I was furiously pacing the floor when Charlie arrived at my house late yesterday evening armed with all things to trim and cut shrubbery. I have my own yard care arsenal under the house as well that dad bought me when I moved into this house and I brought them out reluctantly. It was a surprise visit. I watched warily as he unloaded implement after implement from the trunk of his Chevrolet and sat them in the front yard. He was just laughing and carrying on -- making jokes and being his usual acerbic self. I was a little apprehensive at first – worried he would have to do all the work and I would have to sit on the sidelines. I was so worried I would have an anxiety attack from our exertions. These are the kind of fears I am going to have to overcome to live a “normal” life. I keep having to tell myself that no one ever died from having an anxiety attack. I would just have to quit and come inside to lie down. This, too, would pass.
“Let’s get your shrubbery shaped up,” Charlie said handing me a plastic sack of diet Cokes as a treat as is his usual custom these days. “You’re going have the nicest yard on the block. I want to outdo those neighbors across the street.”
“Well, they just whacked down their shrubbery to the nub!” I replied with an air of astonishment. “They were using chainsaws!”
“We won’t go quite so far,” Charlie replied laughing with raised eyebrows.
Charlie did this out of the goodness of his heart. He is such a kind hearted and good soul. He could have spent his time doing a hundred other things he liked on his Saturday evening. Instead, he spent his Saturday evening doing a tedious and dirty job for his best friend’s son. He knows I have trouble motivating myself to do such things and his help was the one trick that got me out of the house and working. We worked for hours trimming shrubs, pulling weeds, and cutting down fledgling pecan trees. It was dark as we finished and sat in my den both sweaty and tired watching our British comedies. There was a huge pile of debris and cuttings up by the road by the time we quit. We laughed jovially at Mr. Humphries antics on Are You Being Served? – our favorite character as we cooled off. Charlie then drove to Arby’s to get us both the #19 special, a turkey sandwich with Italian dressing, for which we are both obsessed with these days.
As we sat in my den eating our meal, Charlie talked of his son, Randall, who is retarded and autistic. Randall is a year older than me and the doctors said years ago that he would never live this long. Charlie really opened up to me about his problems with Horsefly, his pet word for Randall, which is uncharacteristic of him. Charlie’s not one to burden you with his problems. Charlie could easily put Horsefly in a group home, but dad says you would have to kill him first.
“He keeps choking when he eats,” Charlie said. “It worries the shit out of me. This is a new development.”
“Is he still sleeping in the day and staying up all night?” I asked.
“Oh, hell yes,” Charlie said laughing. “He is just like his father. We don’t sleep. We are an odd bunch.”
“I am a lot like Horsefly,” I told Charlie empathetically. “I can be so obsessive compulsive. I can understand his strange thought processes.”
“You brought him out of his shell as a child,” Charlie told me gladly. “And I will never forget it. You could set off dynamite next to his head as a child and he wouldn’t even flinch. You would actually play with him and he would just laugh and laugh. I am forever in your debt. He would have never learned to talk and interact without you.”
“Is Horsefly still bowling and going to the movies?” I then asked Charlie.
“Oh yes,” Charlie replied as he wiped more sweat from his bald head and brow. “You know we can’t disrupt our routines. The same routines we’ve had for years. He will bowl so fast he is a sweaty mess afterwards and he will watch the worst movies in the theater.”
Charlie then got up to go turn down my air conditioning telling me my father could afford it. I laughed and smiled. “Shit! It’s hot in here!” he said. This, of course, made me freezing cold.
Dad soon arrived with my medications later in the evening. He was in a super duper mood – so excited about our exertions being so keen on yard care. I watched from the window in my computer room as dad walked around my yard looking at what Charlie and I had accomplished. I felt this extreme feeling of pride. Nothing makes my father happier than to see something like this.
“Goddamn, that looks good,” dad said of my yard as he walked up my steps to come inside. “Charlie said he was going to get you up and working and he did.”
I stood at the door and welcomed him in as Maggie went completely bonkers at Poppa being here.
“I had to take lots of breaks, though,” I told him. “You know me and my heart rate. I have to be careful about those anxiety attacks. There were a few times I felt shaky and Charlie brought me water and told me to sit on the front steps.”
“Charlie can work like a dog,” dad told me smiling. “He can outdo me. You both did good. You’re doing better, son. Yard work is good for the soul.”
Before bed, I turned on all my outside lights and stood out in the yard marveling at what we had accomplished. It did look so good and I was so proud.
Dad then made an assessment of the inside of my house for cleaning. I had cleaned the other day, but we are both determined to get things cleaned up better and Charlie’s help was just the impetus we needed. I sometimes get down and out that my house is not as clean as mom and dad’s, but then I remind myself that mom and dad have a full time housecleaner in Helen as well.
“The only thing I really see you need to do is mop and clean all your hardwood floors,” dad told me of his assessment. “And get up all of Maggie’s dog hair. The couch needs vacuuming and your tub and stovetop need scrubbing as well.”
I made a mental list and will get started today. Sometimes, I just need help with things like this – help to just get started and motivated. I can be kind of oblivious at times about such things being a single guy without a lot of house guests. To be honest, I just haven’t felt like doing this stuff for months and now feel able. That extra medication is doing the trick as far as my crippling anxiety is concerned. It is a new beginning I think and I am excited about it all. The chaos that was my mental illness addled life for months is starting to get organized.