Monday, May 3, 2010

Of Sprained Backs and Bruised Pride

Wednesday was one of those days. It started out not so hot, and basically went downhill from there. Back in the mid 60's I read a book by comedian Allen King entitled, "Anyone Who Owns His Own Home, Deserves It!" That title has proven true over the years. There is much to be said for renting a place where someone else is responsible for the maintenance. In keeping with that thought, perhaps someone should write a book entitled, "Anyone Who Owns MORE Than One Home, Is An Idiot."

I never set out to be a landlord, it just seemed to happen that way. We closed on the home in which we live on April 1, 1980. April 1st! Catch on? All in all it has been a good home, where we settled in and raised our boys. Now they're gone, and thirty years (and several remodeling projects) later, we're still here on 49th Street. I suppose we will be staying here until the Lord calls us to our permanent home.

Along the way we purchased the house to our left which sits on the corner of Winchester Avenue and 49th Street. That building served for 2o years or so as the office for Adkins Nationwide Insurance Agency. We remodeled the upstairs into an apartment, and by turn, both of our boys lived there for a short while, before moving on. My wife even used the upstairs for a floral design studio for a few years. After a career of 24 years I left the insurance business behind to assume a full time pastorate in a neighboring city. Since that time, the "office building" has been home to a parade of tenants. We are doing some upgrading in it at the present time, and there is a possibility it may once again be home to part of our family.

About eight years ago, the little cottage on the right side of our house came up for sale. I was still working for Nationwide at the time, and we thought the smaller house would be a great investment, and a place for our parents as they reached their golden years. It just seemed reasonable to me that one or more of them might like to be close to us while still living somewhat independently in a place of their own. Well, Linda's mom passed away, and her dad doesn't have the slightest interest in living here in town after all those years in his big place on the Little Sandy River. It's not likely that my mother or father would ever live there either. Dad would never give up all of his "stuff" to downsize into a house that could not contain it, and my mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease would never be able to live there alone.

We have had some good tenants in the little house, and we have had at least two couples who mistook it for the city dump, and treated it as such. We have an excellent family living there now and we are so thankful for how they are taking care of the place. Unfortunately, on Tuesday evening, I got a call that the water from the washer, instead of going out during the spin cycle, sprayed all over the kitchen. Although there had been some slow drain issues before, we thought we had the problem solved. We were wrong. The situation called for a plumber - a real plumber.

When I get a day off, I usually take it on Friday, but it became obvious that I would need to take Wednesday off (since I had an early doctor's appointment and I also needed to be home for a repairman who was coming to work on our own clothes dryer). Turns out the plumber and the Maytag Repairman arrived about the same time.

Wednesday was shaping up to be a mighty busy day. I was at the hospital on the previous evening, with the family of a church member who was having serious emergency brain surgery. After getting home it was nearly 3:00 AM Wednesday by the time I climbed into bed. So, when the six o'clock alarm went off, it was time to hit the ground running. Even though I was taking the "day off" I would have to be at church that evening, and I had promised the family that I would be back to check on the patient shortly before church time. So, by the time the plumber and repairman were finished, I figured I had about a two hour window to mow the grass. It needed mowing in the worst way, since we had missed the planned Saturday mowing due to rain. Now, nearly two weeks since the last cutting, it was beginning to resemble an alfalfa crop.

Besides the three aforementioned lots that we own, I also have to mow a vacant lot that runs along the back of the other three. I opted to do the easy part first, so I rolled the rider out of the storage building. Naturally I do as much of the mowing as possible with the rider. Then I have to mow around houses and the treacherous "office yard" with my self propelled push mower. Sometimes I do that task first to get it out of the way, but today I was in a hurry and just decided to hurry and do what I could on the rider, first.

For years, my hatred for grass mowing was well known by my family, neighbors, and friends. There were any number of things I would rather do than mow grass. Neatly manicured and well cared for, Jack Hollan's yard across the street always put mine to shame. He had a "lawn". I had grass. Mowing was a task I rarely had time for, and hardly relished. In short, it was a detestable task that just had to be done. Amazingly, over the past five years, I have come to actually almost like it. I know that sounds strange, but I actually did.

My battle with cancer changed the way I looked at lots of things in life. For the year that I took chemotherapy, there was no energy to do anything! After a couple of years of basically having to hire the mowing done, I took new pride in being able to mow my own yard again. Of course, the purchase of the riding mower helped a lot, but it actually became a task that I somewhat relished - a challenge that I was thankful I could answer. That is, except for one particular part of the property. The "office property", as I mentioned before lies at the corner of Winchester and 49th. The elevation of the yard is a good 10 - 12 feet higher than the street level of Winchester Avenue. The corner of the lot is a tall bank that sits at a steep 45 degree angle. It is too steep to mow up and down, and can only be done by mowing from side to side around the contour of the property.

I learned a number of years ago that it was unsafe to try to mow that part of the lot in street shoes, sneakers, or even boots. The footing is treacherous, and any dampness at all in the grass or the ground beneath makes it almost impossible to keep one's footing. Therefore I always wear a pair of metal baseball cleats to mow that part of the yard. I was wearing the cleats on Wednesday, when I took the fall.

Don't ask me how it happened. Someone asked if I was chewing gum at the time, but natural coordination problems notwithstanding, somehow my feet got tangled and I went down. Hard! It's difficult to explain how it happened, but my hands remained firmly on the mower handle, while my body twisted to one side and my left hip met the turf with a terrific force. My back was wrenched, and I quickly let go of the mower and lay motionless on the hill for what seemed to be a long time. Fearful of having potentially done some serious damage to my back, I finally allowed myself to slip down the rest of the slope and regained an upright position when I reached the sidewalk.

I made my way back to my front porch where I stretched out flat on my back to try to relieve the pain. Motionless, I stayed in that position until Linda arrived home from work. Apparently the first thought in her mind was "heart attack" and she grabbed me by the foot and called, "Are you OK?" After I told her of my graceful moves, she helped me into the house where I hit the recliner for what turned out to be the rest of the night.

My back hurt. But my pride was more severely injured. Everything in me wanted to get up and finish the job - but I just could not do it! Furthermore, I was unable to even get myself ready for church, much less drive to the hospital for a visit in ICU, and to try to stand or sit long enough to lead the church service. I am almost ashamed to admit it now, but the whole thing nearly precipitated a melt down. The grass had to be finished and my ministry responsibility called, but all I could do was alternate ice and heat on the sore back, and lie there in total frustration.

To bring this long story to an end, I had to call my son, Benji, and ask him if he could come and finish my job. Oh, the pain of it! To think that "big strong man" had to ask his son to finish the job he couldn't do himself. That hurt. Someone else had to take my place in the church service, and the hospital visit had to go undone.

The back is still stiff and sore, but apparently no serious damages (Thank God!) Unfortunately the pride is still stinging a bit as well. It all serves to remind me that I am not indispensable, and I am NOT in control. There are times that, no matter how self reliant we think we may be, we still need the help of someone else. That is a physical truth when we are young - and unfortunately as we get older, too! More importantly, however, it is also a spiritual truth.

Are you depending on your own strengths and abilities for things that are beyond your control? If so, my advice is to shed that pride and look to God for strength. He never fails.

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