I want to kill my mower, but it won’t die.
“Dad! This is hard!” my thirteen-year-old daughter said. She was only on the second pass of the backyard and mower pressed on through the grass. It coughed and sputtered, black smoke signals alerting the neighborhood kids that chores are getting done.
“Seriously!” she continued. “I hate mowing the yard.”
I didn’t answer her because if I did there would be an epic lecture. I started mowing acres of lawn at five years of age, in the snow, and up a mountain.
The lawn mower burped and stopped. I was excited, but I knew it was a false alarm. My father sense has been sharpened over the last twenty years of owning this lawn mower. It was not dead, it had merely stalled.
I instinctively know every sound, ever sigh of the motor on this machine. I can tell the difference when it cuts high grass and is struggling, and when it is smooth sailing. When it hits a rock, which is often when I mow because I want to kill it, I can tell the size and the shape of the rock. I know if I’ve run over a tree branch or a toy the children have hidden in the grass just by the wine of the blades. This was just a stall.
I have never done any maintenance on the mower. Not an ounce of oil has been added since I originally bought it so many years ago. The blade has never been sharpened. And yet, every year it starts on the second pull of the frayed rope. It dutifully does it’s job without complaint. For the first ten years that I’ve had it, the dad in me appreciated that kind of work ethic and toughness.
But then I had a midlife mower crisis when I saw the new fangled self-propelled mower. I fell in love. I had to kill my lawn mower.
With three kids money seems to come out of me like an open spigot. Over the last thirteen years, a waterfall of kid expenses has left me jumpy. I can’t justify buying a new mower until this one breaks. The dad in me takes over, the one that talks about being reasonable and responsible. So I’ve kept the mower, waiting for it to die on its own. When that failed, I tried to help it along.
“Stupid thing,” my daughter said as she kicked the tire. It’s a bit harsh but maybe that’s done the trick. Maybe now I can bury it in my garage and get my love. I felt a bit bad about the thought. After all, if everything served me as well as this mower, I would have less problems in my life and my bank account would be bigger. My daughter kicked it again. Ashamed, I did not stop her but looked away.
My daughter destroys everything. It’s her nature as it’s the nature of my mower to continue on. It’s what my daughter does. She started by breaking my wife’s birth canal and it’s been a glorious path of destruction ever since. I have placed an immovable object up against an unstoppable force.
Last week, in a way that I can’t explain, she sheered the gear off the garage door motor. When she was four, she snapped the kitchen table in half. In her first week of fifth grade, I got her a cello. By the second week, I took it to be repaired. The mower’s days are numbered.
She backed old faithful out of the tall grass. She grabbed the rope and pulled with every bit of destructive force she had been given. The mower started on the first pull. She continued her mow, and seething I regretfully enjoyed watching her mow the yard. She was doing the chore that I hated most.
I’ve tried to teach my daughter the best way to mow. How to get it done before the grass gets too high. I’ve taught her to not wear open toe shoes, and how to follow the natural hills of the yard. How to pretend you don’t see a piece of paper before you chop it up for personal enjoyment. She has ignored all of my advice, as is also her nature.
Over the last year, she has learned the way of the dad and of the mow, mostly through her own mistakes. And in a sense, that means the lawn mower has taught her valuable life lessons. She’s gotten better at mowing, it’s to the point where I don’t even have to get out of my lawn chair to really help her.
I just sit and watch, enjoying seeing her push the mower father figure up and down the hills, over the walnuts from the tree in our back yard. They clanged against the blade and I listened. The mower shrugged it off, the hard nuts no match for it. But then I heard something new,.
Something that I hadn’t heard before. A stutter in the motor. Faint, but there. I waited for a minute, listened as closely as I could. The thoughts came in and out of my head as the blur of the blades continued on. I appreciated for a minute how I didn’t have to mow anymore as the job has now passed on to her. I could sit back and appreciate the scene as she propelled the mower…