Redeem the Time

A punishing stretch of heat and humidity has hit New England; it’s perfectly Floridian.  Here at The Coop, so close to the Atlantic Ocean, everything is stinky and sticky.  The sea provides a bit of cool air, but a fan would probably help the Sandman arrive at whatever time he’s supposed to make an appearance.

One of the benefits of spending so much time at home, where it’s also hot and humid, has been an opportunity to water the garden with Uncle Bob.  It’s so hot he’s even wearing shorts.  I could hardly believe my eyes.

I’ll be turning 49 this summer and never in all those years have I seen Uncle Bob wearing shorts.  Granted, they’re not that short, but it was shocking to me.  I’ve only seen him wearing his baseball uniform or his blue work pants.  I said “Uncle Bob!  You’re wearing shorts.”  His response was:

“You’re wearing a dress.”

Once again, Uncle Bob had issued the ultimate “gotcha” and I could see our conversation going nowhere.  I found another old tin can in the barn and helped him out by watering my tomatoes.

After we finished, Uncle Bob came over to my section of the garden and I told him I would be back on Saturday to do a thorough job of weeding and assessing the damage from several weeks of neglect.  He teased me a little about the weeds coming up through my garlic plants and then more seriously, he said “Pa would like to see that.”

He meant, I think, that O’Pa might be disappointed in my lack of effort in the garden this summer.  I was cut to the quick; it felt like someone had punched me in the stomach.  When I was young and foolish, I didn’t realize how important my O’Pa would be to me.  I didn’t know how much I would want to talk to that old man about trees, tomatoes, and tractors when I was old and foolish.

I wish I had known then what I know now.

Well, I couldn’t have Uncle Bob seeing me crying in the garden, so I said I was going to check on my sunflowers.  My mother and father have been spraying them a little bit and picking off the beetles.  They’re going to make it.

I have been busy doing many things.  I have neglected a few other things, like telling my friend Janet to snip the scapes off her garlic plants.  She’s never grown garlic before.

It was just one more thing to cry about on that long stretch of Maine Turnpike from Lewiston to Kittery.

Through the power of the internet, I was reminded that July 17 was my brother and sister-in-law’s anniversary.  I had neglected to get a card in the mail.  I posted this picture of a lonely shoe on Facebook to remind them that two is better than one.  They got married 31 years ago today.

For a few reasons, I didn’t go to their wedding.  Reggie Black was there; maybe he’ll remember what the weather was like and what the minister said.

All of these memories and images are moving around in the heat and humidity of The Coop.  This kind of weather makes a lot of people feel sick to their stomachs.  If my last name were something different, I might call in sick at The Big Corporation.  Other memories push me forward to wash my face and dry my tears.  The verbal history I’ve heard was that my O’Pa missed work at the Worumbo Mill only once.  It was when he cut his foot with an axe and old Doc Gerrish had to come running to The House.

Come to think of it, Herman the German only missed work twice when he worked in the mills.  Once, he was so sick Dr. Mendes made a house call.  The other time he stayed home from work was when he cut his knee with a chain saw.

I don’t know Uncle Bob’s work record when he was the sheik of Lisbon Falls, riding in his Morse Brothers oil truck.  I think he took a week off to care for O’Pa when O’Pa was dying.

These little cuts and bruises on my heart are nothing.

Redeem the time.

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