Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day 2: More than just firewood

Everyone cleared out after Memorial Day, so they were leaving as we arrived. We have the place to ourselves.  The entire wooded section is ours, and I can't see another tent until I walk down a path. 

Perfect.

An elderly man on a golfcart came by today. "Y'all are the only ones here!  How long are you staying?" When I told him three weeks, he said: "Well, then you'll need some firewood."  And drove off.

I thought he worked there, but apparently not.  He rents a site by the month, his home only 20 minutes away, and comes to stay for stretches in the summer to fish.

He looks just like my Grandpa Bill, down to the same newsboy cap.  Round, jolly features.  You can tell you like him immediately, even before he speaks.

About a half hour later he came back, with the back of the cart loaded with firewood.  When he got out of the cart to unload it, I saw he could barely use his right foot.  "Diabetes ate my foot," he said. "I don't move too well these days."

I started pulling off the firewood and stacking it up, so he didn't have to do any of it.  Kept thanking him for bringing it to us, and then found out he'd collected it for us.  Oh my.  How long did that take him?  He went around to the sites with abandoned wood left from the weekend, loading it on his golfcart.

He saw the kids running around and said to me: "Enjoy 'em.  I had five of them.  They will be GONE before you know it.  I worked 17 years and never took a vacation day.  My wife stayed home with them, and we needed the money.  I never took my kids anywhere, but we sure loved to camp.  All that working...well...it shredded my body. So here I am."  And pointed to his right foot.

We swapped campfire recipes and he taught me how to make chocolate eclairs, and then he drove off again.

At hour or so intervals throughout the day, he kept coming back with another batch of firewood.  A large part of me wanted to tell him to stop...I hated that he was working so hard, barely able to move, and using his strength to collect firewood for us.  Steve would be back later; he could collect it from the sites.  I kept saying over and over, "You have done so much already!  Really, you've done enough. Thank you so much!"

But I could see how proud he was of getting it for the kids.  Talking about all the campfires we could make.  So I kept unloading the wood, and thanking him profusely.

After the 6th or 7th trip, he said: "I'm not sure I can do this anymore.  I need some rest. My wife will be mad at me if I keep working myself like this." 

People amaze me.  How much joy it gave him to do that for us, even as he was pushing the outer limits of what he was probably supposed to be doing.  I could tell he felt a sense of purpose, of being needed and taking care of others.  Similiar to what got him through 17 years of no vacation days, taking care of his wife and 5 children.

There is a lot of goodness out there.

3 comments:

Motherhood and More said...

Aw, that makes me all teary! What a sweet guy. I'm glad you're documenting this little adventure. It's like reality TV, only without the TV. :)

Sarahbeth said...

LOL, I've thought the same thing. I feel like I'm in a wilderness reality show. :) Hanging my toilet paper on the tree branch, trying to get the fire started, but then charging my iPhone with the car adapter. :) I'm really looking forward to all the things we'll learn and experience this next few weeks.

Laura said...

What a sweet, sweet experience! Haha, you could come up to Alaska and camp...it wouldn't even have to be in a campground! ;)