Courage at Twilight: Good-bye Old Friend

“Will I see you in the morning?” Mom asked me as I waved her a good-night. She never sees me in the morning: I leave for work before she wakes.  Except for the day Stanley Steamer came to blow out and suck out all the dust and debris from the heating and air conditioning ducts.  Mom arose early for when the Stanley guys came, and they came just as I was leaving.  I stayed long enough to show them the furnaces and to interrogate them about their procedures for how they would prevent clouds of dust from erupting from the registers to coat the furniture and soil the newly-cleaned carpets.  Their explanation satisfied me.  Showing them the upstairs furnace, Dad staggered from his room and confronted them with an intimidating glare and growling, “How are you going to keep clouds of dust from erupting from all the registers and coating the furniture and soiling the carpets you cleaned just yesterday?”  I got to hear the shpiel twice.  Dad continued to be suspicious, but I told him I was satisfied.  Mom saw me that morning.  And she sees me every Friday morning because the Mayor allows me to work remotely from home on Fridays, so I can commute the two-hour round-trip to Tooele only four days a week.  Today she interrupted my work with a knock at the door, handing me three business cards for tree trimmers, and informing me the giant blue spruce had blown over in the night, unable after 25 years to withstand the 65 mile-per-hour gusts tearing through the valley.  Playing lumberjack was not what I wanted for today.  I told her I would not call them and we would not be spending $1,000 to have the tree cut up, and that I would do it myself.  Changed into my work clothes, I sized up the situation, grabbed Dad’s electric chain saw, and set to work cutting limbs off the tree.  That tree was special, a big blue spruce anchoring a line of tall junipers, buffering the back yard against the noisy traffic passing day and night on the collector street.  Where it had stood now gaped an unprotected gap, every driver able to gaze into our back yard, the car noise augmented.  There was nothing to be done but to cut up the tree.  I love trees.  I even hug trees, the special ones, like the redwoods in California and the sequoias in Yosemite and the cypresses in Kentucky and the oaks and tulip trees in North Carolina and the mimosas and maples in New Jersey.  I patted our fallen spruce and whispered, Good-bye, old friend, I will miss you.  Starting at the base, I methodically cut each limb from the trunk, stacking them in huge piles, and with each cut I felt a twinge of sadness for the loss.  I heard a knocking on the kitchen window and waved to Mom who waved to me.  Half of the shallow roots had torn out when the tree fell, while the other half kept the tree suspended at a perfect height and angle for me to dissect it.  With the limbs all removed, I bit the saw into the trunk and piled the logs on the park strip as free firewood.  I miss my wood burning stove that stayed with the house I had to leave seven years ago.  I miss the sounds of crackling wood and expanding iron, the orange glow through the glass, and the heat wafting outward with the perfumes of melting crystals of frankincense and myrrh.  Unbeknownst to me, Mom was so worried about my doing the job alone that she called a neighbor lady who called her husband and told him to come help me.  With his jeep and winch, he pulled the stump out of the ground, then shoveled soil back into the hole.  Dad, after showing no interest in his power wheelchair for six months, suddenly insisted on riding it out the front door and down the ramps and along the sidewalk to see his friend Burke and the result of our work on the tree.  The wind blew 50-degree air over the deep snow, melting it measurably before our eyes as we worked.  My body aches, but the job is done, and I have said good-bye to an old friend.  Will we plant new trees to fill the gap, new friends to replace the old?  We must.

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