Before I had my driver’s license or was interested in girls, I was expected to earn a little spending money by mowing lawns on the weekend. My dad and a few neighbors paid me five bucks a lawn, but the real money came from my grandparents who lived 30 miles south of Ogden, Utah in a city called Bountiful not far from Salt Lake City.
During the summer months my dad would drop me off at the main bus terminal, and I’d board a bus for the 90 minute ride at a cost of 75 cents each way. On the bus, I’d carry along a first generation Sony Walkman and a single a cassette from my favorite group at the time: Def Leppard. Songs from Pyromania had just started to hit MTV and I couldn’t get enough of them. I’m surprised I still have my hearing given how loud I’d crank those tunes through my headset.
The bus would drop me off about a mile from my grandparent’s house and I’d be so hyped up from “Rock of Ages” I’d sprint the entire stretch. My grandpa would be sitting on his porch waiting for me in a light blue chair that he probably purchased in the 1940’s. It was so retro that it was cool, but not very comfortable. He’d invite me inside where I’d start my work off with a Coke on the rocks. Growing up in a Mormon family, my parents didn’t see the need to stock our fridge full of Coke which made the event even more special. I felt like a rebel.
My grandpa had an old rotary mower that would cut a very narrow swath of grass at each pass. Luckily the lawn wasn’t very large and the only challenge was avoiding the many plums that would fall off the trees and clog the mower. My grandpa would watch me mow the front lawn from his chair, but would always move to the shady area off the back porch when I was ready to mow the backyard. When I’d finish up, I’d kick back on one of the old blue chairs that was cooled by the shade and chat with my grandpa. We’d talk about the latest sporting event such as the Utah Jazz, BYU or the Utes. He spoke so highly of the University of Utah that he had a great influence my choice to attend that school a few years later.
These Saturday afternoons were the only time I had the chance to chat with my grandpa alone. As I sat there listening to him talk I’d look at his face and see my father. His eyes and his facial expressions made me feel like I was listening to my father 20 years into the future. I loved listening to him tell me about many of the games where my father performed well. He could remember the intricate details of a certain pass for a touchdown or an important base hit. It was as if I had traveled back in time to watch my father play the sports I loved. Eventually my grandma would carefully walk down the stairs into the backyard to bring us more Coke and a cookie or crackers. We’d chat a little longer before I’d make my way over to my other grandparent’s home to mow their lawn. But before I’d leave, my grandpa would open his wallet and pull out a lot more money than I deserved. I’m sure he could have hired a neighbor kid to mow his lawn for a fraction of the cost. I guess grandson’s were on a different pay scale.
So I’m a little sad to think think that my grandparents house is going up for sale this week. My grandpa passed away a few years ago and my grandma was recently moved into a care facility to live out the rest of her life. There’s no need to keep the house that was the backdrop to so many great memories over the years. It’s a smaller brick home with a single attached carport in a friendly neighborhood. I doubt it will be on the market long.
I’m glad I had those years where Saturday’s were spent mowing a few lawns and sipping Cokes in the shade with my grandpa. The extra cash was great for a fourteen year old. But the time spent in the shade, sitting on the old chair listening to my grandpa is what I’ll remember most.