Saturday, July 14, 2007

Helping helps

Taking apart an unwieldy and incredibly heavy concrete fountain in 100 degree (plus humidity!) weather, scrubbing the mold off, blasting the pump with the hose to clear out the pond gunk, and moving all three sections to the other side of the yard to reassemble, doesn't seem like a fun activity to do on vacation. There were water plants which had grown together in a matted carpet of roots during the couple of years the fountain didn't have water circulating through it. They had to be separated and put into buckets which were rounded up to hold them. I don't quite know how they stayed alive unless they caught sprinkler water in addition to rain. Maybe they were intentionally watered now and then. At this point, they were too big for the fountain and had to go. Thankfully my dad's friend showed up to visit while I was working and offered to help me move the fountain base. I had the pump running in a bucket of water, so I knew it was ready to place next, but I wasn't sure the cord would reach the outlet from this new location. The base needed to be shimmed. My dad and I used a level laid on top to check it and then shifted it slightly up or down several times so that the water in the basin would be equally full on all sides. The tubing which connected to the upper section with the cherub figures was crimped and took some work to unkink and smooth enough to make sure the water would flow. It wouldn't be easy to adjust later because of the placement of the pump and weight of the top part over it. I ran the cord between the rows of bricks on the wall behind the swing set and found that it would be fairly camouflaged and would probably just reach the outlet. I couldn't plug it in until I filled the reservoir with water around the pump. With water added it was time to view the progress. It worked fine, but my father didn't like the way the water flowed into the basin. With one, then two, then a few pebbles in the lap of a cherub, he became satisfied. (Gee, where do I get my perfectionism?) Now to enhance the cherubic environment with some large Boston ferns my dad had moved out to the rock garden to be out of the way of the house painters. With the fountain centered in front of the chimney, the ferns would look nice to balance each side. My dad and I disagreed on how many other plants to cram (my word) into the space. He deferred to me and we removed a couple and rearranged all the final choices. (After all he could change it back to the way he wanted anytime after I left!) I was wringing wet and tired, but pleased with the project. Does all this sound like too much bother? Who cares anyway? Well, I knew my dad would really appreciate it and it would be something that would make a difference each time he stepped outside onto the patio. The trinkling water sound had a noticeably refreshing effect and the new arrangement was a nice change.

This was the hardest task and was done on the hottest day. I found several other things to pitch in and help with at home or up at the lake in the following days of my visit. I have been thinking about it since returning to Denver. How does helping help? At the time it was more of an impulse to do what I could. I chose to do something I'm pretty good at that I thought would make a difference and would have been too tough for my dad after his surgery. But it helped me, too. There are so few ways I can plug in to my parents' lives from across the country. I can't invite them over to dinner or run to the store for them. I can't help my mom with her computer problems or share birthdays. In trying to support them during this surgery-related visit I looked for ways to physically help. Here I was in person and quite helpless to make my dad's health better, but I hoped that my attention to other details would give them comfort and show my care. We have a hard time communicating with words about significant things. I think my mom has always sheltered me from reality (the one she doesn't face) and I have felt that they don't care to hear what's vitally important to me around issues of faith. So we have found a few other common languages that help to make some sort of connection. I am an avid gardener like my dad. He always has a project going and so do I. He can be very funny. My mother loves beauty and decorating and family. Me, too. She has always helped friends with their interior spaces. My dad helps with the exterior. I love to do both. Since they are both helpers, I think helping is one of their languages. So I believe my helping them spoke to them. I heard each of them on the phone saying how much it meant to them for me to be there at the hospital in FL with them, and how I figured out how to get this almost unconscious man into the hotel room after surgery. Little things, but somehow the emotional support they felt was big. My dad pointed to the fountain when friends came by to visit. I hope it will continue to make him think of me and how I wanted to be there for them in June. That helps.


Blogger Susan said...

Jenny, you have "help" worked into every aspect of your persona. You are always at it. And we, the beneficiaries, appreciate it. Thanks!

8:21 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I agree, Susan! And ...
you are a perfect combination of the best of both of your parents. I feel like I know them a bit by just knowing you and hearing about this one little piece from your life with them!

4:16 PM  

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