One of the few manly things I used to be able to do was mow lawns. In fact, combined with my ability to cut hedges—with a hedge trimmer!—you could even say that “general landscaping” was an area of mild expertise. (One time I accidentally cut the extension cord I was using for the hedge trimmer with the hedge trimmer, nearly shutting off the power grid of our town.)
Our first place of residence when we were married was in a condo development in NJ, so I was not allowed to mow the grass there and instead had to pay for that service, and was therefore unable to prove that I was a good husband. I did, however, take the trash out a few times, and one of those times it was really, really cold outside.
Then we moved to Arizona and I discovered that I would not need to mow the rocks. Still, we had a plot of land of our own that included some plant life, and I was adamant that it would be my responsibility to maintain that land, like a good man would.
I toiled in the fields for many a fort night, and only came to rest when the sun would set and an honest day’s work was complete. Just kidding—I tried to pull weeds out of the rocks for twenty minutes one Saturday before giving up and buying weed killer that didn’t really work.
Also, back east I used to rely on a natural system whereby water would fall from the sky, but I soon realized that our plant life here relied heavily on an underground water disbursement system that seemed to be more “plumbing” than “landscaping,” and I am not good at plumbing. (Acceptable, considering my dad was a plumber-pipefitter for 35 years.) I came to know this system firsthand when, while attempting to plant a tree, I broke it in half with a shovel.
It was then I began to consider the possibility of hiring a person better at landscaping than even myself. In my travels I located a business card for a man named Vincente. Swallowing my pride, I called him and asked him if he could come to our house. He was like, “Okay. Today?” I was like, “Oh no, I mean, whenever.” He was there in 20 minutes.
It was love at first sight. I shook his hand (like a man), discovering that his hand was somewhat warped … from all the landscaping. I envied that. I didn’t even have to tell him what to do—I would just point at stuff and he would know. Watching him work—I watch him work from inside our air conditioned home, through the curtains so he can’t see me—was like watching a magician. Things it takes me the entire afternoon to do take him five minutes. He even knows how to use the blower thingee the right way, to where it actually gathers the debris instead of just blowing it to different spots. He also fixed our drip system, which apparently operates from a panel on the side of our home that I thought was owned by the city and that I wasn’t allowed to touch.
Vincente came over last weekend for some fall maintenance. He did such an amazing job, as always. I looked out to our backyard with pride at the end of the day, as if I had done the work myself. In a way I did. I found Vincente.
Not being able to landscape has left me with few ways to prove that I am a man and adequate husband. I still take the trash out though, and the recycling, even when it’s really hot. Hey, somebody’s gotta do it.
Note: This column appears in the 9/27 issue of The Glendale Star and the 9/28 issue of the Peoria Times.