A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beth Underwood: Typical start to summer, nothing works to do the lawn — except my neighbor

I have a confession to make. My elderly neighbor mowed my yard a couple weeks ago. That’s right. I said it. And suffice it to say when someone 30 years your senior does your yard work — she’s in her mid-80s — it’s nothing to brag about.

But it had been one of those weeks, as they say. One of those ‘when-it-rains-it-pours’ kind. Not the kind where one might need rain napper, but the kind where one bad event sets off a chain of bad events and dares you to ask what else could go wrong. Because as soon as you ask, you find out.

It all started when I decided it was time to resume yard work for the season. I grabbed the cordless weed-eater, installed the recharged battery and headed out to trim.

Within 10 seconds I realized the weed-eater wasn’t working like it should, and within another 20 seconds, it had died completely.

Not to be deterred, I figured I could at least mow the yard.

Except that the lawnmower wouldn’t start. And the downward spiral began. Colton and I fiddled with the mower over the next few days, but to no avail. And while all my neighbors whipped their yards into shape, I could see each and every blade of grass growing right in front of my eyes.

Meanwhile, and of much greater significance than the yard ever thought about being, an unplanned surgery sidelined Colton for the foreseeable future — and yard work was the last thing on my mind.

The Solution

Days later as life began a return to normal, my attention turned once again to the dead weed-eater and a broken-down lawn mower.

I was on my way to the store when I spotted my neighbor outside, working in her own yard. I apologized for my overgrown yard. I braced her for the fact that it would likely be another week before I’d have a new mower. And I considered taking out a memo to send to the neighborhood:

“To whom it concerns: yard work at this address will resume momentarily. Thank you for your patience.”

It felt good to reassure her that I wasn’t a deadbeat lawn owner. That I had solid reasons for the overgrowth. That before long, I’d have new gardening equipment and would be back in the good graces of the whole neighborhood. Appearances do matter, sometimes — especially where front yards are concerned.

I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I returned from the store to find that my neighbor had mowed our yard while we were gone.

Bless her heart.

While it wasn’t a permanent solution, it bought me time to replace or repair my own equipment. The bad news is I have no idea how many people drove by and witnessed this senior citizen mowing for two normally able-bodied youngsters.

The good news is my yard is no longer out of control. Moreover, it’s crossed my mind to see if my neighbor is available for hire…

Beth Underwood is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She shares stories of everyday life that entertain, inspire, and encourage others. Her books include Gravity, a narrative nonfiction account of a small group of Tennessee National Guardsmen, and Talk Bourbon to Me, a lighthearted look at Kentucky’s native spirit. Drop her a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com, or visit her website at bethwrightunderwood.com.

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