Uncle Ed was a kind man and a good Catholic.
He wasn’t my uncle, and I don’t think he was technically the uncle of the neighborhood family he lived with — it didn’t matter. He was Uncle Ed to everyone, I guess.
My mom got to talking with Uncle Ed one fall day, and while I didn’t manage to eavesdrop on the conversation, she passed along something he said. About me.
“He said you’re not afraid of work.”
Me being the well-adjusted, neurotypical self that I was, I immediately picked up on the figure of speech.
Oh, wait, that’s not me at all, so no I didn’t get it.
“What do you mean, not afraid of work?”
That was the first time I’d heard that in that way.
I’d signed up to rake Uncle Ed’s family’s lawn for twenty bucks. In 1999 dollars, that was about, uh, $20.
But this wasn’t any lawn. The lawns on NAS Jacksonville were like football fields. And the leaves must have flown in from out of state, such was the autumnal blanket: thick, imposing, infinite.
I was an idiot to sign up for a raking venture like this.
But at least I’m a stubborn idiot who keeps his word.
The whole process took a week. 6 days straight. 8am to dark.
I was homeschooled, so I did my schoolwork before breakfast. Then it was rake, rake, bag, rake, sweat, rake, drink from a hose or something, and rake again.
It’s a boring story for boring work.
But as I look back and look ahead, I’ve found that big boring work intimidates people, both normal and abnormal.
I was upset at times. I didn’t like my hands blistering. I knew that $20 for an entire week seemed less than worth it. I felt more miserable than happy.
Amidst all my fears, anxieties, things that twang the dread-wound strings of my autistic self, I found in leaves the one thing I did not fear.