Boy to Man Benchmarks

I recently attained the age of 72. I say attained because turning implies some semblance of control. Not that I have totally lost control of the muscles required for turning, but there is most certainly a reason I no longer attempt skate-boarding.

Some might say I have reached 72. Considering the inference that reaching includes grasping and my ability to grasp anything as fleeting as age,…well…let’s just say I celebrated my seventy-second completed year of life.

Often during such annual celebrations, I am asked to recall memorable moments from years gone by. Not so this year. No one actually asked me to reminisce about my maturating process over the past 72 years. Most likely because no one actually considers that I have done all that much maturing. As a boy, I couldn’t wait to “grow up.” My dad had that same sentiment, but I think he had a totally different context to his all too frequent question; “Son, will you ever grow up?”

I have a very sneaky alter ego which often lures me to severe regressions in age. Boys desire to become men. Men realize there is always a boy tempting them to think and act much younger. At 72, thinking young is diametrically opposed to attempting to accomplish youthful acts…and it’s not just my alter ego which is frequently bruised. I believe the major difference between boys and men, with regard to bruising, is that boys consider such skin discoloration as some sort of machismo validation. Men, on the other hand, are only embarrassed to tell how they unwittingly collided with some solid object. For me, that object is often the earth while playing a boys game.

Another aspect of the variance between boys and men is sex. Research suggests that boys reach their peak of sexual interest between 10 and 20…men hit their peak about 10:20 in the evening. As a boy, I never contemplated my parents in a sexual situation, yet I suspect my parents wondered if they should have contemplated more thoroughly before one particular sexual situation. Don’t misunderstand me. I never heard either of my parents directly disparage my birth. Of course, they did often mitigate my actions with consideration that I was born on Halloween.

One last thought that passed through my mind during the day of my birth celebration: I distinctly remember wearing “hand-me-down” clothing from my cousin. Frankie lived in Texas As far as clothing styles, Texans were far ahead of Michiganders. Frankie’s growth spurts were ahead of mine so his outgrown clothing became my avant-garde supply chain. Oh, boy, when he sent me khakis with a buckle in the back, I was instantly in the totally hip group. Unfortunately, regardless of what pants I wore, being a nerdy pip-squeak soon exiled me from hip-cat clique. Ah, but I did get to wear clothing that fit my desired personality.

Contrary to my youthful desires to wear clothing that fit my personality, as a man I just hope the clothes in my closet today will fit next year. No longer do I have pants with a stylish buckle in the back. Lately, bucking my belt in the front is beckoning a style change. I don’t know what brand of soap Sue uses, but my pants are tightening up faster than shrink-wrap in the desert.

Aging from boy to man is a gradual process, yet it does have fun benchmarks to revisit.

Down on the Farm

I truly enjoy going down on the farm. Down…as in southward. Farm…as in a great expanse of land. Such a place is where my brother, Bob, lives in Alabama.

The norm for a visit to the farm is to work on special projects with my brother. This trip he mentioned needing help “getting a medallion” from the ceiling of an abandoned and dilapidated, rather ancient house on the farm’s property.

Ceiling? Medallion? Old farm house? I suggested that it was somewhat common to use embossed tin for ceiling decoration. We gathered tools and headed for the neglected and decaying building.

Turns out the “medallion” was cast iron, not tin. Taking into account it was directly below the chimney, I deduced it was a wood burning stove’s fire-stop, heat shield, escutcheon. I can’t pronounce escutcheon, so I referred to it as a flashing.   Also flashing through my mind was the total collapse of the chimney if we removed it.  A little excavation of some loose bricks relieved my fear of that possibility

However, relieving the flashing from the ceiling was most assuredly not going to be as easy as pounding out some loose bricks. The flashing was anchored to 8-inch square beams with 4, three-quarter inch thick bolts. Years of rusting served to fuse the nuts to the bolts.

Bob and I decided the only viable solution was to hacksaw the bolts. I could reach the bolts with a hack saw. I’m 6’4″. Bob closer to 4’6. Well, maybe not that short, but he doesn’t have to duck under the shower enclosure like I do—not that I actually know this, but he doesn’t have the scalp scabs like I do. Anyway, while I hack-sawed deeply into a bolt on my side of the flashing, he used his saw blade to scrape rust off a bolt on his side.

Even though I was tall enough to effectively reach to get the saw blade square on the target bolt, my arms protested. A ladder was retrieved from the truck. I think I mentioned decaying building which would include flooring. It proved quit a challenge to keep the ladder steady and upright.

“Don’t worry, brother.” Bob exclaimed, leaning against me and the ladder. “I’ll keep the ladder steady so you won’t fall.”

He did an excellent job of supporting my safety while I labored on the teetering ladder. I managed to finish severing both bolts on my side. Then I shifted to finish off the bolt my brother had polished with his hacksaw.

Well, In making the last stroke against that bolt bolt, I broke the blade. I accepted the saw Bob had been using and vigorously attacked the final bolt. Drat, I snapped another blade. Bob knew he’d brought three blades but couldn’t find the last one. I observed it in the rubble beneath the ladder.

I got off the ladder and moved it out of the way to retrieve the blade. Without a blade in either saw, I advised my brother…now directly across the chasm of collapsed flooring beneath the chimney…that I was going to use the flashing as leverage to bend and re-bend the weakened bolt in order to finally free the flashing from the ceiling beams.

I alerted Bob. “When this breaks free, it’s hard tellin’ what, and who, will go where.”

Prophetically, when the final bolt succumbed to my final thrust forward, my momentum stumbled me into the abyss between the floor joists. I could hear my brother’s gasp of, “Oh, oh, no, be careful…as if I had much control of being anything other than a flailing resemblance of a Do Do’s first flight.

When the dust cleared, my brother became visible. Though he did look concerned, it was obvious he had made no attempt to curtail my fall. So, I delved sarcastically into why. “I thought you were watching out for my safety?”

“Ahhhh, no. I was busy putting a new blade in the saw.”

And that’s the way it often is down on the farm, where brothers labor together, accomplish a little and laugh a lot.