Snow Blind

The last time a big snow storm was predicted for Long Island, it managed to sweep just South and miss us completely. That was a few days ago, and I was skeptical about the forecast for Wednesday. When I went to bed on Tuesday night, I couldn't understand why schools were closing and airports were canceling flights. I doubted I'd have the following day off.

The first thing I did around 6:30 AM was peek out my window. Six hours had made a lot of difference, and there was a pretty white coating of snow on the branches in the woods behind my house. I rushed to the kitchen to make sure the old man wasn't outside, but he's been almost uncharacteristically docile about the snow lately. I think it's a combination of finally accepting the limitations of his heart condition and the new limitations of not having a rotator cuff. He can't lift his arms over his head and his arthritis is particularly bad, so he can't do much with a shovel if he tried.

There wasn't that much on the ground, but I called my office to check. Surprisingly, they were calling a snow day! I should be used to that since they've had at least one every year since I've worked there, but my previous company closed maybe twice in the seven years I worked there. Once they had us come in during a power outage, only to begrudgingly send us back home when they realized we couldn't do much without computers. I called the emergency number at my company to listen to the recording a second time, just to make sure I'd heard correctly.

It was great having an unexpected day off in the middle of the week, especially since I'd taken a vacation day the previous Monday. Of course, as the snow continued to fall and the flakes got bigger, I soon realized it wasn't going to be a day to relax and watch movies. By noon, I knew had to go out there, even though it was still snowing. There were six inches on the ground already, and waiting was only going to make it worse. My dad balked at the idea of me going out there, but it wasn't his call. I cleared a path for the mailman(who apparently was letting snow stay him from his appointed rounds) and did the sidewalk in front of our house. I even did part of the neighbor's sidewalk, since my dad had gone out and done that the last time I shoveled. I wanted to be thorough and leave nothing for him.

The boots I'd chose had a hole in one heel, and at some point I had to stop because my foot felt really cold. There were a couple of globes of ice in there, apparently snow had worked its way in and gotten packed. So I took a break until feeling came back to my toes, all the while listening to my dad gripe about me going back out there. With several layers of fresh dry socks protecting me, I headed back out to do the driveway. At some point, since she can't watch him every second, my mom didn't notice my dad sneak outside. He was pulling a little kid routine and telling me that he was going to stay out in the cold until I came back in. I didn't want to make a scene for the neighbors, told him once to go inside, and kept working. When he saw he wasn't getting anywhere, he went in and got another shovel. Now he was acting like my cat does when he jumps on my keyboard or knocks loose change off my desk until I pay attention to him. I ran up, and ripped the other shovel out of his hands, and he sulked back into the house.

I got the whole driveway done by around five o'clock, but it was still snowing. There was a fine powder coating everything I'd already gone over, and I pushed the shovel back and forth like a miniature plow. Finally I decided I needed a break, and came in for some hot cocoa. While out in the snow, my mind wandering through various topics, I had an epiphany about my dad's upcoming 80th birthday. I've never been to a baseball game with him, because I'm not a big sports fan and I find baseball particularly boring. Sorry, normal Americans, I just grew up on cartoons, sitcoms, and comic books. I can watch a sport with movement like football, soccer, and especially basketball, but there's so much more standing around in baseball. In any case, I don't follow or care about any of it, but my dad likes the Yankees, so maybe I'll get us a couple of tickets for a game later this year. I ran the idea past my mom, who thought I might be better off dropping hints before spending the money on the tickets, just to make sure he'd be free and up for it whenever I did get them. I think it's a great idea though, and with the man turning 80 it'd almost be a crime to never go to at least one game with him. I don't think the season will have started yet by his birthday, but I can find something for a few months from now on a day we're both free.

So I felt like I accomplished something on the idea front, even if the physical side of my day was proving sisyphean. I went back out and there was a solid inch and a half coating every surface I already shoveled. The flakes were huge and falling faster than ever, and I worked for another 3 hours in vain. Of course, had I stayed in for 3 hours, there would have been 3 times as much to shovel in one shot. So I was doing something even though it didn't look like it. My mom called me in for dinner, which I ate while watching Human Target. My dad goes to bed early, so I don't think he knew I went back out a third time. It was still snowing and the wind was picking up, but at least the flakes were lighter and not sticking. After an hour, it actually looked like I did something. The longest was opening the front of the driveway where the plows kept blocking me in. I don't doubt I'll have to do that again before I leave for work Thursday morning. I pulled my car to the base of the driveway so if it does continue to accumulate overnight, I wouldn't have as much to clear to just get my car out. I doubt I'll be so fortunate as to get two snow days in a row; I don't think any company can afford that. I'm grateful for the one I got; I don't know how I would have had the time to go to work and clear the snow at my house. And I'd be worried all day about a 79-year-old-man with a heart condition shoveling while a 71-year-old woman with asthma had no choice but to go out and help him. That would not be good.

I'm achy, but oddly not tired. Maybe it's all the hot cocoa, or maybe I'm just wired. I'm going to sleep good Wednesday night. And since I couldn't wait until morning, I checked my company's emergency number. We are open, but not until 10 AM. I love the foresight; it definitely takes some pressure off the morning if there is any shoveling needed to get free. Sometimes work gets in the way and we might be blinded to more important things like safety. My dad probably still sees me as a little kid and is blind to the fact that I'm a grown man and can do what he once did, albeit not as quickly. “Why are you carrying it? Just throw it!” he said during his tantrum, opting to direct. I can be blind in those moments and take it personally, as a slight on my character or capabilities, but when I have time to think later, I realize he wants to feel useful. He can't just sit back; he needs to do something. And when I heard a “THUNK” and saw the discarded trunk of our Christmas tree tossed outside the back door, devoid of ornaments and most of its branches, I knew he'd found something to occupy himself inside while I worked outside. We all get a little static in our vision sometimes, but when it clears the sights that await us may truly be great.


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