Like everyone in the northeast, I’ve spent the past week arranging my life around the weather. Which included an early getaway to NH, way back last Thursday, when the sun was shining and there was no snow anywhere, back when kids were out playing pond hockey on black ice, all up and down I-89. The motivating factor for my departure to the north was that my eldest son finally got his home hill college ski racing start, and would be competing on Friday and Saturday. After four years of showing up, doing all the weightlifting and interval training, being there for every practice, schlepping to Quebec and even Wisconsin when there were FIS races and the opportunity to improve his points while the varsity guys raced for glory on the college circuit…well, someone needed to be there to bear witness to this accomplishment.
The timing was good, oncology-wise. I planned my drive north for the window when I was feeling most fit, before the post-steroid downer kicked in. The idea was that J would bus up Friday and be available to spectate Saturday, and drive us both home thereafter. In the meantime, my hosts were happy to care for me, for however long I needed caring. Nothing like first-rate friends to drop in on, who made me endless cups of herbal tea and baked me muffins with delicious roughage and piled my bed with all varieties of pillows and covers. That, and a cozy house with multiple dogs and cats, which made my non-stop hair loss a little less noticeable.
Clearly, we hadn’t really looked at the weather forecast before I headed north. Oh, yeah, there’s a storm coming, that I knew. But I didn’t really foresee it as a repeat of the Blizzard of ’78. During which, amusingly, I snuck out of town to race in these very same college carnival races, a mere 35 years ago. This time around, a driving ban was put in place before Route 128 became a parking lot, which left my beloved marooned on the homefront. It also turned him into a one-man army in charge of snow removal and rooftop cornice abatement and pesky furnace maintenance , poor fellow. That, plus he actually taught on the day when the Commonwealth was shut down, since most of his B-school students were on campus and happy to not have to miss a class.
Which left me to be the representative spectator on race day. I had the fun of seeing people I knew from every era of my life—fellow current parents, friends I raced with from grade school to college, families my son has overlapped with over the years. It really is a lovely little world, ski racing, and there was more than one friend my age who just came because she knew she’d see people she wanted to see, even without a child of her own on the running order.
Blessedly, from my perspective, the weather made bundling up the norm. While my newly coiffed wig sat in the back seat of my car, I was outfitted myself for the conditions. With fleece and down and wool, I was scarfed and goggled and ready for all the snow and the wind could throw at me. My thinning hair, and with it my blasted diagnosis, I got to keep under my hat.
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I drove back home on Sunday morning, pulling into our driveway just as the front end loader was finally making some headway on our dead end road. And upon my arrival, I marveled at all the work that had been done in my absence. I am, after all, the snow removal czarina in our little realm. I’m the first responder, the prophylactic salter of sidewalks, the plow guy contractee, the one who makes sure that our little fifedom won’t be hearing from the mailman about uncleared walks. I confess, I fret about it. J knows that when the day comes that we need to bust a move to another domicile, it will be snow and ice that will push me over to the land of underground parking and full time maintenance staffs.
But to come home to a job already done…well. That’s a new concept. And in some ways, it was, by force of geography and driving ban, the only thing that would make me actually do what everyone keeps telling me to do: Take it easy. Let others do for me. Let go and let…well, if not god, at least my dear Valentine, bless his heart.
And yet, by Monday, I was ready. The day dawned warm. The rain would be coming. There were snowbanks that needed winging back, sidewalks that could use another pass. So out I went.
There’s getting the help you need, and there’s doing what you know you can do. If the first step to helping someone is knowing NOT to do what he/she can do for him/herself, well then, I was left with exactly what I needed. The meditative trance of slicing off a chunk of snow, breaking it into shovel-able bits, pitching them up and over the snowbanks, step by step, shovelful by shovelful, making what just minutes ago had been a thick blanket into a clear path, a wider berth, an extra parking spot—that, to me, was a little bit of bliss. To shovel, to stop, to look upon that little accomplishment, to stretch my back and say to myself, Yes, that will do for now…that made me feel good and whole and useful and normal.
I’ve been keeping at it, bit by bit, all this week. A little more off the corner here, a little wider on the path there. It’s been a satisfying way to be out of doors, to make my muscles ache a little, to take that deserved bath and enjoy that earned nap. I’ve had friends checking in to see if I need help with the snow, and I even got the loveliest delivery of chicken soup—some frozen, some ready for immediate consumption. I’m grateful for every act of kindness, I really truly am. But more than anything, I’m relieved to find these little bits of myself in small acts of normalcy, in taking care of what needs taking care of, that I can make happen, all on my own.