My stepfather had a brilliant mind and a somewhat difficult personality. He was Old School--didn't believe that girls were capable of much and didn't want them to be--so he made a point of getting me out of the way whenever there were repairs to be made or things to be done. I heard it often enough, "Keep out of that! You might get dirty." So I obeyed, kept cleanly to my corner, and, as the old saying goes, minded my own knitting.
As he slipped deeper into the dementia that would ultimately claim him, he regretted this and apologized. He realized the error most keenly on a winter day when there was a problem with our well pump and there was no one available to help but me. (I've written about the pump house before--it's one of my least favorite places on earth: The Bane of My Existence.) The only person who was aware of what needed to be done was the person who couldn't remember how to do it, and he was unable to explain. The only person who had the strength and the willpower to do the work was incapable and had neither knowledge nor experience to draw from.
It was a dreadfully disheartening day. Dad had trouble standing for long, so I brought a plastic lawn chair where he could sit and attempt to direct operations. It took many hours but somehow we got done what we were trying to do. We were both so exhausted by the effort that we left things where they were. Fifteen years later, the bucket of tools still sits inside the door of the pump house and the plastic chair still waits under the trees.
On various occasions, well-meaning folks have suggested that I throw away the rotten old chair. They say it looks unsightly and unsafe. And they are right. But I won't do it.
This morning, it was unusually cool for high summer in South Mississippi--only 72 degrees--so I opened the kitchen window to freshen the air in the house. As I stood there looking out and breathing in, I saw that the chair had an occupant: a beautiful red cardinal who sat on the edge of the seat singing his heart out in the morning sun.
That plastic chair can stay right where it is.