Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Scary Thing #3

Back to 10 Scary Things I Have Done Since My Husband Died, and yes, for me this was the third-scariest.

3. Learned to use the gas mower

With its fierce blade, its requirement for a poisonous, inflammatory chemical, of all the frightening things that lurked in the basement and the shed, the gas mower was the most forbidding. For two years I didn’t touch it; instead I used our hand mower, a quiet, friendly helper that allowed me to meditate over the smell of new-mown grass.

But in our third spring together I had to admit that my friend and I couldn’t handle almost an acre of lawn—front-back-side. Everything was weedy and tufted and unkempt. My neighbor kindly mowed the meadow in back of the house. He seemed to love to use his riding mower, and I might have asked him to add my lawn, but I knew I should minimize favors and figure this out for myself. 

I made a ramp into my hatchback with an old closet door, and pushed the gas mower up and into the car. Just solving the transportation problem felt like an accomplishment. At the shop where we’d had our mowers sharpened every year I explained about Dan and the mower and me. When you pick it up, said the second-generation mower serviceman, I’ll show you how to use it. 

I'm not afraid of all machines . . . 
And he did, taking me out to the little patch of weeds in back of the shop and showing me how to push the button three or four times and pull the chord and adjust something. He laughed when I asked how I would know when it needed more gas, but I stood there until he told me, knowing by then that even stupid questions have to be answered. 

(I had also read the manual. Dan always tossed the manuals on top of the file cabinet and I put them away in folders by location category so that we might possibly find them, and since his death I actually read them. I am probably the only person in the United States who, as instructed, does not wear tie shoes when using her gas mower.) 

Reversing the transportation process, I brought the mower home and I was suddenly, strangely, eager to use it. I could do this! It was starting to sprinkle, but I pushed the button three times and pulled the chord and the mower started! I mowed on the front lawn and it looked better! The sprinkle was turning to rain but I mowed on, unable to stop. Only when I knew that we really must come in out of the rain, did we.

As I chatted to the hand mower (which I still have, as security), so I talk to the gas mower. It’s more noncommittal, a sort of male appliance, in contrast to the sisterhood of the hand mower, but we work well enough together. I hate the noise and feel sorry for my neighbors (never mind that I listen to theirs, I regret adding to the noise pollution). I mow as fast as I can. I tried to reduce the lawn by adding gardens, not a complete success because then I had more weeding to do, and trickier mowing, around the gardens, which required the hand mower, etc. Now what’s scary is filling the gas can and then pouring gas into the mower because I can never figure out the spout, but I proceed through these details; my jaw may be clenched, but I do it. 

Dan did all of the mowing and most of the cooking. I’ve lost weight since he died, but I haven’t got sick, and from a distance at least, the lawn looks pretty good. You clear your hurdles; you take your satisfaction where you can.


  1. You clear hurdles and take your satisfactions where you can -- maybe the wisest philosophy of life I've ever heard. Certainly the most practical.

    Well, you've done it again -- a small gem. And, of course, I completely identify. This past winter Bob was away most of the time it snowed, which meant that I had to start and use the snow-blower by myself. Usually he does that I do the shoveling where the snow-blower doesn't go or to "clean up." I still haven't mastered filling it as it wasn't necessary. But I did manage to start the dang thing and make it do its job, if not as elegantly or efficiently as Bob might have. Still, great satisfaction of a sort. Carol

  2. Not only is the writing up to your usual excellence, but the picture is fantastic as well. I remember the gas mower we had when I was growing up, and I don't think it had a gas gauge, so how DO you tell when it needs more? Gasoline refreshment was my dad's job, so I never had to know! (And that's why my mom once got stuck on the highway out of gas...; she learned fast. I never needed to.)

  3. Thank you, Carol! Snowblowers are terrifying. I tried my neighbor's once. It moved too fast, with too much noise. I went back to the peace of the shovel. In full disclosure, when the snow is very deep, my neighbor snow-blows my walk, for which I am eternally grateful.

  4. Hee hee. Here I am again, for Linda and any others: what the man at Porto's told me was that you know the mower is out of gas when it stops running. Seems like an inefficient system, but there is no gauge. So you get to know your lawn and how much gas it needs, filling your head with another factoid and the mower with gas when you start, ho hum; no magic.