Biff America: Killing yourself over weed
Vail, CO Colorado
There was a time – before cell phones and free long distance – when an out-of-state phone call meant something. So when my mother called me in the early morning I knew something was up.
“Your father is threatening to kill himself again.” She said.
“When?” I asked.
“Oh, he isn’t in a huge hurry. I think we have a few weeks.”
I asked his intended method, my mother said simply, “chain saw.”
Before we hung up I told her that I would be able to come home for a short visit early the next week thus preventing my dad from making good his threat.
My father had a quadruple by-pass at the age of 76. Prior to that, he could not walk to the end of the driveway without resting. His operation was a success but with his new found energy he started getting himself in trouble.
It began with him trying to mow the lawn with a heavy push machine. He got dizzy, fainted and the still-running mower coasted down the driveway, nearly taking out the paper boy. He later got stuck on a ladder trying to clean the gutters and had to wait for my mum to get home from shopping to help him down.
My dad would decide that something needed to get done around his house. He was so frugal/cheap he refused to pay anyone to do it. My five siblings all lived nearby but they all had jobs and families of their own and often couldn’t find the time to do the job as quickly as my old man wanted it done.
“Suicide” became the code word between my mother and me for jobs my dad was threatening to do himself. His most recent obsession was to clear the lot that abutted his back yard. The lot itself was only about 200 square feet but it was choked with small trees, scrub oak and briars.
At the time I had a perfect storm of availability: I was single, only worked weekends, and People Express flew from Denver to Boston. If you didn’t mind flying red eye, the fare was only $149.99 round trip.
I arrived home mid day on Monday in late March. My mother pretended to be surprised by my visit but added that since I was home, perhaps I could do some chores around the house that my father wanted done. My old man allowed that if I wanted to I could do the work but he didn’t mind doing it himself.
My Dad had a chain saw and all the tools I needed and the job took less than a day. When I was done the lot was almost cleared and I had a slash pile to burn as big as a Cadillac.
The reason I said “almost cleared” was because in the middle of the lot I found this huge bush that stood over eight feet tall. It looked like a sunflower or wisteria or some other flowering plant but it being winter, there were no blossoms. I decided to leave it for fear of cutting something pretty.
I walked my parents out to the lot at the end of the day and asked what they thought the bush was. My dad called it a weed but my mum thought otherwise. We decided to leave it until spring.
I flew back to Colorado to finish the ski season with plans to return in early May to begin my summer job on Cape Cod.
I came home the night before Mother’s Day. The first thing I noticed was my dad was walking with a cane due to a sprained ankle. The next question I asked was if the plant ever bloomed in the back yard. My mother said she thought it did and I should check it out the next morning before we left for church.
The sun had barely risen when I got up and looked out the picture window to the lot behind out house. Sure enough, the bush looked like a Christmas tree. There were vivid red, blue and purple blossoms all over it. It was like nothing I had ever seen before – it was spectacular.
After making some coffee, I walked out to the back yard to get a closer look at the amazing flowering bush. When I got a few feet away I could tell that the bush (actually a weed) had been spray painted.
My mother was sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea when I came in laughing.
“Dad could have killed himself painting those top branches of that weed.” I said.
My mother told me that she held the ladder but they were both laughing so hard my dad missed the last step and sprained his ankle. She added, “A hurt foot is a small price to pay to show our son how happy we are to have him home.”
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or from http://www.webersbooks.com