Thursday, April 28, 2016

On This Side

My kids always tell me to ask them when I need help with a project. I’m not very good at that, as I don’t always know when I will need help, and I am quite independent. Sometimes what looks like a one-man show turns into a three-act play with a full cast and pit orchestra. I am never really sure how things are going to go, and I don’t want to waste their time. If it’s just me I can be flexible and answerable to no one.

Even though I am quite terrible when it comes to asking my children for their help, I want them to know I am always willing to help them. When I say good-bye, I always tell them I love them and to call me if they need anything. Sometimes they do call, and when they do I feel needed and fulfilled.

Yeah, I know it’s probably not healthy – maybe the sign of a co-dependent relationship: I tell them I love them, and to demonstrate it, I drop everything the minute they call. Helping them makes me feel needed, and then when I leave I remind them to do it again. On the other hand, maybe it’s a way of banking some help in the surplus column so when I do get old – like thirty or forty years from now they (along with their children) will have to help me. I just don’t want to exhaust my capital too soon.

I Imagine there will come a time when I will be very dependent upon their help. Still, if I can still do things by myself for many years maybe they won’t put me in a home and let me stay in mine.

I heard a story several years ago about the death of a man. He was the town’s gravedigger. I don’t know if the facts are true – but it makes a good story. This man, along with his trusty backhoe, had dug many of the graves for the local townsfolk; yet it seems that when he died and it came time for him to be buried, his friend the backhoe had other ideas.

Just as I imagine that Mike Mulligan’s beloved steam shovel, Mary Anne, would not have easily borne the task of burying Mike, often a fickle tractor will only run for just one man. The backhoe refused to start; it would have no part in digging that final grave. I suppose the gravedigger’s sons could have hired it done or employed the services of another backhoe. Instead, they decided to dig their father’s grave by hand.

Let’s assume the story is true for a moment (not about Mike and Mary Anne, but about the gravedigger and his sons). I am fascinated with the irony of the iron horse refusing to bury its master; yet I am also struck by what the sons did that day. They helped their dad with his last project on this side of the grave and he never even asked.

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