The Thanksgiving Post, Better Late Than Never  

Posted by Heidi in

There are times when I have to remind myself to be grateful for this heap of bones that passes for a body. I mean, really, who is grateful for a body that translates sugar directly into pain? (I’m in a lot of pain these days. Pretty much constantly. I love sugar.) (Too bad sugar doesn’t love me.) (But I’m okay with that. I’m not going to do anything drastic like go on a sugar strike until it changes it’s mind.) (Meanwhile, if I imbibed sugar via a drip line, it couldn’t make its way into my blood stream any faster than it is already.) My thyroid gland just can’t seem to get leveled off, my gluten problem is making it hard to cope with my troubles via comfort food and, this time of year with this cold, wet weather, I’m not able to do much due to the afore-mentioned pain and ensuing exhaustion.

It’s times like these when I wish my body could handle a bit of hard work. In this age of computers and technology, few of us know what it means to work hard, to use our bodies to labor, day in and day out, since machines do most of the intense physical labor for us. (I'm assuming that none of you reading is a construction worker.) (Or on a chain gang breaking up rocks in Siberia.) (Or run a daycare center.) As for me, the most intense labor I engage in is the peeling of that darn silver paper off of one Hershey Kiss after another. It’s sweaty work for a wimp like me but it’s not enough. When I do feel that the need to get something done outweighs the pain I’ll experience afterwards, I often find myself thinking of my neighbor, the one whose backyard bordered on mine when we lived in Littleton Colorado.

We lived in the Alamo district, the “old” area of town, amongst a group of garage-less, mostly brick houses, all built by the owners way back when. Each house was different than the next (though, like I said, lots of red brick) and there were few fences. Somewhere along the way, someone put up a three foot high chain link fence that separated our enormous backyard from the lane behind it. I don’t think Newt, my backyard neighbor, had any fence at all.

We often saw Newt out in the yard, digging in his garden. This was rather remarkable since Newt was 94 years old at the time. During his life he had married, taken care of, nursed and buried two wives (they were sisters—the second one never married until her sister left Newt to her in her will (just kidding)—this made a big impression on me), worked in a factory, made gorgeous furniture and dug in his garden—all with only one arm. It was almost hypnotic to watch him through our kitchen window as he turned over a spade filled with dirt, jammed the shovel back into the ground, kicked it down good and hard with one foot, then turned it up and out, over and over again, the empty sleeve of one shirt fluttering with the movement of his efforts.

Sometimes we could hear the whir of machinery as he turned the legs of wood furniture down in his basement. He did this when it was too cold to go outside and dig. He knew that if he were to survive another winter, he needed to work and work hard. And he did. Every room in his house had been transformed by a wall that was either moved, taken down or added in. Most of his furniture was of his own creation. His assortment of brass bells and candlesticks, which was acquired after he was no longer allowed to drive, was collected by riding his bike, one armed, from garage sale to garage sale.

One day we could see that Newt had a visitor. I thought maybe it was an old crony of his. The man was a bit stout and had shock of gray hair. We sauntered across the way to chat and learned that the man was Newt’s grandson. It was quite shocking to watch this grandson who looked almost as old as Newt. It was even more shocking to know that he was letting his grandfather do all the digging. He must have known Grandpa too well to offer to do it for him.

I haven’t laid eyes on Newt for eleven years but I still have a lot I can learn from him.

I am grateful for my body. Work hard. Be self-reliant.

Thanks, Newt.

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 2, 2010 at Thursday, December 02, 2010 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

17 wise, witty and wonderful comments

What a wonderful story of How to Be. You know, your story is one I use when I start feeling worn out. Be like Heidi! (even though my trials and ailments are like a candle to the sun next to yours).

December 2, 2010 at 1:47 AM

I feel like once I turned 30, it all went downhill from there. My body is starting to turn on me!

But I have a lot of stuff to be grateful for.

December 2, 2010 at 7:52 AM

Peeling that dang aluminum foil off the kisses is one of my weaknesses, too!!

You are amazing and your attitude is inspiring.

December 2, 2010 at 8:16 AM

There's a lady in our ward like Newt. She's only 78, but I'm sure she'll keep going until she's in her nineties. I love her, but being around her always makes me feel incredibly inadequate.

December 2, 2010 at 8:32 AM

First, I love the idea of leaving your spouse to someone in your will. hee hee

Second, I hate unrequited love. Maybe you should write sugar some poetry to soften it up to you.

Sorry about all the pain.


December 2, 2010 at 9:36 AM

Newt reminds me of my husband's grandpa that passed away a year ago, always moving always going. Even still riding his bike a week before he passed. Oh the guilt I'm feeling for my laziness...

December 2, 2010 at 9:37 AM

I hope you are feeling better soon. Sometimes having a body is no fun.

December 2, 2010 at 10:08 AM

You are just awesome! That's all I have to say. Oh, and I love your Thanksgiving decor! :)

December 2, 2010 at 11:01 AM

I think it's very sad indeed that there are so few Newts left in our world.

I was going to suggest having some Beehives do a service for you by unwrapping your kisses but then that wouldn't be very self-reliant. Dang.

December 2, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Darn sugar!

I lov eyour attitude, and you have helped me be more grateful for what I DO have, even if sometimes it feels like not enough.

Your Thanksgiving decor is gorgeous, too. LOVE.

December 2, 2010 at 8:33 PM

Loved the story of Newt Heidi thanks for sharing. Even though lots of the time I feel like doing nothing...I've found I'm so much happier when I work...and work hard. So, why do I spend so much time trying to avoid work? Anyway, sorry that your body isn't cooperating...and I hope you start feeling better soon.

December 2, 2010 at 8:40 PM

Was his name really Newt or was that his nickname? I love reading your stories. I have a family theme that we quote all the time. It's "Do Hard Things". I love it!

December 3, 2010 at 6:10 PM

I really felt warm reading this poem, although I am truly sorry for your pain you struggle with.

The idea of working to live, as exemplified in the life of your neighbor, is a great message to us all.

Best wishes.

December 5, 2010 at 9:16 PM

Newt, what an inspiration! I met an inspirational person earlier this week (Shaista, a fellow writer/blogger/poet). After a visit with her in Cambridge, I spent the train ride back to London *in tears.* I still want to cry, thinking of her, how inspirational she is, how there seems not a cloud in her sky. (She was diagnosed with lupus 14 years ago and lives every day with the biggest heart I know.)

Oh, if I were only a Newt, a Shaista...

PS: I'm eating up a sugar frenzy myself here in the UK, I think I bought the corner store's entire supply of Snicker's Flapjacks!!

December 6, 2010 at 3:11 PM

That was nice Heidi. I too am grateful for this ol' bod of mine. For the opportunity to work.
To feel sweat run down my brow because I put in some EFFORT into something.

sorry sugar has such an adverse affect on you, We all have our nemises' eh.

December 6, 2010 at 7:52 PM

I feel so lazy compared to Newt. Hard work has gone out the window. But it ispires me to get off the couch and clean something!

December 7, 2010 at 7:33 AM

I'm simply in awe of much to absorb in this post, so much to learn.

December 9, 2010 at 4:32 PM

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