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"You need a post hole digger."
It wasn't a question. It wasn't an offer. It was an instruction, a command.
"Out in the garage, right-hand side, just inside the door, right between the four-tined garden fork and the two-tined weeding hoe. Take it," he said. "I won't be needing it anymore."
While I had zero doubts that my father-in-law, Jovach, was indeed through with the manual digging of post holes for the remainder of his days, I was shocked that he would actually entrust me with one of his precious, carefully-selected, perfectly maintained and meticulously cataloged garden implements.
I told the lunch bunch about it the next day at work.
"Maybe he's trying to tell you something," said a co-worker.
"You mean, like, that I'm special and he believes I can be a good steward of his collection?" I said.
"No, I was thinking more like he thinks you're a dandy and you need to spend some time doing a real man's work," he replied filling the room with laughter.
I never bothered to prod Jovach for an explanation, deciding instead to just go with my own theory. Now, upon his recent passing there is no one to question my claim as the anointed one in the gardening department. Not only have I inherited a first-class post hole digger, I've also been entrusted with a spud bar, a three-tined cultivator hoe and (drum roll, please) the machine that has already outlived his favorite Buick by a five-to-one margin -- Jovach's industrial strength wheelbarrow!
As you may have already gathered, my father-in-law bought things that were made to last. His wheelbarrow may prove the ultimate example. Hickory-handled, solid-core-tired and stamped from battleship grade galvanized steel, it weighs a metric ton empty. When loaded with mulch, brush or Jovach's beloved home-brewed compost, it takes three men and a blue ox to move it. I had to back the truck up to a hillside to roll the beast into the bed just to get it home.
A truly perfect passing of the torch, Jovach's "real man's wheelbarrow" replaces my own one-wheeled disaster -- a wheelbarrow so ratty and cobbled that for the past several years my wife wouldn't allow me to use it in the front yard for fear the neighbors might see. Held together by twine, zip ties and rust, it squatted so low and screamed so loudly under each load that you'd swear it was about to give birth to a 55-gallon drum.
On Wednesday evening I will push my old wheelbarrow proudly into the front yard, park it on the devil strip next to the recycling tote and walk away. By the next morning someone will have grabbed it up to repurpose as yard art or scrap metal. Either way, I will have rolled just a few feet closer toward becoming the man my father-in-law had always wished I could be!