The Movie Diary

Armed and dangerous

By Dom Cioffi

I realized the other day that my son is roughly the same age that I was when I first started mowing lawns. That thought frightened me. I would no sooner let my son grab ahold of a running lawn mower than I would allow him to disarm a nuclear bomb.

It’s not that I don’t trust him, I just realize how dangerous mowing can be and how stupid kids can be when they don’t fully comprehend the power they’re pushing around.

I took ridiculous chances and left myself open to countless horror stories over the years and somehow came out unscathed. I shudder when I think about all the times I slipped and nearly had my foot slide under a running mower; or how many times I reached down to remove debris that was caught in the discharge chute.

One of my best friends growing up wasn’t so lucky. He was blasting music through a pair of headphones while mowing one day and thought the engine was off. When he went to dislodge some grass from the edge of the deck, the whirling blades sliced the end of his finger completely off.

I’ve continued to mow at each house I’ve owned and for years made it a point to mow my grandmother’s lawn as well. When I moved to my current house, I noticed that nearly every lawn in my neighborhood was attended to by a lawn service. For several years I took it as a badge of courage that I was the only man who mowed his own lawn.

And then I was diagnosed with cancer. Realizing that I would not be able to handle the yard work while going through treatments and not wanting my wife to toil with it, I finally succumbed and hired a lawn service.

By the time I was through treatment and recovery and able to work outside again, I decided that I kind of liked not having to deal with the drudgery. So I just kept paying the lawn guys. And you know what? I don’t miss it a bit.

Some evenings I pull into my driveway after a long day of work and see that the lawn has been serviced. I immediately smile, knowing they’ve taken care of everything, which leaves me with more time to golf.

Earlier this year, I saw a guy who lived somewhat close to my neighborhood mowing his own lawn. He seemed to be struggling to move his push mower around. I didn’t think much of it and continued to drive along.

Over the ensuing months I’ve seen that same guy many more times, and he always seems at odds with his mower. And then one day I realized why.

I’m not sure if traffic was slower, but for some reason I was able to watch him more closely. That’s when I realized the poor guy had no arms. Instead, he had two prosthetic limbs, each with a two pronged hook on the end. These were not the modern prosthetics you see on TV that replicate the full arm, hand and fingers. Unfortunately, these were the kind I remember growing up, which now seem dated and out of touch with technology. 

When I see this guy now, I have a completely different take on what he’s doing. While I originally thought he was being klutzy with his mowing technique, I now marvel at his gumption to even get out and attempt such an activity given his handicap. I mean, seriously, if there was ever a guy who shouldn’t have to mow his lawn, it’s him.

I find myself thinking about this guy every time I drive by his house. I figure he must have a little chip on his shoulder about his capabilities. And I’m betting he refuses to let his disability get in the way of him doing anything.

I’ve periodically wondered if he does other seemingly insurmountable tasks like skydiving or snowboarding. Someday I may pull over and talk to him. I’m not sure what I’d say, but it would be something along the lines of, “Hey, for whatever it’s worth, I have so much respect every time I see you out here working hard. You are a warrior.”

This week’s film, “Hereditary” deals with a different kind of handicap: mental illness. In this film, we meet a grieving daughter who has just lost the mother she had spent most of her life estranged from. But now that she’s gone, a bizarre span of events has her questioning her sanity.

This is a stirring psychological horror film that will have you, on more than one occasion, moving to the edge of your seat. I enjoyed this film more than I thought, but that’s because so much care was taken with the storyline. This is certainly the rare film of this genre that doesn’t devolve into a pathetic mess.

Check this one out if you like smart horror and don’t mind having your sensibilities twisted for two hours.

A cutting “B+” for “Hereditary.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him

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