The last few days have been pretty rough for the body. Not only is there a lack of recovery time when playing with the boy1, but the effort put into pushing the Mazda a few days ago has resulted in a rather sore lower back. This isn't quite at hernia levels of pain, but the discomfort is letting me know that I'll need to be a little careful over the coming days. As one would expect, the boy has no concept of long-lasting pain and believes I'm ready for another round of abuse after just a couple of minutes on the sofa.
A common theme in many of my posts involves my current state of health, be it a lack of sleep, a spate of anxiety, allergies, or simply the process of ageing. While I understand that this body is no longer the same as it was 20 years ago, it's hard to let go of the idea that if I need to do a thing, then I will do that thing. Pushing the car to the nearby gas station was a necessity, so I did it. Lifting and carrying the boy when we're in crowded places or areas where food is in the open is a necessity, so I do it. Cleaning the house is a necessity — and therapeutic —, so I will regularly do so. The question I often ponder is when this sort of reckless decision-making will not be possible. At what point will I need to weigh the benefits of doing something myself because "it must be done" with asking someone for help?
There is grey in my hair. There are lines on my face. There are aches in my joints2. The time for reality to set in is not that far away … so I'm told.
Both of my grandfathers were fiercely independent to their last breath. They would work in their sheds, taking pieces of lumber or a fallen branch, and creating something that did not exist earlier that day. It might be an intricately carved relief. Perhaps it would be a music box for a granddaughter. Sometimes it would be just something they needed in the kitchen to solve a problem3 When they asked someone to "come help them in the shed", it wasn't because they needed help4. Interestingly, none of my uncles were like this. Most seemed to complain about some sort of pain, then delegate physical tasks to their kids as soon as it was feasible. From the standard "Go fetch me a beer" to "Go shovel the snow from the driveway" to "Grab that sledge hammer and break up the old concrete foundation"5. The contrast between the generations was night and day, and it was primarily this reason that I made the decision before leaving high school that I would rather emulate my grandfathers than parents, uncles, or aunts6.
The boy is still two years old, so cannot do much in terms of physical labour. As he gets older, I'll certainly include him in the myriad of tasks that are generally handed down from father to son. He'll learn how to wash the car and trim the lawn. He'll get to experience the joys of cleaning drainage, unclogging toilets, and replacing plumbing. He might even get to help with some emergency repairs in the middle of bad weather7. One of the things that I hope to impress upon him, though, is the importance of getting things done. We can all recognize that something is important and should be done sooner rather than later, but it can be genuinely hard to avoid procrastinating or giving up altogether. So while my body might be showing signs of its age and reminding me with greater alacrity8 that it might be time to slow down just a little bit, I plan on being an active and independent problem solver for as long as possible. There's no shame in asking for help, just as there's also no shame in doing something unaided.
I generally view sitting at the work desk and doing day-job tasks as "rest" now ….
Not many, mind you. My ankles and knees do protest more than any other part of the body, though.
My mother's father once created a wooden spoon with a notch that could be used to guide cooking oil into a collection tin. To this day I've never seen any kitchen tool like it.
My grandfather could soliloquy like a tenured professor. His idea of help was saying something like "Hand me that mitre saw back there" while deftly measuring where a piece of wood needed to be cut and talking about why the Canadian government at the time was "ruining the country". It's probably a good thing he can't see what the current clowns in Ottawa have gotten up to.
I did all of these things. There's nothing like four solid days of working a sledge hammer to seriously rough-up a person's hands.
The criteria that went into the decision were much more complex than this, of course, and (most of) the adults around me were not lazy slave drivers. They had a work ethic as well. I just very much preferred how my grandfathers approached a problem.
I remember climbing onto the roof of a house in the middle of a rainstorm to help cover a hole just enough so that the rain wouldn't get in the house. Afterwards I was called on to climb onto the roof again and learn how to strip shingles, replace water-damaged panelling, then re-shingle … all in a 12-hour period between storms.
I understand that alacrity is generally used to describe positive and cheerful verbs. I just wanted to use the word.