I sincerely hope that you have someone in your life who makes you laugh out loud at least once a day. For me, that someone is Tom, the hubby. Tom has many fine qualities, but his most endearing has to be his ability to find humor in nearly every situation, even when the laugh ends up being at his expense. In the more than 10,230 days we’ve been married, it’s no exaggeration to say he’s made me laugh audibly at least 10,000 of them. Yesterday was no exception.

Late yesterday afternoon, I was working in my home office with the windows open. It was a gorgeous spring day, so it came as no surprise that Tom headed straight to the bedroom when he got home from work to swap his dress slacks and pinpoint Oxford for his “play” clothes. On his way back down the hall, he stuck his head in the office and said, “I’m going outside to mow.” Because I was distracted with my own project, I heard the words, but I didn’t absorb their meaning. At most, I managed a grunt in response.

A few minutes later, when I heard Tom ratting around down in the basement and heard the mower start, the neurons in my brain finally fired, and all I could think was, “Oh, crap. I hope he doesn’t try to mow behind the willows.”

We live on just a little over an acre– most of which is high and dry–but the very back of our lot includes a swale that gets downright swampy after a really heavy rain or rapid snow melt. Years ago, we planted a bunch of willows in and around the low spot thinking the water-loving trees would soak up the excess moisture and hide the muddy mess from the rest of the yard during the soggy seasons. It was an un-characteristically brilliant bit of landscaping. The willows have done exactly what we hoped they would do, which means there are truly very few times when the ground is so soggy you can’t maneuver through the swale on foot or on the mower. But still…there are times…

As I mentioned, yesterday afternoon was perfect. Perfect temperature. Perfect blue sky. Perfect southernly breeze. However, the day hadn’t started out that way. The morning had been grey and dreary. More than two inches of rain had fallen overnight onto ground that was already struggling to absorb the rainwater from previous storms. For the last several weeks, walking on the golf course has been like walking on a sponge. Even our yard–which normally drains really well–is squishy in spots where it normally isn’t squishy. Under the circumstances, I wasn’t surprised when I could see standing water under the willows from clear up on the back porch. Surely, Tom wouldn’t take the mower down into that mess, I thought to myself. Surely.

I heard Tom engage the mower blade and head out into the yard. Without giving his activity another thought, I turned my attention back to the computer and began scanning the screen to see where I’d left off. I had just managed to recapture my train of thought when…WEEEEEE, waaaaaaa, WEEEEEEE, waaaaaa, WEE WEEEEE, Waaaaaaa…I froze…WEEEE, waaaa, WEEEEEEEE, waaaaaa…you have got to be shitting me…I got up from my chair and walked over to the window…WEEEEEEE, waaaaaaa, WEEEEEEE, waaaaaa, WEEEEEEE…oh, for the love of …sure enough, Tom and the mower were in the middle of bog, the mower buried up to its back axle in slime…WEEEEEE, waaaaaaa, WEEEEEEE, waaaaaaaaa…Tom was trying to rock the mower out of the mud much like you would rock a car out of deep snow…WEEEEEE, waaaaaa, WEEEEEE…I stood there and watched…WEEEEE, waaaaaaa, WEEEEE, waaaaaaa. I repeat, you have got to be shitting me.

After a few minutes, Tom finally grasped the futility of the situation and shut the mower off. He stepped down off the deck of the mower and into the mud, picking his way gingerly through the willows to the near side of the swale and firmer ground. Oh, and did I mention he was wearing baloney-slice-slick flip-flops? Once on solid soil, he stomped back up toward the house–I guarantee you, cussing all the way–so I returned to my desk. I knew what was coming.

“mary?…MARY!”

“Yes?”

“Can you help me?”

Here’s where things get dicey. We live in a neighborhood of large lot homes. Around here, manhood is measured not by the size of a man’s kick-stand, but by the size of his lawn mower. Mower attachments–seed spreaders, aerators, tillers, snow plows–all earn a guy bonus points. I’m not joking. Tom put a good size riding mower on lay-away two days after we signed the contract to have the house built, weeks before the builder even had a chance to start scratching around in the dirt. But mower fever didn’t stop there. A few years after we moved in, Tom succumbed  to mower envy and bought (cue the heavenly music) The Grasshopper, a professional zero-turn radius mower with a 60-inch deck. We’re talking a manly mower here. He attempted to whitewash the whole business by claiming he’d bought it for our son to use as a way of earning some money, and, admittedly B-man did earn much of his mad money and a good chunk of his college tuition running a rather lucrative mowing business while he was in high school and college, but that’s beside the point.

Tom wanted that mower. He loves that mower. He loves to mow. And, in his defense, I understand why. Tom works in a profession where most projects morph into different projects before they can be completed. He rarely gets to enjoy the satisfaction of seeing a project through to the finish line. With mowing, he gets to complete a project in 45 minutes or less. The grass is long. He gets on the mower and runs it around the yard. The grass is short. The job is done. Ahhhh.

But, again, that’s all beside the point. The point is I can’t drive the dang thing. There’s no steering wheel or anything remotely similar to a steering wheel and/or a shifter to get it to move forward, go in reverse, or turn in the direction you want to go. What it does have is two inverted L-shaped levers, one on either side of the driver’s seat, that you push and pull and yoink around in various combinations to get the mower to move in the direction you want it to go. The two front wheels spin spastically in all directions, and the back tires are so wide you can’t possibly keep them from running over flower beds or getting caught in the neighbors fence. And here was Tom, standing at the top of the stairs, asking if I could help him. Sheezzz. The possibilities weren’t good. The way I figured it, my options were either to stand in the muck and push while Tom splattered me with mud or to get on the mower and try to get it to do what I needed it to do without leaving Tom face down in the gunk or, worse, under the mower. Decisions, decisions.

I followed Tom downstairs and donned a pair of B-man’s huge rubber boots. Tom shoved his bare feet into an equally oversized pair, and we began our trek to the back of the yard, clomping along like a couple of goobers. As we walked, Tom kept looking at me like he expected me to say something, but what was there to say? There was no need to state the obvious.

The decision as to which role I would play in the recovery mission was easy once we reached the mower. The mud stunk. There was NO way I was going to end up covered in that stuff, so I climbed on the mower, and Tom gave me a review lesson on operating the mower while I kept thinking, “Holy crap. I’m going to kill him. I’m going to kill him. Holy crap.” After several anxious minutes of cussing and grunting and pushing and cussing some more, the mower was out, the newly formed ruts in the yard were rapidly filling with water, and we were on our way back up to the house. This time, when Tom looked in my direction, waiting for me to say something, I couldn’t help but smile.

“What?!” he almost yelled.

“What do you mean, ‘What?'” I started snickering. We’ve been married 28 years. He knew what I was thinking. It started with a “dumb” and ended with an “ass.” We kicked off our muddy boots at the edge of the patio. He grabbed the hose and began blowing the mud off the boots as I climbed the stairs, laughing harder with each step. But the time I reached the top step, I was gasping for air. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t laughing then. I couldn’t have heard him over my own guffaws even if he was, but, in typical Tom-fashion, he’s laughing and making snarky comments about the whole escapade now. As I said, it’s a very endearing quality.

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