Monday, July 28, 2008

There Are Benefits to Both

I discovered late in the day Friday that a large portion of the one-year-old landscaping in our back yard had been devoured by a nasty thundering herd of Japanese beetles, literally overnight. In fact the roadsides of our entire little village have been ravaged by these despicable creatures since Bean and I were out and about last Thursday, the scenic, pastoral views bluntly interrupted at random intervals by the sad brown , lacy skeletons of that which was lush and green 5 days ago - the vast prairie pocked now with dry, dead reminders of the human vulnerability we can so easily forget these days. Al spent his Saturday on a ladder with a 2 gallon grey sprayer tank over one shoulder and his iPod wire creeping up and over the other, into his ears. I watched him, feeling helpless, duped and dumb as he painstakingly swathed trees and shrubs in a fine, deadly mist to fend off these tiny vermin who'd crept in the back door while I'd kept careful vigil over the front.

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."


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  1. Hubs says the same thing about his dad, he knew lots of stuff but didn't have much patience to teach others. Am so glad my hubs wants to reverse that trend with our children. I believe my 4 year olds already understand screw drivers and hammers better than me.

  2. Sounds a lot like us...hubby is Ready aim, aim, aim ,aim, aiiiimmmmm, (long thoughtful, deliberate, critical, contemplative, etc.) with me screaming in my head, "Will you just GO already?"

    Me, more of a Ready, FIRE...oh, was there another step? Aim? Hmmm... Perhaps I could learn something from you. =)

  3. My dad is perhaps the most impatient man in the world. My husband is possibly THE MOST PATIENT MAN ever. There are reasons why I married him!
    I love that image of Al's dad, walking through the trees - beautifully written!

  4. You and Al sound a lot like Bob and I. He does things the right way, you know- measure twice, cut once. I throw things together. On the other hand - I'm more patient and laid back in day to day life than he is.

  5. That whole opposites attract thing. Kent and I are like that too. Except backward.

  6. Ooh...we're like twins! :) Loved this post - I don't particularly remember my dad being impatient, but then again, I don't have a lot of memories of him before he died. I DO know that my mom and my husband are both extremely patient, whereas I am not. Interesting, huh?

  7. Sounds so much like us. I make lists, plan and am so careful about how things get done. Hubby is get it done now and worry later. Love it, but it drives me crazy sometimes.

  8. The Japanese Beetles take over our neighborhood every year at this time, too. Everyone here hangs the very unattractive but very effective "beetle bags", which are bags with bait that very quickly fill up with beetles who are unable to climb back out. Blech! I think I'd prefer the spraying- might have to look into that.

  9. About the Japanese beetle problem, a neighbor I knew swore by an organic concoction that I mixed up and tried too--and it really worked!

    I have the "recipe" somewhere--I remember it had detergent in it, to make it stick to the leaves, and cayenne pepper. I used it on raspberries, that of course you can't spray.


  10. That is beautiful. Makes me appreciate my hubby just that much more...because we are polar opposites when it comes to almost everything. But there are advantages. Definitely. :)

    I just finished reading your "How I met..." series and I was enthralled. Love is such a gift from God.

  11. That is my husband and me too!!

    Except sometimes I drive him crazy. He especially hates it when (at least 3 times a week) I say, "Honey, I've got a brilliant idea!"

    Mary, wife to the wonderful John

  12. Sweet moment. So much said in a few words. I love the way you captured this slice of a great relationship.

  13. I was thinking about the opposite attracts thing the other day between Chuck and I-

    Its nice that you two compliment each other so well

  14. That whole post sounds so much like my husband and I...I married a careful, methodical engineer, while I'm definitely a make-it-up-as-you-go, get-it-done-now kind of person. Great writing!

  15. Reading this makes me feel like I'm a fly on the wall.

    Great post, Megan.

  16. Excellent writing! I can't wait for my husband to get home from work...what a great moment between the two of you.

  17. how sweet! what neat, open communication you two have! :)

  18. I love your style, Ma'am. I love that you can go from OHMYGRANNY funny to really sentimental without being sappy. It's just perfectly you.

  19. My husband is like your husband and when I wrote a tribute to him on our anniversary I said that I appreciate the way he does things b/c when it is done it is done right. Me,on the other hand, I'm like you. Sometimes he has to come behind me and fix my mess and sometimes I have to push him forward to even dare to try. I love that we need eachother in marriage and I enjoyed your post a lot. Blessings.