Buckets, Ladders, and Chainsaws

What’s next? Juggling piranhas?…

The role with my parents reversed itself. I was now the responsible adult keeping my parents out of trouble. Mom tended towards a sensible and less adventurous nature, usually. Calamity was mainly Dad.

The other day, I busted my eighty-one year old father standing on an overturned bucket. “What are you doing?’ I asked.

“Hanging your mother’s flag pole on the garage.” Dad said.

“I see that, but what in the hell are you doing standing on a bucket?”

In the kingdom of role reversal, I could get away with swearing if my point was valid. My point was definitely valid. Earlier in the year, Dad tripped, fell, and broke his collar bone. To compound things, Dad had a toe amputated. His balance wasn’t that of a Wallenda from the famous high wire family.

“If you don’t crack your head, Mom will if she catches you standing on a bucket.” I went to the shed and brought a stepstool for Dad to stand on to finish the job.

When I was a kid, I saw my parents’ concern for my well-being as, ‘the fun suckers won’t let me do anything.’ I’m sure Dad saw me in that same light now.

Dad does some questionable things like leaving a platter of ham on the counter for stretches of time as a breeding ground for bacteria. Back in his day, this might have been acceptable. Hell, way back, our ancestors put their faces in puddles next to animal dung for a drink. Life expectancy was about twenty-seven years in those days.

I couldn’t see fighting bacteria or maggots for a slice of ham. Technology has given us a new fangled storage unit called a refrigerator to save mankind from food death or at least a round of antibiotics.

The other things Dad tried to get away with were considered full out danger mode with an ambulance and surgical team on standby. Hold the ladder while I cut a tree limb with a chainsaw was one such thing.

To this, I asked, “Do you know any famous lumberjacks? Paul Bunyan doesn’t count. He had no need for a ladder. He also had an ax not a two cycle motorized machine of terror.”

There weren’t any notable lumberjacks because the only guys who became famous for cutting trees were guys who stood on ladders with chainsaws and made the nightly news as a statistic. I could see the headline. “Paul Nonbunyan was the fifth man this year to climb a ladder with a chainsaw….”

It was hard work to keep Dad from becoming a statistic. My intention wasn’t to make Dad feel inadequate because of his age. Dad and Mom were my heroes for their engagement with life and independent spirits. My intention was to convey that there’s no shame in using proper tools, practicing safety, or in hiring professionals to do work for you.

I’ve gladly paid a large sum of money to professionals when dead pines threatened to fall on my house. The strapping young men, who showed up to do the job, wore body harnesses and helmets. One man hung from a tree by a lifeline tended by another man, but they looked like they’d done that kind of thing a few thousand times. I didn’t witness anyone on a ladder wielding a chainsaw.

Age had nothing to do with the decision to pay someone to cut trees. I chose not to meet death by pine snag when so many other exciting options were available like getting eaten by sharks while learning to surf. Surfing had a measure of fun attached and a vacation.

I didn’t want to discourage Dad from doing things. I wanted Dad to do things he enjoyed. Instead of standing on buckets and ladders, Dad could go fly-fishing, unless Dad chose to fish in Alaska and met a grizzly, wounds from fishing required Band-Aids and no outrageous co pays.

Dad, I beg you. Stay off the roof. Hire someone to fix the chimney. You’re going to give me a heart attack. I’d rather meet death learning to surf.

Published in Funny Times-March 2020

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