Watching others work is great motivator

Sharon Kennedy

Spruce budworm has created havoc with my trees. Last year I hired Northern Tree Service of Dafter to take down a few, but some were too close to the power line and Andy LaPonsie, the owner of the business, suggested I call Cloverland Electric. I took his advice and made the call a few weeks ago. Last Wednesday I awoke to the buzz of chainsaws. Two fellows had arrived and were starting the job.

When you live alone and have lots of chores, sometimes you get discouraged because you know you have limited strength and energy. On nice mornings, I take a muffin and my coffee and pull up a chair at my outdoor table. I don’t have a real porch, but the slab of cement this trailer sits on runs the entire length of it. I put a table and chairs on what I refer to as my “patio” where I sit and look at all the things needing attention.

I make a list of what I want to accomplish during the day. Some lists are longer than others, but by mid-afternoon I know most of the chores won’t get done. Yes, the grass will get cut, but the raking will have to wait until tomorrow. Yes, I’ll sweep the cement, but I won’t weed the area where I’ve planted flowers. Maybe I’ll clean the mower or maybe I’ll wait another week when I take it out again.

My mother became a widow at the age of 66. She lived alone until my daughter and I joined her in 1996. For the 13 years she was on her own, she managed to keep up the outside chores. She might have been discouraged, but she kept her feelings to herself and soldiered on. When I took over the grass cutting, Mom was relieved. It was only then I realized how hard she had worked to keep the yard looking nice.

Mom was my role model. After Dad passed away, she turned her attention to helping her brother, my Uncle Steve. As I mentioned in my last column, he was the one she cooked meals for, and every Friday during the summer she was by his side helping wash and bag produce. The only time I saw her relax was on a Sunday afternoon. She enjoyed watching a Detroit Tigers baseball game. When winter arrived, she put her feet on an ottoman and watched Red Wings hockey games, content in the knowledge that outside work could be forgotten for five months.

Watching Mom work motivated me, and when I awoke to the sound of chainsaws last week, that motivation returned. As one fellow limbed the trees and another dragged the branches to the chipper, I thought to myself, it’s time I finish some projects I’ve been putting off.

My first stop was the garage. I packed the last of the stemware that nobody wanted and stored it away. It’s lead crystal and deserves a better resting place than a shelf in the garage, but my kitchen cupboards are full. Then I got out the wheelbarrow and took a dozen boxes back to the wellhouse where they will stay. My daughter will have to deal with them when I’m gone. For a couple hours, I worked to the hum of the chainsaw.

Sometimes chores can overwhelm us. We oldsters tend to be a hard-working lot. We see things that need attention where young people might see nothing at all. I don’t know if modern society has helped create feelings of indifference in youngsters or if it’s because they have so little to do other than fiddling with technology. Life is easier now. Family farms that used to dot the landscape every few miles have disappeared. In their place, we see endless miles of cell phone towers.

I’ll admit to owning a flip phone. I rarely use it unless I’m at Walmart and call my brother to see if he wants anything. I usually forget to charge it. I often forget to stick it in my purse. My brother tells me to put it in my pocket when I go outside in case I fall and need help. Sometimes I do, but more often than not, I forget and leave the phone on the table. It’s just another nuisance I can live without.

Many folks my age head for the comfort of senior communities like The Villages in Florida where they live a lifestyle of leisure and luxury, no longer concerned with outdoor chores. They play golf, swim, dance, shoot pool. They have a good time making new friends and planning exotic excursions to “far away places with strange sounding names.”

I wish I could be like them. I wish my roots didn’t go so deep, it’s impossible to pull me away from here for a few winter months. I wish I were as lazy as most teenagers and could spend my days texting and Tweeting and being totally oblivious to chores. I wish it didn’t take the sound of a chainsaw to motivate me, but I’m a creature of habit and habitat.

Even if what I accomplish isn’t much more than packing a few boxes or pulling a handful of weeds, when evening descends I congratulate myself on a job well done. I’ve earned my salt for the day.

Editor’s note: Sharon M. Kennedy of Brimley is a humorist who infuses her musings with a hardy dose of matriarchal common sense. She writes about everyday experiences most of us have encountered at one time or another on our journey through life. Her articles are a combination of present day observations and nostalgic glances of the past. She can be reached via email at In addition, Sharon has compiled a collection of stories from her various newspaper columns. The title of her book is “Life in a Tin Can.” Copies are available from Snowbound Books on North Third Street in Marquette.