The shovel I owned showed it’s age. The tool was a two generation hand-me-down. The handle was like an upper case tee, the old gray wood worn in the center. The metal that held it atop the long shaft part was roughly rusted. The shaft of wood from handle to the digging blade also grey had a slight split along the wood grain in front. The edge of the metal digging end was worn almost enough to flatten it where it grudgingly penetrated the earth.
It was a short shovel but I’d used it several times before including once when I was about eight years old. Then it belonged to my grandmother and I recall it seemed less worn, less aged.
I carried the shovel over my shoulder and with my left hand carried a small wooden box I built to hold my cat’s remains and the last napkin ball she played with. She’d lived to become an ancient twenty, struggling with arthritic hips, a total loss of hearing. Add to that a cat’s disposition of its ‘my way or no way’ well I felt some relief when she passed.
She didn’t weigh nearly what she’d weighed a few years ago, but weight loss was yet another scourge of aging. Oh, I missed her within hours of her dying, but life sucks that way. I mean death being inevitable as if all of one’s life good, bad and everything else becomes condensed into a last gasping breath that trickles into the memories of the living. And there those memories slowly dissolve while life replaces them with new ones. That sucked too.
Rain had softened the earth. The row of assorted rose bushes I’d planted over the last few years looked, smelled beautiful, and inviting. I knew digging a hole wouldn’t cause much trouble and since I lived in the house where I was raised, inherited from the same grandmother who owned the shovel. Yup it came with the house. I walked to a small pet cemetery where we’d left our dearly departed pets in the past.
I selected the spot where if Miss Lizzy were alive she might sit and watch the birds nesting in spring. I painted a stone marker after a few days passed and place in the line of the others.
Setting the metal lined pinewood box down, I began digging. The dirt was easy to cut into but heavier than normal since it was rain wet.
At about a meter deep, I heard and felt the shovel hit something. The contact vibrated up the shaft while the bent over edge of the blade caused a line of pain across the bottom of my foot.
After dropping the shovel, I knelt and reached into the hole. My fingers brushed a dirt encrusted flat surface clearly not a tree root. I’d not worn work gloves so as I dug around it’s edges, dirt wedged beneath my fingernails.
Finally after several minutes of work, I pulled hard when I had my hand beneath it and lifted out a blue plastic rectangular box not much longer than the length of my extended hand thumb nail to pinkie nail. There was a tightly sealed lid that had some type of metallic looking tape wrapping and covering the joint.
I sat, placed the box down and finished my original task. Once Miss Lizzy was at the bottom of the hole, I whispered my goodbye and a prayer I created while still a young boy. Filling the hole required a couple minutes. Then I took the mystery container, the shovel, and returned to my home.
Washing it was done at an outdoor faucet. Cleaned the box looked both new and very old. Hard to explain why, but it did. I went in and sat at the kitchen table studying the box, the tape enclosure and finally used my pocketknife to cut away the tape.
More to come