How would you celebrate a milestone birthday?
My dad will celebrate a milestone birthday this week.
“Celebrate” applied loosely here.
- he’s not nuts about birthdays
- his idea of a fun vacation might be going to his niece’s house to help her with post-hurricane repairs (a recent discussion), which means his idea of “celebrate” is a little skewed.
I knew I couldn’t pull off a second surprise 80th birthday party in a single year, so our idea of celebrating his 80th was a family gathering at my cousin’s new home in Charleston, close to the coast. A few days of fishing, beaches, kayaks, and paddle boards, evenings on her porch sharing the catch of the day and the joy and melancholy of new and old stories.
Hurricanes and celebrations
Florence stirred up the fishing and kayaking waters but didn’t damage my cousin’s house (see previous note about his idea of fun vacations). So we postponed the trip. How to celebrate now?
It’s no big deal. Really, just the thought that counts.
But darn it. I want to do something special!
My Chicago daughter reroutes her flight from South Carolina to Louisiana. All three children under a single roof along with my folks: that’s special.
The celebration isn’t an inshore fishing excursion on the east coast, but we nom and yum over steelhead trout and baked vegetables, laugh and sing over the flattened white-chocolate strawberry cake, and celebrate one of the most intimate, joyful family gatherings in years.
As delicious and heartwarming as our meal is, that isn’t the only highlight of the day, maybe not even the brightest for dad.
As my Baton Rouge daughter and I arrive earlier that day, Wayne, mom and dad’s farmhand, is coming up the hill on the tractor. He flags us down.
You don’t have any water!!
Water, Wells, and Lessons
For my house on the farm just down the hill from mom and dad, no water also means no AC. A water crisis wasn’t how I had hoped to celebrate dad’s birthday.
A water crisis with any other folks might indeed be a crisis, but today, there is zero panic and 100% can-do.
I’m not sure what dad had planned to do that day before his birthday meal but he never moans or groans about this disruption. On the contrary, I think he enjoys the opportunity to share and teach us a few rural-life lessons.
- The water comes from the well.
- The well feeds from the aquafer below the property.
- The well is about 150 feet deep.
150 feet!! Wow!
Yeah. That line goes all the way down.
- When the pump dies, we pull 150-feet of hose and electrical wire up through the well to repair or replace it.
And this . . .
That’s the holding tank.
We don’t have a water tower. We have a blue tank in the gazebo, camouflaged under a “table.” But not today.
Down that hole.
That was a lot of digging! How did you do it?
Wayne, getting good giggles from our city questions, chimes in with dad to explain derricks, augers, aquafers, and sand as we snap photos with our phones. We have so much to learn.
Pipe clamps secure the heavy pump on the end of the hose.
Can’t let the pump slip off the hose and into the well. Then you’d have to call the well guy to fish it out, and that’s the last thing you’d want to do.
So they don’t snag on the way down or on the way back up next time.
Next time? Next time we celebrate another birthday or have a family gathering?
Everything wears out eventually.
But today, we fix it.
“We” applied loosely here.
- Most of the “we” watch dad and Wayne work in synchrony to fix it.
- Most of the “we” would have panicked, would need to call the well guy, but would need to make a lot of phone calls and google searches to even know that there is a well guy.
All of the “we” gather in the rain (did I mention the series of small thunderstorms?), the less informed of us helping in tiny ways, learning lots, and warming dad’s heart as we give him audience.
He’s 80 today. We have so much to learn from him still. I’m glad we gathered, I’m glad we listened, I’m glad we celebrate another year with him.
Happy Birthday, Papa Nick!! Thanks for letting us celebrate with you! Thanks for the lessons.
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2018.