I survived another tough week. Scheduled hour by hour, and so strung up in anxiety I could not sleep, but I staggered through.
Yesterday promptly after my last class I had an appointment with a school maintenance man to hang a 4’x8′ sheet of homasote in my classroom for an extra bulletin board. The sheet was flimsy and due to its weight and dimensions, awkward to handle, especially six feet off the ground on ladders.
“This is a hard job,” the young man commented as we puffed and pushed to screw the homasote into the concrete wall.
I agreed politely, but in my mind I was thinking, “Hard job? Come down to my farm if you want to see some hard jobs!”
The minute we finished, I raced to the farm. Darkness was already falling at 3:45 PM, and I had to shovel the giant gravel pile out of the addition before night, as the weather was due to drop close to zero and remain below freezing for the foreseeable future. If I didn’t get the pile moved it would be a geological feature inside the addition for the entire winter.
At 4 AM, planning my day, I had been overwhelmed at the prospect of this task, especially since the pile already had a three-inch-thick frozen crust that would need to be broken open with a pick-axe. Getting it done seemed impossible but I had no choice but to try. In an email to DH in New York City, I told him I could feel tears of worry and exhaustion prickling inside my nose.
As I hurriedly prepped my classes over breakfast, my friend D called to let me know he would be hunting that afternoon in the back field. I told him that was fine, and that the minute I finished with the maintenance man I would be at the barn, shoveling.
“You’re gonna put yourself in the fuckin’ looney bin,” he observed.
I explained about the imminent weather change.
“You should’a shoveled that shit before now.”
“I know,” I said humbly, “but I’ve been really busy.”
A sigh of exasperation. “I’ll come out an’ help you when I get off work.”
“Oh, you’re so nice, thanks so much, but I’m sure I’ll be fine. You go hunting.”
“I’ll be there.” Click!
By the time I got to the farm D had already been working for twenty minutes and despite the freezing temperatures had his jacket off and sweat rolling down his face. In another hour and a half the whole pile was moved, aside from the large chunks of frozen crust. D shoveled gravel and filled the wheelbarrow; I wheeled it up the ramp into the barn, dumped it, and smoothed it.
Unfortunately the wheelbarrow loads were heavier than I am and very soon my arms were trembling so much I could not push the load up the ramp. I turned around and dragged it up over the edge into the barn.
“Gettin’ tired, old lady?” D said gruffly, but without further comment, on each successive trip he climbed out of the addition to pull the nose of the wheelbarrow up the ramp as I pushed. By the thirtieth load I was so exhausted, and the heavy wheelbarrow was wobbling so much, he was guiding it in front of me all the way down the length of the barn aisle. This is a side of the notoriously hot-tempered, profane D that not everyone sees: as gentle and kind as his father Allen.
At last we were done. It was pitch dark and sleeting. The animals were bawling to come in for the night.
“Thank you so much. I could never have done all this without you,” I said, leaning tiredly against a stall wall. “I have a check in the car.”
“I ain’t takin’ your money,” he snarled, and left.
Such a good, kind friend.
Today it is snowing and I drive to New Hampshire to pick up Lucy at school. Nine hours round-trip, and we won’t be back until almost 11 PM, but what a reward to have my girl home.
One more tough week to go and I’ll have a day off, with nothing horribly daunting hanging over me (from a childhood of Roadrunner cartoons I often picture worrisome events as anvils falling from the sky).
I can’t wait.