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A Brave Grandfather Branches Out

By Jerry Zezima

I used to think that the high point of grandparenthood was doing incredibly silly things with my grandchildren. Now I realize I am not the top grandfather anymore. That’s because I recently met one who climbs trees for a living.

Rene Funez is a happily married man with four children, four grandchildren and nerves of steel. I am a haplessly married man with two children, five grandchildren and nerves of aluminum, which is why Rene came over to my house.

He and Mario Osorio were charged — though not, thank goodness, electrically — with removing the top portion of a not-so-mighty oak whose limbs, twigs and branches were hanging over power lines in the backyard.

“Rene is 62 years old,” Mario told me after his acrobatic colleague had strapped a pair of spikes to his legs and, with a chainsaw hanging from his belt, scampered like a squirrel up the 50-foot tree. “And,” added Mario, 44, as we watched safely from below, “he calls me an old man.”

“I’m a geezer, too,” I said, noting that I am six years older than Rene, “but I could never do what he does.”

“Why?” Mario asked. “You look like you’re in good shape.”

“That’s because I do 12-ounce curls,” I answered. “But I’m petrified of heights.”

I explained that when my wife, Sue, and I moved into our two-story Colonial 24 years ago, I had to go up on a ladder to clean the gutters.

“I thought I’d end up in the gutter,” I said. “So we got gutter guards.”

Since then, I have remained on terra firma, a Latin phrase meaning, “What you will be buried in if you fall off the roof.”

“Or,” I added, “out of a tree.”

“I have to tell you a secret,” Mario whispered. “I’m afraid of heights, too. That’s why I don’t climb trees.”

“You leave that job to an old guy?” I said incredulously.

“Yes,” Mario admitted. “Rene is a lot braver than I am.”

But they work well as a team. While Rene was making like rockabye boomer on the treetop, literally going out on a limb to prune, cut and saw off potentially dangerous branches that could have fallen on electrical wires and left the entire neighborhood in the dark, Mario was the boots on the ground, easing the massive woody boughs down with ropes and pulleys.

“Watch out!” Mario warned as one big branch seemed likely to land on my noggin.

Unlike Mario and Rene, I wasn’t wearing a helmet.

“If it had hit me in the head,” I noted, “it would have splintered into a hundred pieces.”

“Your head?” Mario wondered.

“No, the branch,” I replied.

“At least you would have had some firewood,” said Mario.

“That would be pretty dangerous,” I noted.

“Why?” Mario inquired.

“Because,” I said, “we don’t have a fireplace.”

When Rene had finished, he swooped down like Batman, put down his chainsaw, took off his spikes, looked over at the logs, limbs and branches piled into a corner of the yard, and smiled modestly as I showered him with compliments.

“I feel guilty,” I told him.

“How come?” Rene wondered.

“I’m a grandfather like you, but I could never do what you do,” I said.

“God watches over me,” Rene said.

“He went to Bible college,” Mario said of his sinewy co-worker.

“When he’s up in a tree, he’s closer to heaven,” I said.

Rene nodded in agreement and said, “I’m going to keep working for another five years.”

“You’ll be 67,” I pointed out.

“After he retires,” Mario suggested, “you could take his place.”

“Never,” I said. “It would be the height of folly. Besides, I’m one grandfather who is happy being a bump on a log.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service, which distributes it to newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of six books, Leave It to BoomerThe Empty Nest ChroniclesGrandfather Knows BestNini and Poppie’s Excellent AdventuresEvery Day Is Saturday and One for the Ageless, all of which are “crimes against literature.” He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.

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