"I had a rifle barrel in my mouth at 3pm this afternoon, but when I thought about my dad finding me and having to clean up the mess, or even worse my dog eating up my brains, I changed my mind."
"Fuck man.....I need to clean up. My dad is a real man. He's a man of God who gives himself to Christ everyday. He's successful. He was a businessman, a CEO for a good company."
"Does he do anything specific that makes you think he's not proud of you?"
"No. I know he loves me. (LONG PAUSE) You know I've been working my whole life. My daddy taught me what hard work meant and I was cuttin' grass and working when I was just a little boy."
The night went on and we bromanced for a couple hours. When I finally left his house late that night and as I was walking to my car I noticed that his yard was overgrown and full of weeds. I looked to the left and right and noticed that both of his neighbors beside him had their lawns very well manicured and maintained.
And there is when I saw it. I saw his trigger. I felt his pain.
The next day I showed up with an old school manual push blade cutter and weed eater.
It was early afternoon, but still a couple hours before his usual mid to late wake-up time. I knew he'd still be sleeping, but I wanted to catch him off guard to try jolt some of that "Army" life I knew he still had in him.
I banged on the door like a drill-instructor. Went to his backdoor to see if it was open then rethought that after remembering he's got his guns "at the ready" in basically every room. So I went to his bedroom window and knocked then came back to the front door. It only took about 5 minutes of hard knocking and yelling out to him that it was me before he woke up and answered back.
I assertively commanded, "Let's get to work. We're doing your yard" as if he did not have any choice.
Without hesitation, he turns around and heads back in to throw on some jeans and boots. He had a mission. He had a purpose. He was motivated.
Manually pushing a few dull blades on wheels through thick grass and weeds was not easy. We both jokingly complained about how out of shape we were compared to how we were on active duty. He (much) more than I would get winded, and we'd both take these choppy breaks alternating while one rested the other pushed.
He'd say "I'm gassed!"
We continued to tag-team and rotate after about every 4-6 pushes on the manual cutter across his front lawn's thick grass. If I were to guess I'd say it had been over a month since he'd last cut his grass. He later confirmed that his mower engine had broke beyond repair a few weeks back and he was living solely off his disability compensation so anything outside of food and basic needs was out of budget.
We spent 3-4 hours on the yard doing it the hard way.
We talked about life, family, friends, and our military days. We lightly argued or debated on a few topics, yelled and laughed at each other, and even teared up a couple times. We talked about shit that didn't matter and shit that we thought probably did but really doesn't.
In the end after doing both the front and backyard we felt completely spent and were famished. We both cleaned up and were anxious to go get some hot chow. Before we walked out the door, we bagged all the trash, bottles, boxes, and bullshit that was strewn in the living room and kitchen. We consolidated all the trash from inside and bags of lawn clippings and placed everything neatly all in the garage ready to be taken out next Tuesday for special trash day.
Hungry and tired and physically showing it with our body language, we both sat down at a restaurant on a Thursday early evening when everyone was getting off work.
"I really appreciate for you coming over and getting me going today man.......and for helping me with my yard....and....and everything man."
"I know you are man." I didn't even look up to make eye contact. Truth is I couldn't. There was a huge lump in my throat. I understand it now to be "vulnerability".
We both had a BBQ brisket sandwich plate and sweat tea. He got beans and potato salad for his two sides. I got a shit ton of coleslaw and potato salad.
"Fuck man.....that's a lot of starch."
"You sound like my old drill instructor SSgt Nevinger."
Life is good.
In the Marines, I was taught to always improve my foxhole/fighting position. It keeps me productive both physically and mentally. It keeps me thinking strategically about the enemy and what I need to do to always have the tactical advantage.
Improving my foxhole gave me purpose and it kept me from becoming complacent. It kept me sharp. Sometimes its as easy as as mowing your lawn or helping a buddy to mow his to take yourself or your battle buddy out of that funk.
How's your foxhole?
I originally wrote this May 1, 2016 but never posted it. I kept it for myself. Exactly one year later May 1, 2017, he took his life in his backyard. He lied face down in his own blood alone for 2 days. 3 of my #22KILL brothers found him. They called me and I came as fast I could process what I heard, but it was too late. You were gone. They took you. You were here, you were there, then you were gone....now you're gone. I'm sorry brother. I love you. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.
Poetic: I took this picture when I went inside to get a glass of water. "I see you, Ben."