the wood railings on the two porches this month. I’m checking off the things on my lists, one month at a time.
This brings me back to that jungle on the north side of the house. I’ve gone out each morning this week while it’s cool and snipped, clipped and sawed away at it for about an hour and will keep at it each day until it’s gone. It’s coming down.
I did get bushwhacked, but not by the house repairs or the jumble of weeds I’d ignored for so long. I got bushwhacked by my own fears about aging and change and being on my own again for the first time in almost a decade. As I said here, a couple of weeks ago, I’ve had to change the way I do things as I’ve aged and that’s all right. Things just don’t work the same way they did when I was younger. Funny thing is, though, while I sure know I’m seventy-one by the time I go back inside, I don’t feel “old” any more.
It’s too bad the old fogies that run the world economy haven’t learned that. Maybe if they hadn’t been so busy pretending things don’t have to change, they wouldn’t have been bushwhacked by their own fears. And they probably wouldn’t have been left hanging out there in mid-air, like they were in that Wile E. Coyote moment this week.