You may notice that this is Sunday. I usually don’t blog on Sundays, but I missed yesterday, so I switched my “day off.” And there’s a really good reason I didn’t blog on Saturday.
Mike & I each have a little phrase that sends shivers down the spine of the other. Mine is, “How hard can it be?” Mike knows that if he doesn’t intervene – and quickly – it’s going to cost him money. Usually quite a bit of money. His phrase is, “I have an idea!” I know that if I don’t go on a lengthy cruise somewhere soon, this is going to be painful and time consuming for me. Usually very time consuming.
So Mike had an idea. He ordered 18.5 tons of top soil and 3 tons of gravel. They were delivered – to our driveway – last week. Now we have a big pile of gravel and a big pile of dirt in the driveway, and three vehicles squeezed by the side the road in front of the house. Oh, and a backhoe. Yeah. He rented a backhoe for the weekend. He wanted to level out the yard, build a retaining wall – lots of guy stuff. I thought I was safe. Silly me.
I had planned to spend the weekend getting ready for my card buffet and practicing for upcoming recitals. Mike said he’d also like to get the cinder block portion of the house painted – or at least the front. Then we could create some nice flower beds while he had dirt and a backhoe. “Maybe I can help paint,” I foolishly blurted out. And I immediately regretted those words when I saw Mike’s face light up. Drat. Too late to back out now.
I hate to paint. Oh, the painting part isn’t bad. It’s the prep and clean-up parts I loathe. If someone else would lay the drop cloths, stir the paint and prepare the supplies, then come back and clean it all up after, I think I’d actually enjoy painting.
I got all the new part of the front porch painted. And it looks nice. And I helped carry a few very, very large and heavy 6″x6″x16′ (and 10′ and 12′ and maybe an 8′) pressure treated wood posts. I learned that when Mike says, “I’m letting go,” it means, “Drop your end first!” Five students with recitals coming up were almost disappointed when my fingers were almost crushed. (In this case, “almost” is very good.)
But I realized something as I fell into bed, exhausted and semi-comatose. I’m old and out of shape. Things I could do twenty years ago with no problem give me aches and pains for days now. Oh, sure – we go to the gym and lift our silly weights and do the required cardio. But it’s not the same as labor.
And then I thought of my parents. They’re older than I am. And they do this stuff. Every. Single. Day. My dad works in the garden every day in the summer, trims his trees and picks the fruit, mows his picture perfect lawn, shovels snow (even on the roof) in winter, and cuts, splits and carries wood in the fall. And Mom does just as much. When she isn’t helping one of her kids, she’s canning or helping carry wood. Or assisting younger friends and family members who aren’t as capable, healthy or energetic as she is. And that’s just on Monday. (Disclaimer: To be fair, many of us have offered to help my dad in the garden and with the yard and other work. But we don’t always do it to suit him, so he has declined the help. I think he’s read about some of my unfortunate horticulture experiments, and won’t let me past the edge of the garden.)
My parents’ generation is called “The Greatest Generation.” And today I know why. They are heroes. They work hard, play rarely, do what has to be done – yet never boast or complain. They just do it. And they still have time to welcome family and care for them and give hugs and kisses and food.
I watched an interview with James Arness (“Matt Dillon” on Gunsmoke for you youngsters out there) a few years before he died. The interviewer pointed out that before his acting career, he was in the US army. Wounded by German machine-gun fire, he was discharged from the army – but the damage to his leg plagued him for life. “You’re a hero,” announced the interviewer. “No,” Arness replied. “I was just a guy doing my job.”
That’s the attitude that sums up this great generation. They’re just doing what has to be done – without complaint. They may still be tired and sore the next day, but they’ll get up and do it again until the job’s done. Greatest Generation? You bet. No matter how smart or tough or inventive subsequent generations think they are, no matter how often we want to put these men and women on the shelf as relics that we think don’t know as much (although I still depend on my mom when I don’t know the answers) and can’t do as much (although my parents work circles around me), no matter that they may move a little slower, they’ll always be the greatest generation ever. I love you Dad & Mom!! You’re more than parents; you’re my heroes.