The Green Grass Grows
I watch my neighbor's son, Paul, mow the lawn. I can't help myself. Besides, he wears a baseball helmet when he does it. The kid's clever, really. I remember watching the first time he tried to mow. There is a pine tree which separates my house and his. The lowest branches have been cut back, but not enough for total clearance. Paul had to perform a sort of limbo coupled with a power equipment partner to avoid all the limbs. The machine was still pretty heavy for him, and in his efforts to maneuver, he looked one way, failed to see one of the branches, and WHAP, a branch smacked him right on the top of his head. Next time out, helmet is on, and he moves ahead with confidence. More recently he tried to pass the job over to his little brother, but that change wasn't very successful.
I sit at my window and realize that there's a lot to think about when you're home instead of working somewhere. This is true even on the weekends. Right now I'm asking myself, "Why aren't you looking? Why aren't you checking your resources?" I'm supposed to be doing all of the things necessary to secure employment. Today, like every day, all I can do is look out the window. I can't go out there now.
"Robert, we're back."
That would be Mrs. McClure, my wife, Debbie to me. She and my four-year-old son, Seamus, are back. They disappear each Saturday morning. Debbie drops Seamus off at her sister's place, and she goes to work at the hair salon, sweeping and cleaning up. She took this job for the extra cash and so I would have the opportunity to peruse the Saturday want-ads in peace. I know it's slim pickins as compared to Sunday's paper, but I like to have it all the same. Debbie gets back around two, or so. Debbie knows I'm in here, and she pops her head around the door to look in on me. She smiles, even though she can probably tell there's been no progress, drops off my lunch, and then ducks back out. She really looks after me.
Debbie wasn't supposed to have a "real" job once we were married. We talked about this, and we agreed that she would stay home once we had a child. Starting our family was going to be her job. Now, because I'm out of work, she's had to pick up my slack. Like me, she had difficulties with her "job", but it would be unfair to compare my job difficulties to what she went through when she gave birth to our first and only son. That went something like this...
"Has he taken any classes for this?" The nurse had asked Debbie even though she was in the middle of a contraction.
"Arrgh! Get this thing out of me," she replied.
"C'mon honey! Breathe! You can do it," was all I could come up with.
I attended the classes--training, or so I thought, to be of assistance at the important moment. When Debbie went into labor, I was limited to just those three phrases or some derivative of them. In fairness to me, the training doesn't really give you a feel for the pain that your wife will experience or the time that the whole process can take. The classroom just didn't translate into reality for me, especially for a premature birth like ours. When Seamus finally emerged, I was happy that the process was over, or so I thought. When I looked over at the bustling medical staff, controlled chaos is the best way to describe it; I felt fear and uncertainty and confusion all at once. My little newborn refused to breathe. He struggled to live, head lolling, skin turning blue from lack of oxygen, with frantic yet professional strangers all dressed in green moving quickly around him trying to get him to truly come to life. When he finally let out a massive scream, an improbably loud sound from such a small being, an indescribable rush of joy spread through the room. Here we were, a father with an excellent job and a great potential, a mother that has just survived two traumatic ordeals, and a newborn son. Seamus even briefly opened his eyes, the glint of his new life reflecting outward.
I can't believe that was over four years ago. Seamus is growing up so quickly. I hope that someday I can become the father, the provider that will allow him the life I want him to have, the life he deserves. Now, though, because of my weakness, I just sit here, looking out the window, without a job, searching for answers while Debbie needs to work two jobs to keep us going. Outside, Paul's about halfway done with the lawn. He's stopped to inspect an edge to make sure that his cuts are neat and tidy. His father has stopped with the post cutting reviews, but the occasional surprise inspection can still happen without notice. I really should try to get out today. Try to get something done, but it's just not that easy.
Paul looks up, and I can see his eyes. I doubt he can see me peering through the shades, but I'm sure he knows I'm here. His two eyes are a dark brown, almost black, not like Seamus'. A couple of years ago, at one of those neighborhood parties where all you do is eat and talk about your children, I tried to describe Seamus' eyes to someone.
"I want to say they're hazel," I told my neighbor. Truthfully, he wasn't really interested, but I carried on in my "I'm a good parent" kind of way. "It seems like they can shift colors slightly depending on the light. The color kind of reminds me of a pond. You know, green leaves mixing in with the blue of the water. Then shifting to the browns of the glistening rocks that you find everywhere. Best of all, they glow with the sheer happiness of life. I swear, when I look into those innocent eyes I see total wonder and joy. It always amazes me."
I see that look of amazement in all of the neighborhood children's eyes. I see that look all the time. Every weekday three or four parents come over and drop their children off so that Debbie can watch them. It's her second job. The one that keeps us afloat. The children don't disturb me, which is nice, and Seamus enjoys having them around. Debbie is such a trooper, letting these kids, all of which have some sort of disability, come over to play with Seamus all day. They all seem to get along OK, laughing and chatting in that semi-intelligible language that young children have. Debbie gives them their space, but keeps a close watch on them. When the parents come back each afternoon, I see the children, laughing, eyes alive with the happiness of seeing mom and dad, get into the cars and drive home with their parents. Debbie waves to them as they leave. Occasionally she tucks a scrap piece of paper from one of the parents into her purse, a payment for her hard work. After the parents have left, Debbie will often work on the bills. She's always done the finances, and since my state of unemployment started, her focus on this is even more critical.
I used to have an income, used to provide for my family, but I have failed to overcome myself. It was a year ago now, and when I think back, that day is still vivid to me. Paul, preparing to mow, still wearing that helmet, scarred now from numerous brushes with the pine limbs. Phil, his younger brother, stands there begging him to let him try. Like I said, Paul is clever. This is his chance to get out of a chore. He hands Phil the mower and nods to go ahead. He doesn't, however, hand over his helmet. My guess is that he wants to see if Phil hits the same branch he did the first time he mowed. Seamus and I play a kind of game of tag out on the lawn. I watch the brothers while Seamus runs around my legs. I too want to see if Phil hits his head. Life's lessons, you know. Paul gives me a wave and a knowing smile and comes on over and takes over for me with Seamus. Phil starts up the mower and heads right for the tree. No sense in waiting, let's get the hard part over first. Paul is into the game of tag completely leaving me to watch Phil and his lawn mower limbo with the tree. He pushes the mower underneath the tree, not looking, staying far enough away to avoid the most treacherous branches. Good plan, as far as I can tell. Probably won't pass a complete inspection, but good enough for the general overview. Phil throws the machine forward a second time. One crack echoes, like a bullet shot, then a second follows. I look over at Paul. He's pounding lightly on his helmet, clearing cobwebs, I guess. Seamus. Seamus has fallen over. He's not crying. He's not moving. Afterwards people asked me things like, "Did time stand still?" It's not that it stood still really; it's more like it accelerated to the point of compression. Running, dialing the phone, the ambulance, the hospital, controlled chaos all over again, the waiting, and the doctor existed all in one instant.
"Mr. and Mrs. McClure. Your son's injury is severe, but not life threatening. The rock that struck him has done permanent damage to his left eye. We've removed the damaged areas, and are..."
Debbie took all of this in, listening closely to what the doctor had to say, preparing for what the future would bring for our little child. I vaguely remember bits and pieces about enucleation, future surgeries, saline flushes, prosthetics, depth perception issues, but I couldn't make sense of any of it. I stared blankly between the doctor and Debbie, watching their mouths move but understanding nothing of what they discussed. I must have at least nodded at the right moments. I don't remember.
Paul has finished mowing now. I can breathe a little easier. I look around my room and see the stacks of unopened papers. Life's potentials. I should try to see what's in them. I should try to see what's outside my window, but I know the grass is still growing.