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It wasn’t that I didn’t want to mow the lawn that late summer afternoon when I was 13.
Well, OK. I actually didn’t want to mow the lawn. But I was willing to do it. It was my job in the family, and had been since my big brother Bob graduated from high school. I was used to pushing our hand-powered mower up and down the gentle slope of our lawn under the hot summer sun. Even though I didn’t actually like it.
So when Dad asked me to mow the lawn a couple of days early that week, I told him I would without even thinking about it. I mean, it was summer. What else was I going to do?
Then George called.
“Hey, you want to go to Lagoon?” he asked, referring to a nearby amusement park, with its white wooden roller coaster, its Dodge ’Em Cars and its Space Scrambler.
“It’s Postal Employee Day and we have an extra ticket,” George continued. “Dad said I could bring a friend as long as we let Patty tag along with us.”
Putting up with George’s kid sister would be worth it if we could take a plunge in the park’s huge swimming pool, filled with what radio commercials claimed was “water fit to drink” — which I’m pretty sure was code for “we’re not going to go to all the trouble and expense of chlorinating the pool, so swim in it — and drink it — at your own risk.”
Mom was unaware of Dad’s request that I mow the lawn that day, and I didn’t mention it to her when I asked if I could go. Why should I? It was Thursday, and I usually mowed the lawn on Saturday. I could mow it on Friday and still be early. I was sure Dad would be OK with that.
I was wrong. When I came home later that evening, Dad was on his knees, still wearing his suit pants and white shirt, edging the lawn with our hand trimmer. Even in the darkness I could tell that he had mowed the lawn himself — partly because of that just-mowed smell, and partly because my 58-year-old father’s shirt was soaked with sweat.
“Dad, I was going to mow tomorrow,” I said, defensively.
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