Gary's Dad, Ken, just recently had a scare about his prostate. The morning after Ken's yearly physical, he was out mowing the lawn when the doctor called and demanded he come in and get a battery of tests, since the results from his yearly blood tests were very bad. The doctor even specifically said, "Stop whatever you are doing and come in right now." So of course Ken went in immediately and great quantities of urine were drained from his body and he was fitted with a catheter and what I felt was a very cunning catheter bag. And he was told, again, specifically, don't finish mowing the lawn, there will be no lawn mowing for two weeks before surgery and then twelve weeks until after surgery.
Well, are the S_____s concerned? Are they worried about what they refer to as the Roto-Rooter surgery, during which they mistakenly think a small auger will be placed into Ken's penis and the urethra will be widened so more urine comes out? No, why worry about such details when there is a partially-mowed lawn in Florissant? So the family's concern is focused on how this lawn will get mowed.
Gary contacted six lawn-mowing services, since that's how our lawn is mowed, and that's how it should be done, especially by seventy-five year old men. All six lawn-mowing services were rejected even before they could do more than an estimate, one because they caused the dogs to bark, one because they had long hair, another caused the dogs to bark, one had no teeth, and one had (I am ashamed to say such bigotry exists in Florissant) long RED hair. And the last service had to be called and cancelled because the S_____'s could make no excuses about the last, a dark-haired fully-toothed Florissant couple who wanted to meet them before they even looked at the lawn. Ken and Wilma just said "We can't stand having someone else mow the lawn. Can you just bring over your old lawn mower you still have in your garage and just do it for us?"
"No" I said to Gary when he told me about it, "you don't mow lawns. That's why you pay to have your lawn mowed."
"I think I can do it," he said heroically.
"No, I think you'll make the dogs bark."
"Really, I kind of miss mowing the lawn."
"Stop talking nonsense!" I gasped. No way was I having him again take up entire weekends threatening to mow, preparing to mow, looking at the sky, testing the wind, testing the grass, grass too wet to mow, too long, going to be dark in a few hours, etc. "Besides, I'm sure your old mower won't start." The S_____'s themselves have a mower they felt was too shabby to have Gary use, the type of mower an old couple would have bought fifteen years ago at Central Hardware. Ken has to use a screwdriver to start it and there is no front right wheel.
This caused Gary to confront his old mower hidden in the deepest part of the garage. It is an old mower that a young couple would have bought fifteen years ago at Central Hardware. And Gary was ashamed.
"I can't give my parents this old mower," he said. "I think I'll buy them a new one."
I didn't say anything, I had to think carefully at this juncture. So MUCH to say, but if I said something like "You could just buy him a new prostate, wouldn't that be more direct?" or "You are deranged," I could blow the whole thing. So I obliquely said,
"Won't they be upset? You know they don't like you to spend money on them."
"I just won't tell them it's new. I'll tell them it's my old mower."
"Won't they know it's not your old mower?" I asked, "It'll look new."
"I'll dirty it up."
Instead of saying, what, we're antiquing a mower? We're distressing it? I said, "Isn't that a little deceptive?"
"NO it isn't! They said bring over my mower, and if I pay for it, it's my mower!" He glared at me, daring me to say something else.
I stopped being cautious with my words. "Does this depend on what the meaning of 'is' is, President Clinton? Do you lie to me this -- "
"SHUT up! If I want to buy my parents a mower then I can, and I don't have to even talk to you about it." And the conversation was over. I had blown it. However, I had my own separate bank account so I wasn't too concerned.
Gary researched mowers and decided on a Honda self-propelled model, perfect for old men because we know the mower is never going back in to our garage. Oh wait -- the mower never WAS in our garage. Anyway, the next day at the lawnmower store I wandered off to the side as the salesman asked if Gary was interested in the Honda.
"Yes" Gary said, "but $1,200.00 was a little more than I wanted to pay." It was $1,200.00 more than I would want to pay, and then Gary and the salesman left the store and I wondered what was going on. Then not five minutes later they were back and Gary was pulling out his Visa and the salesman was not with him. I went over. He finished paying $???? for a ????? and we left. He then told me they had used mowers for sale (pre-antiqued!) and he bought the same model he had wanted for only $500.00 and it had been owned by a little old lady who didn't mow much. (She only mowed to church and back, evidently.)
And I was thinking about it and I suppose if your family is totally insane and irrational, and you yourself can't admit you are worried about your dad, then lying to your parents and yourself is the only way to deal with the situation. Besides, I liked being the only one in the know the next day when Gary brought his "old" mower to the S_____'s and demonstrated it. His dad had never used a self-propelled mower (nor had Gary, of course) and he wanted to watch how it worked. So Ken went out in back, and Wilma and I stayed in the house, because mowing is men's work, but I really wanted to be out there.
Gary got himself gussied up in his mowing clothes and went out and started the mower. Loud mowing sounds. Then it stopped. He came back in.
"Didn't it work?" I asked, because I was sincerely concerned because I a) didn't know this mower and b) thought Gary might break down and reveal the truth like in The Tell-Tale Heart.
"Come on," he shrugged, "Started like a charm! Don't you want to come out and see it?"
No, I thought, what I really want is to see you lie like a dog.
So went outside and Gary mowed a patch and everyone oohed and ahhed until Gary noticed that the grass he had just mowed looked identical to what he had not mowed. However, the mower had made loud mowing sounds. Gary crouched down to look at the underside of the mower. He considered his next deceptive statement.
"I can't imagine what's going on," he said in all honesty.
I added helpfully, "I think this is how it's worked every time you've used this mower."
I tried to think of more perfectly honest things to say. There was more watching of Gary looking perplexed at every knob and lever on the mower, one by one. He did not crack.
I said, "Did we bring the blade?"
Ken asked, "Is the blade sharp?" even though there was no way a blade could have even spun over that grass; it was undisturbed.
"Well yeah" Gary said, "We just had the blade -- " He stopped. Technically, this was a lie. "The blade was just sharpened a week or so ago." True, totally true, the lawn mower shop said they had serviced it.
More watching of Gary looking at knobs and levers. I got up to help Gary ponder the mower, and so that he could appreciate the glowing aura of smug that was coming quietly out of my body.
Ken said, "What does that red lever do?"
We looked at the red lever that was decorated with loosely-spaced dots that gradually became closely spaced dots, which I decided was Honda's universal symbol for Ignore Your Father-in-Law.
Gary had regained his lying skills after the brief stumble about the blade sharpening. "I don't know about that lever, I've never used it." Then suddenly Gary said, "Oh, well of course, the yellow button." and he sounded as if he had just pulled out of his subconscious how to get the mower blade to work. In reality, he had just noticed the yellow button on the handle marked BLADE.
So there was much mowing at the S_____'s, finally. Gary experimented with the red lever and suddenly remembered it regulated the self-propelled speed. There was more mowing the next weekend, and at some point the brother-in-law will also mow.
Then my only concern was that one day a S_____-in-law would visit our garage and see we still have a lawnmower in there. I mentioned it to Gary and he took it as an accusation.
"Well I TOLD them last weekend that we have two mowers. We do have two mowers. I paid for both mowers and that means they're both mine." He was defending old territory.
I asked, "But won't they wonder that we have two old mowers? Don't they think that's odd?"
"They did ask me when I'd bought the Honda mower," he said, "I told them it was nine years old." Which was true.
Anyway, Mr. S_____ had his surgery, and all went well. Now it's just twelve weeks until the S_____s begin to insist Ken wants to mow the lawn and he likes his old mower better and we will be forced to take "our" mower back and we will have two mowers in the garage and a lawn-mowing service.