Embracing the "extra" life

A week after my cousins lost their father, my Uncle Joe, I found myself feeling particularly grateful to talk to my own father, ignoring the fact that he phoned at 7 am on a Sunday, jarring everyone else from their sleep.  I was already up, as I'm habitually in my study no later than 6:30 am no matter the day.

Who else could I talk to about my lawn mower?  Who else would give two shakes about the sharpness of the blades or whether or not the oil needs to be changed.  Dad, he cares about that stuff, and is happy to pass along wisdom gained through many decades of trying to get every last inch of life from mowers that normally would have long since been tossed in the "nuisance grounds" (what he calls "the dump" or "the landfill").

"How often do you sharpen the blade?" I asked.

"Ohhhh, ho, ho, ho," he chortled.  "Pretty regularly, especially if you're cutting in areas that have rocks.  If the blade becomes dull, the engine has to work that much harder."

I had figured this out a few days earlier, lifting up the motor, feeling the blades, and finding no edge whatsoever.  No wonder it was like crawling through molasses trying to cut the neighbour's grass jungle.

He talked to me about changing the oil, and the fact that I would likely to need to get help from Dylan to tip the mower on its side to drain it.  Being the stubborn fool that I am, I ended up trying to do it myself, and in the process spilled black and dirty oil all over my shop floor.  Oops!

My father likes to talk, and I like to talk to him.  I had my moment of panic a couple of years ago when he had emergency surgery to remove a large tumour from his colon.  He looked so helpless and small, like when my grandfather was in his final years in the hospital approaching his 99th birthday.  I was heartsick thinking that we were going to lose him, especially after hearing the doctor's prognosis and declaration that the cancer had spread to multiple organs.

But almost immediately after the surgery, Dad resolutely began doing exercises, obeying every suggestion that the doctors and nurses dished out.  It took him awhile to get his strength back; it took him even longer to be able to comfortably say the C-word.

When we talked yesterday, he shared that a colleague from my high school years had recently undergone a similar operation.  He has reached out to this "young man" (his words not mine) to let him know if he ever wants to talk to someone who's been through it, to give him a call.

"After my surgery, the doctor asked if I would be interested in talking to someone who had been through colon cancer," said Dad.  "I said 'Sure. Why not?'  So, I ended up talking to this guy from North Battleford.  It made all the difference in the world to be able to ask questions and speak to someone who knew what I was going through."

I was able to chat with my dad about my lawn mower yesterday, because he has managed to shirk the odds and with the help of medication, return to his old self.  In fact, you would never know that he's 78 soon to turn 79.  He still helps all the "seniors" in the neighbourhood.

There are things my dad does that drive some others of us crazy, from randomly painting stuff around the house, to complaining about the price of gas, to calling in the wee hours of the morning.  I feel none of that frustration, and haven't for years.  Partly out of a primal self-preservation instinct, knowing full well that so much of me is so much like him, I relish being able to hear his voice, ask him questions, and find out his latest thoughts on the goings on in the world.  I embrace that this time is a gift, a blessing, and I'm going to relish in it for as long as I can.

Meanwhile, the lawn mower now has an extra life (or two) with a sharpened blade and fresh oil.  Thanks Dad!


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