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The Work

Today, I’m sunburned on the back of my neck beyond belief. It’s red, it’s sore and my shirt feels like sandpaper when it brushes against it. I should know better by now, that I burn the way paper does when you hold a match to it. I guess I’m a stubborn sort that way though. For the longest time in my life, nobody could ever tell me a thing and you’d think that with that attitude, I might’ve learned something along the way.

I guess I’m what might best be described as a quick study but a slow learner.

Most of the evening was spent tossing and turning in a quest to find that ever elusive comfortable spot on the bed that had seemed to somehow gone into hiding. Even when I did manage to find it, it wasn’t long before it took off like a thief in the night and my quest had to begin all over again. So be it.

Today, my bones hurt from doing something I’m very unaccustomed to doing. That something is called manual labor. I ache inside and I guess my dreams of immortality and invincibility have been replaced by the sound of creaking joints and the pull of strained muscles that have gone unused for too long a period of time.

See, yesterday me and Anna helped some friends that are going to a lot of trouble to provide some hospitality and open up their home and their hearts to many of you who are coming to town. I don’t know if “trouble” is the right word though because all of the activity was done with smiles on their faces and a sense of anticipation in the air. There was the hauling of dirt, the climbing of ladders, the uprooting and replanting of plants, the washing of decks, the pounding of nails and the cutting of wood.

Yes, it was a long day. Yet, despite that, I don’t think I’ve ever felt better in my life.

The Reward

Naturally, there was a feast afterwards that consisted of London broil, a special concoction of baked potatoes, a tossed salad and a strawberry/pound cake/whipped cream dessert that defies description.

"What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.”

I don’t know how many of you out there have kids but sometimes I think mine might be a little older than the ten she claims to be. She seems to prefer the company of adults and listens to the conversation with an attentive ear and an open mind, especially when the talk is adult themed. She usually saves her questions for later, when we’re alone and when the answers can sink in. It’s not too often that I find the need to “dumb it down” for her. Most of the time, she sees right through it when I try and pull that ruse. I think she’s starting to trust my answers.

So, we’re driving home and some snippet of the conversation must have stuck in her brain. She asked if there was going to be a lot of “gay people” at the upcoming gathering. I told her, yeah, there probably would be and to try and not label people but to judge them on their own merits. I asked if that bothered her and she said…

“Who cares, the world needs all the love it can get, who cares where it finds it?”

Out of the mouths of babes…

"How can I help?"

All throughout the day that was one offer that kept coming out of her mouth. I asked her to shovel dirt, she shoveled dirt. I asked break big lumps of clay into little ones, she broke big clumps of clay into little ones. I asked her to help in the kitchen, she helped in the kitchen. When there was nothing for her to do without risking some kind of injury, she almost looked disappointed. Like a third wheel or a chaperone, lost and looking for something to do, almost forlorn looking like a scolded puppy.

On the ride home, she asked if she “did ok”. I told her that of course she did but I wish she would’ve heard what some of the other folks had to say about her when she was out of earshot. Maybe they were just being kind but I don’t think so. I think it was some pretty sincere statements that I paraphrased just enough to keep her from getting a big head and a bigger ego. I guess that’s the razor’s edge that has to be walked at times.

”Out with the old, in with the new”

About four years ago, I bought her this bicycle. It was pink and purple and white and had these little streamers coming out of the hand grips on the handle bar. It had little pictures of princesses and princes and a little silver bell that went “chingaling” when you turned the knob with your thumb. She was, after all, my little girl and this was about as girly girl as you could get.

I guess there’s some kind of quantum leap that occurs between the ages of six and ten. What was once “cute” now seemed passé and as the years went by, the bicycle’s usage dwindled and it wasn’t long before it was relegated to “basement status.”

Well, we probably all know what that means. Usually it won’t see the light of day until you either move or decide to hold a yard sale. For some reason, a while back, it made its made its way upstairs and sat in the yard gathering dust and rust. The other day, she put a little sign it that read “Free to a Good Home” and wheeled it back in the alley where dumpster diving is like an Olympic event.

The next morning, as I was making coffee, I noticed a younger couple out walking their dog and their kid. They stopped, looked over the goods and then it was gone. I called Anna in from her perch on the couch and we both looked at the family as they made their way down the alley with the bicycle in tow.

We looked at each and exchanged one of those father/daughter smiles and went back inside.

It was little after 9:00 PM or so when we got home last night. She took her shower and found me sitting on the front steps, enjoying one last cigarette and beer before the night faded to black. The fireflies were just starting to make their annual appearance and were twinkling and dancing their way up and down the block.

She sat down next to me, smelling all fresh and clean, looked at me and said “We did good this weekend”.

I couldn’t have agreed more...

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