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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Just when you thought...

Michael never ceases to amaze me.

This week I was preparing for yet another dip into calamity. There was the pressure sore, of course, which has been duly treated and seems to be improving with careful attention. Michael also seemed more distracted, more lethargic, more delusional than he has been in a few months.  He seems to have been hallucinating mildly, in the evenings especially, and has done some pretty odd things.  Today I came home to an apologetic caregiver who explained that, on receiving this week's issue of the local rag, Michael felt compelled to tear it into individual sheets which lay muddled all over the table. I did manage to piece it together somewhat. In truth it made an otherwise fairly mediocre paper into a slightly more interesting and challenging read.

The weather has been enough to make anyone slightly squirrelly with non-stop rain for over a week, cold temperatures and general low pressure making everyone feel draggy, me included. But today, summer suddenly arrived at about three pm. It was hot, sunny and muggy, perfect for my annual visit to the garden store to buy my bedding plants. On returning home with my tiny car full of soil and flats of flowers, I saw Michael and his caregiver basking in the sun on our front deck. Michael was dressed in his rubber boots, ready for some action apparently.  As I unloaded the car he rushed over to the shed and started hauling stuff out.  It became clear he wanted the lawn mower.

Now, we own two lawn machines, both gas-powered and terrible polluters for the hypocritical environmentalist.  One is a lawn tractor Dad bought for us just before he died, concerned that the lawn would become too much for my ailing husband. His intention was that our then eleven-year-old son would take over lawn duty with a fancy new machine to drive.  He was right.  William would tear around the place at high speed, putting life and limb in peril, but the lawn always got mowed. Everyone just took cover when William was at the wheel.

The other is a simple gas push mower for the more delicate work.  Not that any of our dandelion-strewn lawn is the least bit delicate. William paid for most of that machine himself and used it for a few years for his small yard work business.

After Michael nearly asphyxiated himself a year ago while "repairing" the tractor in the closed shed, I have hidden the key.  He is only allowed to use the push mower which, most days, is far too challenging for him to operate. The forward pitch he must maintain while pushing the mower makes him fall almost every other step, making the ordeal a very painful one to watch.  Since he barely got off the couch all winter and has been falling constantly lately, I was sure the mower would remain untouched this year.

Our acre of land has a lot of trees and a beautiful meadow that was Michael's pride and joy for years, filled with native plants and grasses, and visited by butterflies and birds all summer long.  Michael let this corner of our lot grow to minimize the mowing we must do.  He carefully mowed paths through the meadow making it a haven for small children seeking a hiding spot and deer looking to rest. It is my favourite part of the yard. I call it Michael's Meadow and it will never come down as long as I live here.

But there still remains a lot of grass to mow.  After a week of non-stop rain, the grass - which is mostly crabgrass and weeds, but very green - was thick and tall.  Last year I hired a fellow to cut the grass for me, hoping this arrangement would prevent Michael from attempting it himself, but with all the rain, our lawn man hasn't paid us a visit yet this year. Enter Michael.

Out came the push mower, and a "discussion" ensued once again about why he cannot use the tractor. With some annoyance he started up the other and set off.  Deep breath. This won't last long, I assured myself. Sure enough the mower spluttered to a stop a few minutes later and Michael took a breather.  His lower back always gets very sore whenever he is upright, his muscles are so weakened.  I found him crouching. But he got himself up and set off again, falling every few paces and making me wince. The stop and start of the mower continued for several minutes. I disappeared into the house and made myself a calming cup of tea, knowing that I would not be able to divert my determined husband from his task.

From the porch where I had retreated, I realized I was hearing a steady roar from the engine, with no punctuating stops. I peeked around the side of the house.  There he was, labouring intensively, but making great headway up and down the flat stretch at the back of the house.  At one point I hid my eyes as he bee-lined for my garden.  There was some loud crunching as he hit dirt but, on later inspection, there was mercifully little damage.  He even managed straight and methodical lines, unlike his usual approach which is rather free-form, criss-crossing, confusing paths.  What was so surprising was that once he got warmed up, he hardly fell at all.  There was the occasional stop for a rest and I would find him sitting happily amid the dandelions accompanied by a playful dog. Then he'd pick himself up and set off again.  In the end he was not able to complete more than a fraction of our huge lawn but what he did manage was well done, apart from one wide swath cut through my beloved meadow. Finally his medication ran out and he struggled to get into the house before he collapsed completely.

He was drenched in sweat, a tired but happy mower.

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