When my grandpa on my dad’s side had heart surgery, the doctors didn’t
want him out in the hot Texas sun doing the yard work he’d been
accustomed to doing himself. One of the jobs that my brother and I took
on for him was mowing the yard. We were probably around ten and twelve
at the time; the perfect age to begin trusting young boys to push
around a rapidly spinning steel blade on wheels, propelled by the power
of 5 horses.

Grandpa was scrupulous when it came to post-mow maintenance.
At the time, I didn’t appreciate that scraping the underside of the
deck with a putty knife (after disconnecting the spark plug, of course)
helped the lawnmower perform at its best. I couldn’t see the reasoning
behind hosing it down after every use, it was just going to get dusty
and dirty again the next time we used it. But, that’s how it was done.
That is how you knew when you were finished mowing, when the lawnmower
was as clean as when you’d begun.

Fast forward sixteen years and now the mower isn’t Grandpa’s,
it’s my own. And while I must admit that I don’t detail the trusty
Honda as carefully as he would have insisted (I have abandoned the
putty knife), the ritual of hosing down and cleaning the deck after a
mowing has stuck. And now, not only do I appreciate it, but I can enjoy
it because I cannot clean my lawnmower without thinking about my
Grandpa, and I hear his gravelly voice, "That looks good Brian." Except
that he would never say Brian, but instead, Briin. My name in his voice
has one syllable and not two; the I and the N meeting without allowing
some A to get in the way.

It might sound kind of cheesy, but I’ve realized that taking
care of the lawnmower is my way of honoring and remembering my Grandpa.
There are other seemingly mundane, but on closer inspection, noble
things in my life that are there because people that I love put them
there whether they meant to or not. Who could’ve imagined that
insisting on a clean lawnmower would one day
open that child’s eyes even wider to the awesome, terrifying and
beautiful power of an individual’s ability to influence? It’s these odd
little realities in our lives that make them so mesmerizing to look at
and wonder about.

2 thoughts on “Influence”

  1. Another wonderful story… I am going to print it out for Grandma to read… I think she would like it. You have such a way with words. I can’t figure out where you got it… :) Most of the time I clean my mower up also altho since it has such a big deck, I can’t clean it very good underneath but I do the best I can. I have a pair of ramps I drive it upon to help get underneath. Speaking of which, I sure do need to mow today… I may just do that…

  2. What a beautiful way to remember your Grandpa. Yes Briin, you do have a way with words. I really enjoy most of your tales from years past. Keep it up. Love you, Mema

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