May 24, 2011

memory lane

I mostly work for old people.
No... I only work for old people.
I didn't plan it that way, it just happened to happen.
I like older people. Old people like me. Which makes me like them more.

Here's why I like them:  They warm the cockles of my heart with their kindness and concern.

Because I walk in, trying to act all professional, and they reach over and wipe the chocolate bunny remains from off the corner of my mouth. And my professionalism goes right out the window while I stand there getting my face wiped off by a concerned eighty-seven year old man.
Because when the sun is beating down on me while I'm knee deep in dirt and flowers, they come running out with sunblock and say things like, If you don't wear sunblock, you'll get brown spots on your skin like I have! And they pull up the edges of their sleeve to show me the dreaded brown spots. And then they start rubbing sunblock on my shoulders while I'm like, No, really... I can do that myself...
Because they feed me. You're so skinny! You need fattening up! Wanna go get a burger? What am I gonna say to that? No? I love burgers.
Because they call my car an automobile.
Because they show me their great-great grandfather's sword and tell me stories. I love stories.
Because they tell me they love me. Not that they love my work. Not that they love the flowers I planted. Not that they love not having to do the work themselves. But, I love you, Sunny Jane. (Excuse me while I wag my tail like a little puppy dog.)
Because they blow me kisses and call me dearie.
Because they're kind and sweet.

Yesterday I worked for a new guy, Mr. C.
He's a bachelor.  I've never worked for a bachelor before. It was a whole new experience.
At first it was sad. His wife died a couple years ago, but looking around the house, I thought maybe she was just out shopping. Her shoes were still there on the floor. Her perfume and bottles of lotion were still on the bathroom counter. Her clothes were there. Her jewelry was on the dresser right were she'd left it.
But while he was helping me fold laundry, he mentioned again that'd she'd died two years ago and I said I was so sorry, and he just slumped with the towel in his hands and said, So am I. And it gave me a lump in my throat to see how much he still misses her.
Then I cleaned the rest of the house while he went through some papers in his office.
Then I told him I was finished, and did he want anything else done before I left?
He scratched his head.
He looked around.
He said, hmmmm.
Then he looked out the back door, and brightened.
Follow me, he said.
Turns out he wants his dandelions sprayed. Turns out Senske is coming by tomorrow to do just that. Turns out he had an old car (I used to be a car dealer you know. Was partner with my brother for 50 years. Did body and fender work too. Had a shop right downtown.) and that ole car was covering alot of dandelions... which are supposed to be sprayed tomorrow.
We'll just push this old car right into the garage here.
I said ok.
Then he said, You know. I could probably get'er started. Run to the garage and get me the new battery.
So I ran to the garage and picked out the newest looking battery on the floor.
And for the next hour and a half I helped him tink around on that old car.
When he looked under the hood, I looked under the hood.
When he said, hhhmmmm, I said, hhhmmmm.
When he walked to the garage, I trotted along.
I handed him wrenches. I clamped the battery thingys onto the battery. I steered the car while he pulled it across the yard with his pick-up truck.
Finally he turned to me and said, Wow. You can really do alot of stuff, can't you?
I scratched my head instead of answering. I pointed out that the hot pink polish on my toes was chipping.
I didn't have the heart to tell him that he was looking at the girl who threw away about a hundred lock washers at work one day because she thought they were broken. Hello. They were all split on one side. They certainly looked broken.
I didn't have the heart to tell him I can't drive a stick and it was sheer luck that it went into neutral as I frantically fiddled around with the stick after he yelled out, Ok! Put it in neutral!
I didn't have the heart to tell him that while I can pump gas into my car... I can't do much else with it.
But, I think he might've caught on when he handed me the charger clamps and was like, There you go... clamp those onto the battery. And I was like, Ummm. So. Like. What? Could you repeat the question, please? And then I remembered how on Slumdog Millionaire they hooked him up to a car battery to torture him for knowing all the right answers and I worried I might stick the wrong clamp to the wrong thingy and get tortured myself by an old car battery. I didn't want to get zapped or anything.
So he patiently showed me how black goes on black, and red goes on red.
But in the end, the car still wouldn't crank so we started pushing it into the garage. But then his phone rang and he had to answer it and said to me, Continue on. So I pushed the car into the garage by myself and thought I would die of a hernia but I didn't because between my skin and bones is alot of finely toned muscle and my arms are more like guns or something. So when he came back out, and I was leaning against the safely-in-the-garage car, I said, I may not know how to charge a battery, but I'm basically Superwoman, thank you very much. Who's your daddy now???
I didn't really say that. I just thought it, and wiped my sweaty armpits after I got done beating on my chest. He patted me on the back. And gave me a Ghirardelli caramel chocolate. Which made me his friend for life.

But, getting to my point...
Yesterday reminded me of my grandfather, who was a mechanic before he died.

That's Pawpaw on the right. He was pretty dang handsome.
 I like his rolled up sleeves.

Moma's dad. His name was Albert Walston. He loved black licorice and A&W root beers. He told me A&W named their company after him... get it? A&W? Same initials as his. I believed him for years. I was a teenager before I finally realized he was joking around.
Pawpaw was playful. He took us for rides on his Cub Cadet riding lawn mower. He laughed when we ran head first into Granny's sparkling clean, sliding glass door. He had black under his fingernails all the time. He pushed us on the swing. He shared his licorice. He held us in his lap. He let us drink out of his cup. He sat us up on the big silver propane tank outside so we could pretend it was a submarine. But, his absolute favorite thing to do was to say, Pull my finger, then he'd fart on us. Then he'd laugh like a hyena. And we'd all scream and holler.
Pawpaw died when I was nine, and my last memory of him... is of him farting on Karen.
We had been visiting that day and it was time to go. I was in the back of the station wagon, sweating my guts out in the Texas summer heat. I looked through the back window and there was Pawpaw, asking Karen to pull his finger. She must've refused because then he grabbed her by the arms and swung her around on his back, and promptly farted on her. He laughed like a hyena. She screamed and hollered. And Granny said, Albert! You have to stop doing that! And he winked mischievously at me through the window like, I'll never stop. And I turned around in my seat knowing he really never would stop. And I grinned.
He died the next week of a massive heart attack, and I love that that is my last memory of him.
Him farting on Karen, winking at me, and hurting Granny's sense of propriety.

To this day, I want a yellow Cub Cadet riding lawn mower.
And to this day, the black Jelly Bellys are my favorite.
Because of him.