The men in my life part 3: Josh

Josh moved next door when he was eight, and he’s now seventeen. He wants to design and build motorcycles for a living (he has already built one), but he’s planning to go to college too, and his grades are good enough for a scholarship. Since he’s skilled with tools, enjoys detail, is undaunted by complexity, and has the maturity to see a job through, I would expect him to succeed with motorcycles. I envy Josh his good sense; when I was seventeen I was flunking school, getting drunk every weekend, and my sole ambition in life was to avoid Vietnam.

When he was a child, Josh would come over after school each day to help me with whatever I was working on. When I took every last piece of siding and sheathing off the house, puttied the nail holes, insulated the walls, sanded the siding on both sides, painted it on both sides, replaced the felt and such boards as were rotten or split, and put everything back up, Josh was right there beside me with a hammer in his little hand. Likewise, when I lowered the crawlspace under the entire house by three inches, Josh was there, flat on his belly, crawling alongside me through the filth, mouse skeletons, and spider webs.

The only problem I ever had with him was that he would take a job away from me if I wasn’t careful. For example, when I ran a 220-volt line for a clothes dryer, he was hell-bent on making the final connection to the live breaker box himself. Every time I would turn around, there he would be, back in front of the box, holding a screwdriver and trying to figure out what to do. That kind of thing can get on a person’s nerves after awhile.

He also loved power tools, and again, my protest and his lack of experience didn’t deter him from firing one up when I had my head turned—and sometimes when I didn’t. I was in awe that such a little kid had such big self-confidence. By the time he got old enough that he really could have been a help, he lost interest in coming over, and I felt very alone.

Then, I became disabled for any real work, and Josh returned. He would either ask me or come right out and tell me what projects I needed help with, and then he would do them. Sometimes, he would mow the grass or rake the leaves without even letting me know (of course, I figured it out when I heard the mower), and he always seemed to do them right when I needed help the most. Other times, I would do a job alone that Josh had told me I needed help with, and he would get mad when he found out. Only he wouldn’t tell me he was mad; he would tell his mother, and she would pass it along. Then I’d start thinking about how I might get back on Josh’s good side. This was never hard because I don’t think he has it in him to hold a grudge against a friend.

The last time he got mad was in October when I had the Ponderosa Pine removed. It was a big tree that he liked, and it had to be cut from the top down. Josh opposed the project, but he said that if I insisted on having it done, he would do it. I knew he was capable, but I would have worried too much about him. I think he interpreted my refusal as an insult, but his mother never confirmed it. I like Josh enough that I would give in to him on almost anything, but I had to stand firm about that tree, although it hurt me to do it.

I don’t condescend toward young men because although I know more about many things and am more prudent and skillful in many ways, there are still areas about which they know more—and they’re also stronger. For instance, Josh can weld, and I can’t, and his mechanical ability is so far beyond mine that I had rather have him work on my car than to do it myself. And although he opposed having the tree cut, he came over when the job was done and spent most of a day using wedges and a twelve-pound sledgehammer to split three and four-foot rounds into firewood. As I watched him swing that hammer hour after hour in an accurate arc that took it high above his head, I was in awe because when I was seventeen, I was still a few years away from having such strength and coordination (I only weighed 115), and I sure don’t have them now.

I have no one to care for me when I get old, no son or daughter to hold my hand when I die, and no one to leave my junk to. Sometimes I wonder if Josh will still be in my life twenty years from now, and what role he will play. I’ve never known anyone but Peggy and my parents who so consistently went out of their way to do me good. Josh’s friendship humbles me because I can’t see my way to thinking that I deserve it. Western novels describe a friend you can depend upon by saying, “He’s a man to cross the river with.” That’s Josh all over. I love him.

Photo courtesy of Josh. You wouldn’t know it, but he has a beautiful smile.


The Elephant's Child said...

You hit my sentimental button here. I have tears in my eyes. Josh sounds like a truly amazing friend to have, but I am firm believer in you reap what you sow. Obviously you met some of his needs when he was younger and, I would guess, continue to meet them now. How? Probably only Josh knows the answer to that question, but one possible reason is that being able to help someone you care about is a lovely feeling.

Lydia said...

Well, I love Josh too after reading this post. What a great friend he is to you. I would place bets that he will be around for years, and at such time you might need him in the ways you mentioned. I don't have kids either, and ponder the same questions. But I do have nieces and nephews, although flung far and wide.
Your life has definitely been blessed with Josh.

Mad Mind said...

The older he gets, the more he'll understand and I think the more he will appreciate you. He will be there when you need him. We don't forget those we attach ourselves to. It's a great gift Snow.

Robyn said...

Friends are a wonderful gift... they're worth their weight in gold.

I wouldn't spend too much time thinking aobut who will be there to hold your hand when time takes you elsewhere. This is something none of us can be sure of... whether we have children or not.

Keep on loving

Mim said...

he sounds like a keeper.

That corgi :) said...

He does sound like a special young man and it is neat you took the time to "work" with him, to let him hang around you and help out as he could. I know that had to take patience to do so!


PhilipH said...

An appealing tale, again so well written. I could *see* Josh swinging that axe. A friend, 24 carat gold friend.

rhymeswithplague said...

It is kind of you to call Josh a man; he isn't one yet but he sounds like he's going to be a fine one when he gets there, and it will be partly due to you.

Marion said...

What an amazing young man, Snow. You're lucky to have such a caring neighbor and he's lucky to have you as a mentor.

My house could be on fire and I doubt my neighbors would piss on it. We let the old widow lady next door put her trash in with ours saving her $30 per month. She seldom even says thank you, but whenever she needs something she calls and my husband always goes over and helps her out. Sadly, she has 6 children and only one of them do anything for her.

Isn't it funny how we worry about our stuff when we die? I hope to give all my books and material possessions to my daughters or friends before I kick the bucket. I've already started giving them my 'good' jewelry as gifts.

I hope you're here a very long time, sweet Snow. You're a wonderful friend & teacher to all of us. xo

Charles Gramlich said...

My son is also named Josh, and he wanted for a while to be a motorcycle builder. He's moved toward more general building in architecture now but the love is still there. This Josh sounds like a wonderful guy.

Dion said...

It's so refreshing to read about a fantastic young man that doesn't include "Killed In Action".

Snowbrush said...

"...who will be there to hold your hand when time takes you elsewhere. This is something none of us can be sure of... whether we have children or not."

An old person can be worse off with children than without them if those children are selfish people, yet there still remains--within me, anyway--the desire to be protected while alive and remembered when dead.

"It's so refreshing to read about a fantastic young man that doesn't include "Killed In Action".

If he ever decides to join up, he'll have the go to the recruiter's office with me sitting on his feet with my arms wrapped around his legs.

"It is kind of you to call Josh a man; he isn't one yet"

Define man. The guys who are serving in our current wars at age 17, are they men? When I was 16, I wondered when the exalted day of manhood would finally arrive, and when I read in the newspaper about a "17 year old man," I figured that must be it, but it didn't feel that way when I reached 17, and neither did I feel like a man when I was 18 or 21. I've actually spent much of my life wondering when I would FEEL like a man. I guess that if I haven't made it at 62, my odds of ever getting there are pretty low, but I still don't feel it to my core. I would call Josh a man, but I'll also acknowledge that manhood isn't an on/off switch but a matter of degree.

Beau's Mom said...

It hurts when we realize we're at the stage where others know they need to step in.

It hurts worse when that time arrives and none of the "children" give a shit.

Your heart recognizes the man you wish you had been, and he's young where you're not.

It seems the older we get the more we "feel" and so many of those feelings hurt.

I wish age would cut us a damn break.

Snowbrush said...

"Your heart recognizes the man you wish you had been, and he's young where you're not."

Yes, but does this mean that I want to BE Josh? No, because I have memories of things that he will never experience, having been born too late. He will have (and has had) other experiences, of course, but I am happy with my own. Besides, I'm finding it easier all the time to slip into something of a spectator role toward life. I see that I must leave it sooner than most, and that there are fewer important choices that still lie before me, so I'm beyond some of the angst that he probably feels if he is like I was.

rhymeswithplague said...

I would remind you, in the midst of your series on the men in your life, of the famous quip attributed to Mae West:

"It ain't the men in my life; it's the life in my men."

Helen said...

This post was pure joy to read, I read it more than once! Josh is a friend for life, no doubt.

The image in my blog header was snapped a month or so ago at Timberline Lodge .. Mt. Hood. I'm in Central Oregon about 20 minutes from Mt. Bachelor ... where my grandson would live if he could!

Thanks for the blog address I'm going to take a look at what she is all about!

Serena said...

This kid sounds terrific, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he's still in your life 20+ years from now. You clearly love him like a son and I'll bet he, in turn, loves you like a dad.

Just_because_today said...

we get as much from a friend as we give. Josh wouldn't be your friend if he wasn't getting enough from the friendship.

patsy said...

I am glad you have Josh to help you.

Brian Miller said...

josh sounds like quite the guy actually...i hope that when the time comes he is...and even though he was against the tree he still me that means much...

good to see you tonight...

kylie said...

in reference to the discussion on when one becomes a man, my liam is a man at 16, his brother at 15 is many years off.

has josh seen what you said about him? he must.

what a wonderful relationship, spectacular young fella, gracious old dude too!

i hope he sticks about for a long time

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful young man!

Robin said...

Josh is an exceptional young man...I think the bond you both have will endure... you both can give and take with equanimity ..that's what friendship is all about.

This story really brightened my day, Snow!


♥ Robin ♥

Snowbrush said...

Josh's mother emailed me the following today:

"Read the blog and reread it out loud to Josh and Dave. It was well received by both parties. If we were to post a comment it would be:

"Thanks Lowell, You've been great for our kid."

And you, my readers, have been great for me. I am so blessed to have such loving readers. Please know that I deeply appreciate you."

Zuzana said...

Beautiful post that touched me to tears. In the end, it is a friend like that who means the most.
The ways of destiny are not for us to really comprehend, but Josh is in your life for a reason. I believe from your description of him, that he is made out of the right stuff, thus he will stay in it.
He is a handsome young man too.;)
Have a great weekend.;)

Selina Kingston said...

What a lovely tribute to someone who sounds like such a great guy. I wouldn't mind betting that Josh will still be in your life in twenty years time. How lucky you are to know him and how lucky he has been to have someone in his life who has taught him, allowed him to develop his skills and have genuine concern and affection for him. Here's to Josh ... and to you !

KleinsteMotte said...

It is a gift when an older person is willing to see that he can learn from a younger one. you are both lucky to have each other.