By Tim Hayes

Last May, we marked 10 years in the house where we live.  Lot’s changed over that decade, naturally.

The daughter in sixth grade back then just graduated from college.  Another daughter, a fourth-grader, will be a college junior.  And our son, the youngest, who was just starting to climb the elementary school ladder 10 years ago, will be a high school senior this fall.  And I have 120 mortgage payments under my belt.

We love the place, but one of the features that helped put us over the edge and buy it came in the form of the huge back yard.  From my second-floor office perch, I’ve enjoyed looking out the window and watching the kids and their friends have a tremendous time out there.

In the part of the yard just off the back door, we put in a stone patio bordered on the far side by a solid, soaring oak tree.  Its canopy reached halfway to the clouds, from the kids’ perspective back when we moved in anyway, so they dubbed the tree “Zeus.”

Countless footballs, kickballs, baseballs, Frisbees, maybe even a kite or two, and various other recreational detritus ended up within Zeus’ web of branches and leaves as our family grew up.  But those objects never stayed there long, because Zeus had been kind enough to grow a couple of branches pretty low to the ground.  It didn’t take a lot of sweat for a kid to grab hold, give a hoist, and start climbing to retrieve whatever had been swallowed up, way up wherever.

We hosted a couple of neighborhood gatherings and high school graduation parties over the years, and noticed that grown-ups weren’t quite as savvy as the kids in appreciating Zeus’ low-lying branches.  A few konks on a few heads gave us a bit of a pause.  My homeowners’ policy has always been paid, but would a concussion or something like that even be covered?

In time, we made a decision, which turned out to be a fateful one – although things like this never seem so fateful as they’re happening.  We called a landscaper to give Zeus a bit of a trim.

Now, my wife works, the kids were all in school, and I had a client commitment pop up on the day the tree trimmers were to come.  I wasn’t concerned, though, because I had given pretty clear instructions to only trim the lowest branches where someone could be hurt by accident.

As I returned to the house and saw Zeus, I could have cried.  I may have, in fact, thinking back.

Perhaps the guy with the saw went temporarily insane.  Perhaps the foreman really wanted to give me my money’s worth.  Or perhaps people who trim trees for a living don’t quite understand English.

Zeus had not a single branch left anywhere from the ground to at least 15 feet up.  It was first-degree oakicide.  Thick, sticky sap oozed – no, poured – from the numerous branchectomies performed without anesthetic.  You know how they shoot the arms and legs off the guy who turns into Robocop?  That’s what it felt like they did to Zeus.  He was still alive, and lives today still, but he was never the same.

The kids couldn’t climb up into his branches anymore.  A couple of softballs and a Frisbee still rest, lodged up there someplace.  We can’t get to them, and the kids are to the point where they don’t care about that stuff any longer.

The moral of this sad tale?  I think there are a couple.  Number one, enjoy the wonderful things you can today, because these are the good old days, and you never know when the situation will change.

And number two, don’t let anybody work on your stuff without you being there.  Ever.

Copyright 2013 Tim Hayes Consulting