The cut grass and Fall leaves from the riding mower shoots into two rear-mounted canvas bags, which Dad empties into a large plastic can lined with a plastic garbage bag. He thumbs two holes into the sides of the plastic to vent the vacuum and allow the grass to sink and settle. Mom ties the handles. Together they lift the can, heavy and with wet grass clippings, and dump the bag into the large trash container, which goes to the curb on Sunday night for Monday morning pickup. Several times, I lifted the heavy bag out of the can by myself, not to show off, but just to get it done—and I was strong enough to do it. In the following weeks, I found Dad bagging the grass himself and wrestling the can up to dump the bag into the trash container. I felt bad I had done it by myself and made him feel he needed to be able to do it by himself. When I ask if I can help him, he says, “I got it.” So, now I ask him to help me hoist the can up so we can share the effort of dumping the bag. No matter one’s relative personal strength, collaboration is often the best solution for all involved, young and old, and middle-aged.
I ducked under Austrian Pine boughs to step around its trunk to prune the Arctic Willow. The blunt end of a lopped pine bough jabbed me hard and square on the temple. I swore, thanked God it wasn’t my eye, and trudged off for a saw to cut off the offending limb. Dad’s neighbor, Terry, regularly shapes the enormous Blue Spruce that sits just inside his property line. One day he decided the bottom boughs were too low, and cut them all off to a height of about eight feet. A little aggressive, I thought. But Dad chose to admire how the pruning had opened up the view of the neighboring yards, “park-like.” We looked at the Spruce’s companion Austrian pine on our side of the property line, and decided its bottom limbs drooped too low. We had to duck to walk under them, and Dad hit them when riding his lawn mower. He consented to me providing a “slight haircut” to the pine. Underneath their canopy, I discovered a mass of dead limbs invisible from outside. I lopped off all those I could reach. I carefully pruned the lowest hanging limbs, lifting the canopy bottom up a couple of feet. The result looked natural and less cluttered, bringing a better balance to the landscaping. Mom and Dad were really pleased. Following my normal clean-up routine, I snipped the boughs into short lengths that could be compacted into the garbage can, which these days seems to be filling up long before pick-up day.