Al says his father prevented such gruesome infestations in their yard down South by carefully hosing down each tree or shrub and then dusting them all with pesticide he'd tied into an old sock, slowly walking among them banging the Sock of Death in one hand against the palm of the other. His father's still alive at 92, and his mother too.
I imagine in their new married life, forgetting their human vulnerability didn't come so easily to either of them.
I watched Al prepare for the spraying. Watched his careful, calm approach -- the way he measures once, twice, sometimes three times to get things right. Al's approach to projects has both dazzled me and driven me to distraction since I've known him. He's a cautious planner-ahead, deliberating over each step and moving slowly, gracefully, (agonizingly), through a task to its perfect end. He took a metal measuring cup, a disposable plastic cup and a pen, and using the measuring cup filled with water, he measured and marked from 1 to 9 ounces up the side of the plastic cup, so he'd have a cup he could use to mix the right amount of pesticide into the water in the sprayer. He'd stood for a moment in the kitchen, thinking, before he started.
I'm the opposite - I start in the middle, without reading directions, without measuring. I'm impatient and easily frustrated - done with a task in my mind and long gone, off to the next one often before I've started the first. I imagine my approach looks crazy and reckless to him, and perhaps makes him a little crazy, as well. But I told him Saturday, as I watched his step-by-cautious-step work to kill those lousy beetles, "I love the way you do things." (Because I do, when I think about it.) He looked up from his measuring and marking with a puzzled smile, "What do you mean?"
"I mean how carefully and thoughtfully you go through your process, so you get it right. You know how I am - I'm more of a badda bing, badda bang, badda boom and we're done kinda person. The planning and tedious details make me nuts. I learn a lot by watching you."
"Yeah. But there are benefits to your way, too. You get a lot of stuff done."
He went quietly about his work.
Next morning we drove out dusty country roads to breakfast, remarking on the bug-eaten landscape as we passed, Bean behind us in her seat, listening.
"My dad wasn't a patient project guy," Al said, seemingly out of the blue.
"No? But he was a tradesman - he couldn't afford to do a bad job, could he?"
"He did a good job. He did things almost innately, though, he'd done it all so many times it was second nature to him. But if you worked with him, he was impatient and annoyed if you had to think about things."
"Oh. What about your Mom?"
"She was more like me. Slow, patient, laid-back."
"That's where you got it."
"There are benefits to both ways, as you've said."