Sunday, October 22, 2006

Return of the Tree Man

About three years ago, we hired a guy to trim some trees, and take down some that were severely damaged by a series of storms. His name was Dave. He was a recovering alcoholic who’d hit bottom, embarked on the recovery road, and started his own tree service. He was quiet and painfully shy, but we noticed that our two dogs immediately liked him, and our cat, who would normally hide when anyone strange came around, actually came up to introduce himself.

Dylan was three then, and he loved watching Dave work. We’d keep him a safe distance away, which wasn’t close enough for Dylan’s liking. It was clear that Dave felt more comfortable around animals and children than other adults.

Dylan started screaming, “The Tree Man’s here, the Tree Man’s here!” when Dave drove up. Dylan would then walk up to Dave and quiz him as to what his plans were for the day, what equipment he’d use, and how long the job would take. Thus, Dave would begin his work day with a "this is what I'll do" briefing, and end his day with a "this is what I did" briefing. Dave seemed to genuinely enjoy his morning talks with Dylan, and would only stop when Rhonda or I insisted that Dylan let him get to work. I think being a hero to a three year-old meant a lot to him.

Dave once told Rhonda that he had several nephews and nieces who’d lived in the area, but had moved away. He missed them.

Dave was about 90% done with our tree work when he didn’t show up one day. He called, saying he was feeling poorly, and would be by in a couple of days. He called a couple of days later to say he’d be by the following week. Then he simply quit calling.

We heard through the grapevine that Dave had started drinking again. His business and his girlfriend had left him.

Several weeks ago, Rhonda drove up to our front gate, and spotted a shape covered by a tarp sitting aside the driveway. Underneath the tarp was a chainsaw sculpture of a dinosaur, four feet tall, carved out of a solid piece of oak. There was a note. “I’ve been sober again for three weeks. I wanted to do this for Dylan because he talked so much about dinosaurs. Sorry I didn’t finish your work. Dave the Tree Man.”

"You think he knew?" I pondered Rhonda's question. "I don't see how," I replied. "I know I never mentioned it to Dave." "Me neither," said Rhonda.

The Tree Man had delivered the dinosaur on Dylan's birthday.

Three years had passed since Dylan and Dave had their series of morning briefings. I hope he’s doing well. Dylan loves his dinosaur.