“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”

There are many interpretations of the meaning of Dylan Thomas’ iconic poem. A Google search will give you boat-loads of interpretation.  For most it means fighting to the last against decline and dissolution. Rage is one approach, acceptance might be another.

Consider the man who takes on projects. There was a time when the thought of adding a whole new floor to a house was child’s play. If there wasn’t a plan, it could at least be roughed in. Lifting a roof rafter without hydraulic assistance? No problem. If the rafter didn’t fit the way it was supposed to, get a hammer. If it still didn’t fit, get a bigger hammer. The finish work came later.

There’s a reason why you don’t see many senior citizens shingling. It’s hard, demanding work, requiring a limber, supple body with flexible joints. The old guy pointing here and there from the lawn is either the supervisor or the homeowner who dreams of skittering up and down the ladder with a seventy pound bundle of shingles slung over his shoulder: ain’t gonna happen anymore baby. He’d be lucky to get thirty pounds up the ladder!

Then there are the physical consequences of working on a project. For those of us with restricted blood flow bequeathed by our genetics; between aspirin, Plavix and fish oil, a mere brushing of a two by four against an arm or leg leaves a rainbow of colors. Questions asked by a nurse at the clinic take on a whole new meaning when they see a black and blue arm, leg or torso. “Do you feel safe at home?”

“Yeah . . .  Except for the damage I inflict on myself!”

Getting ready for winter’s onslaughts used to mean warming yourself by dropping a tree in the woods, cutting to stove length, splitting and stacking for drying and then stoking the fire as temperatures drop. Even with the luxury of having someone deliver wood cut and split, it still needs to be stacked and the occasional piece chopped again when it’s a little too big. These efforts in a tattered body mean more “face time” with a Monster Maul. This is not done rapidly. It might take a week and repeated trips to the hot tub interepersed with forays to the medicine cabinet for Advil.  Those tired of the effort and mess now hit a button on a remote and let the gas do the work.

With all the projects set before the average homeowner, other additions to winter preparation include raking, cleaning gutters, washing windows, hanging bikes and pulling, covering and winterizing boats.  Yanking docks out is a whole other chaper. With not a lot of chimney sweeps around, a clean sweep needs doing so the house doesn’t go up in flames some cold night. Sometimes “The Home” with all the other seniors looks inviting.

I am not the man I used to be. But then I ask, “Was I ever the man I used to be?” The past looks richer in the dusk than in sunrise.

Author: Doug Lewandowski

I have walked a varied path. I was a Christian Brother, an English teacher/counselor and Licensed Psychologist. I have a twice monthly column in the Duluth News Tribune and have had a story published in the Nemadji Review and placed third in this year’s Jade Ring contest of the Wisconsin Writer’s Association. I was a commentator for KCRB, Minnesota Public Radio in the 90s. I transplanted to Duluth to be closer to grandchildren.

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