As strange as it seems, I recently realized I’m slowly but surely becoming my father. I can remember as a young man of sixteen moving sprinkler pipe on the farm. We had 120 acres and it was all under hand line irrigation. For those not familiar with McDowell pipe, it’s comparatively easy to move as long as the ground is level. However, if the pipe is lying in a swale, it doesn’t drain worth a hoot. Let me tell you, it’s a real back breaker to lift a forty foot stick of four inch pipe that is chock-full of water and mud.
In my youthful arrogance I used to figure I was tough enough to bull my way through anything, including the minor inconvenience of picking up and walking off with a couple hundred pounds of pipe and irrigation water. I prided myself of the manly image I projected as I power lifted, the aluminum pipe bowing in the center as I straightened, both ends still lying on the ground as the water gushed out. As soon as the ends would start to clear the ground, I’d stride across the field, water flying from both ends as the pipe bounced up and down in rhythm with my oh-so-manly steps.
In contrast, I remember Dad taking hundreds of totally unnecessary steps as he’d walk along pulling the pipe apart so the water could drain out. He’d then have to retrace his steps so he could move the now much lighter pipe. All the while he was doing this, I surged on down the field, finishing my assigned lines in a fraction of the time it took him to move his line of pipe. I was young and indestructible, while he was plodding and, well, old.
My perspective changed dramatically one day this week when on a day with temperatures pushing into the upper nineties, I found myself walking along my line, pulling the pipe apart so they could drain before picking them up and moving them across the pasture. My striding pace has slowed to an amble, and my six pack abs have softened into something more resembling the Pillsbury Doughboy’s paunch. My joints creak, and when I overdo it they ache long into the night. I did some quick mental math, and to my chagrin I discovered that I’m the same age my dad was when I so arrogantly labeled him as old.
I guess it’s true, what goes around, comes around. He and my mother have been gone for many years now. In my mind’s eye I can picture them in heaven, with their young and indestructible bodies. I imagine Dad’s looking down with a small smile curving his lips, and I’m pretty sure he’s thinking, “Man, you’ve gotten old!”
Until next time, be careful of the judgments you make …