Over all, Steve is a very quiet guy. Shy, reserved, even seemingly disinterested in many of life’s activities that swirl around his self-absorption. Things that I think will upset him don’t. Things that do upset him often surprise me.
Last summer Steve was mowing the yard. We have about an acre and a half in lawn so he uses a riding lawn mower. He puts a set of ear protectors on, revs up the mower and hauls you-know-what at a frightening pace. He seems to enjoy it.
For a reason that only makes sense to Steve, he has to mow in a counter clockwise direction starting from the outside edge of the lawn and circles inward, which means he ‘shoots’ the grass clippings towards our house with each pass. Because there can be rocks mixed in with the clippings, he has broken several large windows on the house. They are expensive to replace. I ask him to mow in whatever fashion he can in order that he not fling rocks at the house. He refuses to do it differently.
This particular day I look out to see he is once again mowing with the clippings flying straight at the house. He won’t use a grass catcher bag because he read somewhere that to conserve water you need to leave the clippings on the lawn as a mulch.
As I started out the front door to ask him to mow the other direction, Steve drove the mower off the edge of the lawn and onto the gravel driveway near my car. A metallic sound like machine gun fire pierced the air. I ran out to my car. He had just riddled the entire passenger side with gravel, creating hundreds of deep chips and dings. It also broke all three passenger side windows.
I was incredulous. The repairs cost nearly $4,000. When told how much the repair was going to be Steve simply shrugged nonplussed. He never mentioned it again.
Recently, during one of our windy snow storms, one of my little trees out front was blown over and covered with snow. I asked Steve to pull it upright and shake the snow off. I then asked whether he could help me replant it when the snow melted so the tree would grow straight. I would do the initial work but needed him to dig a couple of wheelbarrows of dirt to back fill it. I thought he agreed to help me.
A few days later our sons came into the house from the shop. Our oldest was agitated because our youngest had just been yelled at by Dad. I asked what he had done as our youngest usually doesn't have conflicts with his dad.
“It’s what he didn’t do. Apparently Dad had told him to plant a tree a few days ago. He didn’t know what to do or how to do it, so he hasn't done it yet. Dad is livid.”
When Steve came in later, I asked him what it was all about. Come to find out, Steve took my request to him for help with my 'little' tree and turned it in to a chore for our youngest son.
I asked Steve if he has ever taught kidlet #3 to plant trees.
“He already knows how! You guys did that volunteer tree planting project last spring.”
I tried to explain that A) I intended my tree repair to be something that Steve and I did together, and B) our tree planting project last spring was to stick a shovel into the ground to create an opening, then slip in a one foot tall seedling. It was a mass planting by hundreds of volunteers to put thousands of seedlings on a community green-way, whereas my 'little' tree was several years old and nearly eight foot tall! Completely different scenarios.
I asked Steve if the boys and I could do the planting. I took advantage of his response time and dashed out the door before he could answer.
Steve stayed mad for close to a week. He thinks that as the 'dad' that he should be able to demand for chores of any sort be done at any time he pleases. He thinks that a father should not be subject to questioning on any decision by any person at any time. His rigid thinking regarding these matters seems insurmountable.
I named my tree Fred. He is growing tall and straight. I hope he never flings rocks.