As you might have gathered from the way that I've phrased this, Dad is no longer with us; and to a certain extent I suppose that you'd be right. It's certainly true that right before Thanksgiving in 2007, after being ill for some time and quite literally surrounded by his family, he decided perhaps that he'd fought the good fight long enough.
As I've said, his health had not been good for some time prior to his passing, and as a consequence my nephew Patrick had been most of the yard mowing with a riding lawnmower. My mother, who wanted nothing to do with the riding mower, went around the edges and tight spots with a self-driven push mower. In the 2008 that followed, spring came to the 'City of Fountains' well before much of the rest of the Midwest, and the length of the lawn once again became a concern.
My mother jumped in and did her part around the edges and Patrick soon came over to the house to resume his normal role for the larger share. Now the riding mower hadn't been run (or even started) since the leaf pick up of the previous fall and neither had it really been properly winterized. Young Patrick (young at the time anyway) was unsure of the proper choke settings to get it started after so long a period of idleness; and the things he tried brought no success. He asked my mother for any suggestions that she might have. While not normally shy about sharing her opinions and being a person of amazing skills, an expertise with mechanical devices is not one of them and she had nothing to offer.
So Patrick returned to his solitary dilemma, but it wasn't long before the full-throated roar of the riding mower was heard from the garage. While normally a hard working guy any way, on this day Patrick completed his task with remarkable alacrity even for him, and departed with very little to say for himself.
The hasty departure was explained a couple of days later, when my sister Maureen called to fill mother in. It seems as though Patrick, standing in the garage and scratching his head over a situation to which he had no ready solution, clearly heard my father say, "Pull the choke out and start it". He did, and the mower immediately caught. Distressed over how he had reached the solution however, and fearing my mother's sensitivity to what was far too recent a wound, he kept silent on how he got the answer he needed. It was only later after returning home that he was able to speak about it with his own parents.
Now my father was the true patriarch of the Higgins clan; and while normally a rather self-deprecating individual, considered himself a master of all things mechanical. (In point of fact he was a world-recognized master of all things mechanical in the bookbinding industry, with a score of patents to his name to show for it.) He was also someone who was inclined to share that mechanical mastery (sometimes rather colorfully) with his offspring of every generation (often without being asked). So it seemed only fitting (and hardly surprising) that he should find a way to make his presence felt when such a need arose.
As for my take on the story, knowing Patrick to be a fine young man of good quality and upright character, I take it on face value. If this is the way that he believes it happened, then I believe it. I am likewise happy to know that my Dad is still out there somewhere keeping an eye on the rest of us. I for one, can use all of the help that I can get.