Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I know Lucille's in Heaven because she surely didn't want to see this

When we moved into this house nearly 30 years ago, we had a back neighbor named Lucille. She was in her early 70s, just moved into town from the family farm. I don't know if the move was her idea or that of her children who desired her to not be out in the country any more, but she--and the tractor in her back yard--were our nearest neighbors, separated only by a gravel driveway, the edge of which we shared.

We looked at her; she looked at us with the two kids and the two dogs and the aging pick-up, and I don't know that either of us were pleased. Her peace had just been disturbed; we thought we'd moved next to the type of neighbor who kept a tractor in her back yard.

We maintained an uneasy, but not unfriendly, peace. We were new homeowners. Despite the fact that interim owners had remodeled, the place hadn't been lived in in years and the yard was shameful. To be quite honest, we struggled, both inside and out, but specifically, outside.

All this time, we would note Lucille watching us from her windows. Finally she could stand our incompetence no more. One Saturday afternoon, she had had enough of it. I'll never forget the slam of her screen door as she shuffled across the gravel, some tool in her hand. "What you two need," she declared, "is a grandmother."

We fell in love. She was the most wonderful neighbor, taking pity upon us time and time again. She delighted in the boys, tried to teach me to paint, both in oils and on china, but my talent was not in this quarter. Still, I enjoyed our time together. She died in 1991, just shy of her 84th birthday. We were heartbroken.

Shortly before her death, she shared her view of Heaven and Hell with me. If you went to Heaven, you'd not have to know what your children and friends were up to on earth. You wouldn't see their pains and problems. However, go to Hell, and you'd know it all.

I was reminded of this--and desperately in need of a grandmother's ideas--last Sunday morning when we struggled in the predawn light (Daylight Savings began) with a recalcitrant riding mower. In what turned out to be a freak turn of safety-switch events, not only would the battery not turn over, but the left rear wheel was locked. Therefore, we couldn't roll it onto the trailer to take it to the repair shop. We had to winch it on. Keep in mind, it was sliding, not rolling. Halfway up the tailgate of the trailer, I had to get on, so it wouldn't pop over. Then we'd have to shorten/lengthen the chain attached to the winch. We did this several times. Finally, we had it captured.

Somewhere in the middle of it, when I was wishing for a quicker solution than the two or three we were devising, I thought about Lucille. Part of me wanted her to be having a good laugh at all this, watching us from behind the blinds in the house we now own. But since I know this good woman is in Heaven, I'll just have to share it with her when I get there.

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