My old friend came yesterday to start cleaning up after the logging. It was great to see him and his wide quiet smile, as always.
Some things were unchanged. I said, in reference to one of my ideas, “Well, you know I’m a little crazy,” and he teased automatically, “A little?”
I drove him up the hill to the machine.
I fetched his coffee and his lunch and he said, “Good girl.”
I gave him my arm to steady him walking across the uneven ground.
But I worried. He seemed more tired, more frail, more easily out of breath. When I returned after straining the milk, he told me that he’d had to climb down from the machine — and had stumbled and fallen straight over backwards. Luckily he had just dug up that section of ground to remove the rocks so he had a soft landing.
The stumping work is slow and the area is very large. Several times when I drove out to check on him he told me that he dared not look up while working because he got too discouraged. He was not complaining. He never complains. He was simply stating a fact.
He insists that his health is fine. (Apart from his history of two quadruple-bypass heart operations, stents for cardiovascular disease, glaucoma, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, that is.) However several times yesterday I could feel tears of worry prickling. The line from Goodbye, Mr. Chips went through my mind: “Nothing really wrong with him — only anno domini, but that’s the most fatal complaint of all, in the end.”
He has become very dear to me over the six years he’s worked clearing the farm. He has always reminded me at times of my father. But now he is starting to remind me of my mother in her last years: her fragility and brave determination despite her tiredness.
Snowflakes are falling this morning and I find myself almost welcoming the storm due today and tomorrow, so he can have some rest.