Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

Vulcan the Mower: When Remembering Is About Going Forward

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His name is Vulcan, and he’s gray with a the black seat of his kind. He charges through high grass and over branches with a fearlessness that makes me brace myself so hard that my neck hurts.

He is my mower, a Craftsman, inherited from my grandfather who, now, at 92 and with dementia can no longer remember that my mom has died much less how to safely operate a riding mower, although in the sadness of mental health, he’s more likely to remember the mower than his daughter.

I named Vulcan after the Roman god of fire and a blacksmith, a god disfigured and ostracized, a god of production and power but without the appreciation and prestige of Zeus or Mars. My grandfather was a mechanic – for Pontiac, if you are curious – and Italian, first generation. His father’s name was Luigi Marinari until he changed it Louis Marines. My grandfather has never lived a big flashy life. In New Jersey, then North Carolina, and now in Pennsylvania. He’s not short on personality or heart, and he’s not quiet. But his life has been circumscribed by family – all the way out to cousins – but circumscribed still.

So as I ride Vulcan over the branches I cannot see, as I plunge him in third gear right into a tree stump and see him begin again, as I look out of my land cut fresh and new, I remember my grandfather, a man who cannot even remember this dream he is helping make happen.

***
On this day 11 years ago, I know exactly where I was, what I was doing, what I said, what I did, as so many do. I wasn’t married yet, and my then boyfriend and I spent much of the day together, watching the footage as his roommate, a native New Yorker screamed and railed in the backroom.

It is easy for me to slip back into that time – to remember the pain, the devastation, the stupefying shock – but also to remember who I was then – naive, less scarred, more hopeful about love. It is easy to let myself slip into that place, and yet, when I do, I lose track of what is now, what is here.

I want to remember; I will remember. But I will not lose myself in the remembering. Life is about now, about what I can do in this moment – when my puppy is being spayed and an orange cat lies on my lap, when I am in the farmhouse of my dream with writing and editing work to fill my day.

There is so much good in remembering and so much loss when we don’t – to see my father’s face when my grandfather calls me Ruth, my mother’s name is to watch grief blossom anew – but to dwell there, well, there’s grief in that as well.

So on this day of so much remembering, I will find ways to move forward like Vulcan, over high grass and branches, barreling ahead – as he did on Saturday – even on flat tire. For my grandfather, for my mom, for the victims of 9/11, for all of us.

Forward ho, Vulcan. Forward ho.

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Author: Andi

I am a writer, editor, and writing teacher whose most recent book, The Slaves Have Names, tells the story of the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. When I'm not working, my husband and I are working to make our small farm - God's Whisper Farm - a retreat here at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.