It’s become painfully obvious to everybody that I am no handyman. I’m not somebody whose idea of having a great time is to disappear into the garage and fix stuff. My idea of a good time is to hang around that person and talk and maybe play ball.
Just as obvious is, though, the fact that, these days I am a house owner. And apparently, I now realize, when things need to be done over here, we have to do them ourselves.
These tasks fall neatly into three categories. There are the easy ones that can be used to teach the kids a lesson or two – mowing the lawn is a good example. There are the difficult ones that require expertise of some sorts, or at least brains – like replacing a light switch.
And then there are the ones in between. The kinds that basically anyone can do, if they only have that special something. Muscles.
I may not be a superathlete or a runner, but whatever shape I may be in, with a bad knee and all, for some weird reason, I am a strong little man. Surprisingly strong. Also, for somebody who’s aced his way through school, to a postgraduate degree even, and is now making a living in a profession that supposedly makes him use his brain, when it comes to household tasks, I basically rely on pure brute force.
To illustrate: Today, the entire family partook in outdoor activities around the house, namely trimming the hedge and mowing the lawn. The kids – being still just six and three years old – were mostly in consultative roles, but still an integral part of the operation. J mowed the lawn and trimmed the hedge. I entered the stage when it was time to finish off the trimming, in what might be called a grandiose style.
As a teenager, I once raked all the leaves that got chopped and dropped to the ground when my father cut the top of the hedge with some sort of a powertool. (The first time we did that in our then-new house back in 1981, he used a pair of huge scissors, for which there is a proper name, I am sure, but I’ve never bothered to learn it).
Since then, I’ve never trimmed a hedge until a few weeks ago when I tried it here at our new house. With images of Donald Duck turning all the trees and bushes in Duckburg into trains, sports figures and such, I fired up the hedge trimmer and got to work, and found that I was a natural.
So, today, when I walked out as the Senior Hedge Trimmer Expert, there was a certain swagger in my walk. “You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why: That hedge gone wild is going down”.
Ten minutes later, I was done. Simple as that.
“Wanna take some more here,” my wife said.
“Let’s just make the entrance bigger, take out those two, and that maple that’s in there, it doesn’t belong there anyway,” she said.
“What if you cut those two, and then dig up the rest so we can make it a proper entrance?” she then added.
Vroom. Snip. Snip. Vroom.
What was left then, was just to dig up the roots and go back in to the sauna.
I jogged to the garage to get a shovel, happy about the days work, and the fact that I could run without pain in my knee. I skipped to the garage door, pushed it open like Conan the Destroyer and then walked briskly back to the backyard.
I put the shovel under one of the stepping stones and lifted it up. I moved it aside and buried the shovel into the ground for the first time. And again, and again, and again, and again, until I realized that I would have to remove one more stepping stone.
I flipped it on the shovel – in true hockey style – and sent it to the lawn with a snappy wrist shot. Back to work. Digging. It.
In about ten minutes, I had dug a hole deep enough for me to believe that I could lift up the rest of the root system using the leverage the shaft of the shovel provided me with. I took a whack at the thickest root, stepped on the shovel, and pushed the shaft down.
The shaft broke into two pieces.
An hour later, after J had driven to the hardware store and bought a new shovel, I was back at it. Armed with a brand new Fiskars, I dug deeper and wider than a before. I used the shovel as an axe, and I tried to chop the root off.
In did it in sets of ten while J was standing and cheering me on.
“Yksi..” Chop! “Kaksi…” Chop!
“I love it that you count in Finnish. You mean business,” she said.
“I think I got it now,” I replied.
Chop! Hit! Chop! Hit!
“8 … yhdeksän … 10!” I said, panting, and wiping the sweat off my brow,
Just as thought I had made it, and had cut the last remaining root, i found a new one that was a little thicker and went a little deeper than the ones I had seen earlier.
After a short break, I picked up the shovel again, and I dug and I chopped.
And I sweated. I was out of breath.
“Almost done here,” I yelled when I noticed J and the kids in the window.
I had reached the point of no return ages ago. We would not have bought a new shovel for nothing. It was me against that damn root, and the root was going to lose. If it was simply a matter of digging deeper and chopping harder, I’d win.
After four sets of ten, I threw the shovel onto the grass, and decided to take a closer look. Like a desperate Count of Monte Cristo, I was hunched over the beast of a root, digging dirt with my hands, trying to find the thing that was holding it in the ground.
It was bigger than I had thought. The roots reached a bigger area that I could have imagined.
I kept digging with my hands until I found what I thought was the jugular vein of the Thing. I removed all dirt and clay so I could see it. I picked up the shovel, and I chopped. Again, and again, and again, and again.
After my last set of ten – “kymmeneeeeh!” – I threw the shovel again, and grabbed the roots with my left hand, and pulled it out of the ground, and held it above my head the way the savages always held scalps in all the books I read as a kid.
“You got it?” J asked me.
“I GOT IT! Come take a photo of me!” I said, quickly back as my blogger self.
Finally, I walked back to the house, about an inch taller. Not only out of pride but thanks to all the clay and dirt stuck onto the soles of my white adidas tennis shoes that I had chosen to wear for this particular task.
Later on the same night, J connected the dryer we had planned to sell but decided not to, back to the central ventilation system.
My job? To push the dryer back into its place.