I found Lenny at the Lakewood Farmers Market right between the handcrafted jewelry and the organic lettuce. He seemed alarmed when I told him that I had been looking for him for years.
I tried to explain that I was anxious to get started swinging but that only made it worse. I finally cornered him behind a large display of mesclun and arugula and I was able to explain. You see, Lenny builds lawn furniture, and I’ve been searching for someone who could build a sturdy frame for the porch swing my Dad built more than 50 years ago.
My father hung this swing on our front porch in Spokane sometime in the late ’50s. Two generations of children and grandchildren shared the swing with Grammy and Grandpappy. When the grandparents were gone and the house was sold, I rescued the swing, brought it home, but couldn’t figure out a way to hang it. Besides who had time to just sit? I certainly didn’t. So the old swing was wrapped in plastic and relegated to the back of the garage for what looked like a permanent stay.
This past year, though, turned out to be a season of farewells. After a fall and summer of saying too many goodbyes to special people and shedding too many tears, I yearned for something strong and dependable. And then, just like one of those old Gary Cooper movies, along came Lenny who built a sturdy frame to fit my condominium porch. Sitting in the swing, I can almost feel Dad beside me, telling stories of his days in the oil fields around Wink, Texas. I can imagine Mom jumping up to check on how her rolls are rising in the kitchen. We are what we were, after all.
Just a few days ago, I returned from a week of hanging out with my grandsons in Minnesota. (We don’t visit these days. We hang.) We made animal-shaped pancakes and played marathon Candyland games. At the airport, on the way home, the Transportation Security Administration officer finished checking my documents and said, as if conferring a great favor, “You don’t need to take off your shoes.” She indicated the sign at the head of the screening line which said, “If your birthday was before 1937 you need not remove shoes or jackets. I didn’t know whether to feel flattered or insulted. Was this a sign of respect for those who are older, or do they think I’m too old to be dangerous? The minute I got home, I kicked off my shoes and rushed to the swing.
There are a lot of challenges that send me to my swing these days. For instance, my computer keyboard no longer creates capital letters or new paragraphs. This leaves me seriously considering joining the ee cummings school of writing.
My dress causes my support hose to roll down around my knees. The soles came off my tai chi shoes, and when I tried to glue them back on, my fingers stuck to the floor. All swing times.
And of course, worst of all, are the goodbye times. It was one of those times that brought me home early from Minneapolis. I was leaving the reception after the funeral of my dear friend and her little great-grandniece came and put a sea shell in my hand. “I have two,” she said, “and I thought you’d like to have it.” It was a cockle shell, common to Puget Sound, but it has another name. It’s also known as “The Heart Cockle Shell” and that seemed right. So I put it in my pocket and carried it home with me.
I won’t sit here forever. I’ll get going again soon. There’s plenty to do. Maybe, after awhile, I’ll get up and water the plants, even the plastic ones. Probably not, though. More likely, I’ll just sit here a little while longer holding onto my heart and my memories. And swing.Contact Dorothy Wilhelm at Dorothy@itsnevertoolate.com or 800-548-9264.