Chin Up, Buttercup

Reader Contribution by Lois Hoffman
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“Chin up, buttercup,” is my good friend Steph’s favorite saying when something has you down. Lately, I’ve been heeding that saying a lot, so much in fact that I hope my chin isn’t so far up that I walk around with my nose in the air. I am overwhelmed, not snooty.

Remember last year when I wrote about passing the mowing rites to our grandson Wyatt? Well, they’re being passed back again, this time falling in my lap. We got an X-Mark zero-turn mower. I have never driven one even though it was always on Jim’s list to teach me. It just seemed that every time I wanted to learn it was too late, too early, not enough time, grass was too wet, grass was too dry – you get the drift. Nothing scared him more than the thought of me on that mower.

This year nothing scared me more than getting on that mower. I put it off as long as I could because, after all, there is a wide gap in the time frame of when you should start to mow. Some start almost before the last snowflake is gone and others never start. Finally I decided, how hard could it be? After all, it’s not like I have a dozen choices when I’m on the thing. I either go forward, backward, right or left. So I thought, but, as usual, mastering the maneuvering of this machine was just another lesson to be learned.

Wyatt jumped on it the first day, and it was like he had been doing it forever and he’s only 13. I needed a cheat sheet just to start the engine. He’s still laughing about that one. The first few times I never even engaged the blades, I just tried driving it in a straight line. I found out that, indeed, there were more directions to go than just four, it was called circles.

Suddenly, I remembered the horror stories of a friend of ours who bought a zero-turn mower for his mother a few years ago. He showed her how to use it and when he thought she was confident, he went home. Not even a half hour later she called him up and told him to take it back where he got it. In that half hour she had run it up a tree and completely demolished the dog house. The only good thing was that the dog wasn’t in the house!

Just when I thought it was hopeless, something clicked and I “got it.” In no time at all, I was zipping over the yard. The rows weren’t exactly straight, but that would come eventually. I did make the mistake of turning on a rise in the backyard and ended up scalping the lawn. When I got done, Wyatt asked me if I knew what I did. “Yep.”

He asked if I knew why it happened. “Yep.”

He said, “So, this won’t happen again?” “Nope.”

Who’s the adult here anyway?

This past year has been a lot of “Chin up, Buttercup.” With each new challenge, I learned you can either buck up or cave in. I also decided that a lot of what I don’t know is due to normal behavior patterns that many of us fall into.

A few years ago I suggested that Jim and I switch roles for one week. He should learn to cook a little and I should try my hand at some “man” stuff. There have been countless times that I have helped him hook up the trailer to the ball hitch. It’s not that big of a deal but it is still daunting to me. If he told me to crank it up, I cranked it up; if he told me to crank it down, I cranked it down; I put the cotter key in when and where he told me. When we greased the mower he told me where every grease zerk was but I didn’t pay attention for next time. So it was with a lot of tasks.

Of course it worked the opposite way too. I tried to show him my system for paying the bills. He kept nodding his head in agreement like he was paying attention but I knew he was really focused on how many outs the Yankees had in the fifth inning. I think the mention of learning to cook is what really put the brakes on this venture. He reminded me that he could cook, he did so before we were married. I reminded him that his menus consisted of hot dogs and fish sticks, and in no particular order.

All of this boils down to the fact that we are all creatures of habit. When two people are together for a while, they fall into a comfortable routine of what is his role and what is her role. There is something special when two people are close enough to have things fall into place like this, it makes for smooth sailing through everyday tasks. However, when something unforeseen like sickness or one’s passing upsets this routine, a lot of hard lessons have to be learned in a short time. It can be overwhelming. If we had it to do over I’m pretty sure we’d both be a little more willing to master tasks that we really didn’t relish. It would make it easier in the long haul.

I am determined to stay independent, but the road to get me there involves a lot of patience from dear family and friends. Thank you all for not giving up on me, especially you, Steph. Maybe one day you won’t have to sigh and say, “Chin up, Buttercup.”

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