Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Surrogate Grandfather

Charlie also sells gravel. He wears plaid flannel shirts and drives a red dump truck filled with gravel—pea gravel, ¾ stone, sand, whatever you want. If you want more than what fits in the dump truck like we did, he can order you a tri-axle load. Those are big trucks almost as long as a tractor trailer. We got two of them. No one had replenished any of the gravel in this driveway probably for as long as the initial gravel was put down when the driveway was first built and it was bare in the middle and had grass poking through like sprouts of hair on a bald head. When it rained, it got muddy. You couldn’t walk on it in a pair of high heels. Heck, you couldn’t walk on it in regular shoes either so forget it if you had to go anywhere and stay clean. You still can’t walk on it in high heels. Gravel is bumpy. Luckily I don’t wear heels too often but if I did, we made a path from the deck to where I park the truck out of 12 X 12 pink patio blocks and I tiptoe from one to the other like I’m playing hopscotch.

I had to shop around for the gravel. I was relieved that Charlie’s price was competitive because I really wanted to buy it from him. I prefer to buy things local, especially really local as in right next door, if at all possible. You should patronize the people where you live, if you want your community to be strong and healthy. It’s the reason why I try to buy American-made products but that is really hard nowadays since our politicians practically sold us to China.

I got a tablet for Christmas. I read books on it. I love it but I feel frustrated because there are things I can’t figure out how to do and the owner’s manual is impossible to understand. It’s in English but it may as well be in Chinese. It is full of typos, slang, bad translations, and the print is too small to read even with my glasses. This is what it says when I get out the magnifying glass:

“If you long time don’t to use this Tablet, ,in order to avoid power consumption caused damage,pls charge/play the battery once a month.”

This is why I still don’t know how to use the thing.

Luckily I don’t have to buy gravel from China. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens soon. We already get our hardwood flooring from China. Get this. We log the trees here. (Lots of logging was going on in Virginia. People who had fallen on hard times when the economy crashed were bulldozing their land left and right in a desperate attempt to try to keep their heads above water a little longer.) We send the trees on a long boat to China where they turn them into hardwood floors. Then China sends the flooring back to us where we sell it in Lowe’s. Why are we allowing China to produce our goods and sell it back to us when we need the jobs? I can’t imagine what it costs to ship something that far, that heavy—trees! It’s cheaper to send trees halfway around the world than to pay someone here, who needs a job, to turn them into floors? Or dressers. Or cabinets. All the stuff that we used to make that China makes now. Oh, that’s right, slave wages over there. And tax breaks. Corporate America needs to get just a little bit richer. Filthy, obscenely rich with not enough time in a thousand lifetimes to spend all the money, is not quite enough. Of course they’re eating themselves alive. If this keeps up, we’re going to be too poor to buy the hardwood floors they send back to us.

But I’m off-topic now.

Between the gravel and the vegetable-buying, Charlie and I have become friends. Kurt says if I can’t find a surrogate grandmother, maybe I can have a grandfather. All these years I’ve been looking for a grandmother to adopt, someone to bring a casserole to and sit on the porch and have a cup of coffee with and talk about the neighbors, the flowers, where to get mulch, gravel, things like that, like I used to do with my nana.

Pearl came close. I thought she was going to be it. But then she got scared letting us ride our horses around their fields because we’re Yankees—I suspect someone down at the church told her we were up to something—and they put up that fence. That hurt my feelings so bad it was like I had a crack in my heart. She realizes now how off track she was. We’re gone now and we didn’t do anything, we were nothing but a plus in that neighborhood, everything is safe and sound, we left everything exactly as we found it. No, scratch that. We left it better. We fixed up that house and we adopted the road and regularly picked up all the litter the Chick-fil-A lady and the chewer and the Old Milwaukee drinker threw out the window on their way home and we even cut the long grass in the ditches in front of the neighbors’ properties and changed Pearl’s light bulbs because we were worried about Eldon falling off the ladder. No, we were nothing but a great addition to that neighborhood and now they are all crying because we are gone.

It makes me kind of sad. I miss them too. But I’ve got Charlie now. I made him that sign that he has on the side of the road to sell his produce.

I noticed that he mowed the long grass around my mailbox the other day. I don’t know if he’s a coffee drinker. But he does know where to get gravel.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Not So Crazy



There’s not a lot you can do if you hurt your back. You can’t ride the horses. Well, I could ride the horses if pain was my only concern. I can take pain if I’m motivated enough. I practically dropped my babies in a field when I was giving birth. Not really. But almost. It was at a birthing center. Not in a hospital. It was an actual house that had a kitchen with cupboards and a bedroom with a double bed and a chenille bedspread. There were only midwives. No doctors. I don’t think there was even a Tylenol in the medicine cabinet, never mind any kind of pain drugs.

I once had a colonoscopy while I was awake to save money. If you wanted to get put to sleep, you had to go to the hospital. But if you stayed awake, you could get it done in the doctor’s office and it was a lot cheaper. There was the nurse across the room, uncoiling what looked like a garden hose and passing it to the doctor who was on the other side and who was inserting it inside of me where I watched its travels on a little TV at the foot of the table. I saw the traces of lime green Jell-O in my colon which was my only meal in 24 hours. It looked fluorescent. Let’s put it this way. I haven’t eaten Jell-O since. And I’m not too fond of garden hoses.

If pain was the only factor, I’d be riding these horses. But I know that if the fractures are going to heal properly, I can’t use my back. Especially now that I am in menopause. Women lose bone density on a good day when they’re in menopause. We lose bone, we lose the ability to drop babies in birthing houses and hospitals, and we lose our car keys because we can’t think straight anymore. Sometimes we even lose our minds. You can ask any husband of a menopausal woman if she is still the girl he married or some pear-shaped woman he doesn’t recognize with her head in the freezer who he’s afraid might be searching for her gun in there.

Both my mother and my grandmother had osteoporosis but I’m pretty sure I don’t have it because I hit the ground hard and it was hard ground. It was like cement. Anyone would have broken bones. I think most people would have shattered like a teacup on a tile floor if they hit as hard as I did. So I think I have pretty good bones but I’m not so crazy that I don’t know that if I want to ride again, I have to let it heal.

Therefore I can’t open and close windows. They’re sticky.

This is a big problem in an old farmhouse with no air conditioning and thunderstorms blowing up in 60 seconds flat and then leaving just as fast. Open, close. Open, close. I have to call Kurt or Kelly. You use your back for everything! You don’t realize. Standing up from getting a pot out of the cabinet. Laundry baskets. Climbing in and out of the truck. Bags of groceries, even when they’re filled with cereal boxes and heads of lettuce. A gallon of milk. A pot of water from the sink to the stove. I can’t mow because it’s bumpy. I feel my back muscles strain when I lean down to tuck in the sheets around the bed. Of course there are all the things you expect that I can’t do anymore: emptying a bag of grain into the can, carrying a water bucket, lifting the saddle. Not that I was thinking of saddling up. But these things I was prepared for. I wasn’t prepared for not being able to put my socks on.

Kurt and Kelly help a lot but Kurt is working day and night and Kelly is working too, plus she has her kid things—4-H, FFA, barrel racing, practicing driving for her test, and of course the boyfriend. One of my neighbors asked me if that was Kelly outside painting the deck the other day. It was. She said every time she passes the house, she sees Kelly out there doing something—washing the trucks, digging a ditch in front of the barn, on the tractor, and now painting the deck. How much can I ask the kid to do?

They’re both helping me as much as they can but there’s still so much and I don’t like it when there are weeds in my petunias.

So I got out the weed-whacker. I am the weed-whacking queen and I thank god that at least I can do this because weed-whacking is one of my favorite things. You get a lot of bang for the buck with weed-whacking. When you are done, it really looks like you did something. It looks like you just got your hair cut or you baked a cake. First there’s nothing, then there’s something that you can’t help but notice. Unless, of course, you go to the girl who’s too afraid to take anything off because one time she gave Marion the Avon lady a bad haircut and that got all over town. You don’t think people are still buying Avon but they are. Down here that Skin-So-Soft is still a hot seller because we’ve got a mosquito problem. There’s only so much Deep Woods Off that you can use if you don’t want to worry about getting cancer or something. I can see using it once in a while but when you’re going out on the porch on a regular basis to smoke cigarettes and the mosquitoes are eating you alive, I go for the Skin-So-Soft. (Yes, I am aware of the contradiction of that statement.)

Back at the Amityville Horror House I weed-whacked continuously. I’d start on one end of the property and by the time I got to the other, I’d turn around and there’d be a jungle behind me and I’d have to start all over again. I can’t say weed-whacking there gave me any satisfaction. But I got a lot of experience. So I’m pretty handy with the thing. As long as Kurt starts it for me, I don’t have to use my back at all. I didn’t put the strap around my back, just held it with my arms, and stood straight. I should have done this years ago because stooping while weed-whacking with the strap around my back is probably what contributed to all the disc damage I’ve got. I was surprised at how well it worked—I wasn’t feeling any strain in my back at all. I felt it more when I was making the bed.

I weed-whacked the hell out of the place. I did around the house, the garden, the barn, the fences, the equipment that hasn’t moved in a year, the wood pile. I did all along the road; on both sides, even though one of the neighbors stopped by and said I didn’t have to do that. I let the head rest on the ground without shutting it off (because then I’d need Kurt to restart it), took off my goggles, removed my earplugs and said, “What was that?”

He said, “Let the public works guys do that. They’ll come around and mow.”

“Ah, thanks, but I kind of like doing it,” I said.

He looked at me like I was crazy. He doesn’t know me yet. He doesn’t know that I get colonoscopies while I’m awake. But I swear that I will not get on the horse.