Winter Warmer

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Timed right, a good old-fashioned batten-down-the-hatches blizzard can be just what the doctor ordered.

Midweek through last week, a perfect storm of elements was starting to come into play in my life. On Wednesday morning, I woke with a tell-tale nagging scratch in my throat that told me a winter cold was on fast approach. Raiding my medicine cabinet, I downed enough Phenylphrine to open up a meth lab somewhere in my sinuses. I chased that with all the Vitamin C I could squeeze from 6 or several oranges and started sucking on zinc tabs all afternoon.

A fool’s errand. I’d be sick by 6:00 p.m. Dead by dawn. I’m good for about one winter cold a season and a few days prior, when my friend’s precious little boy coughed directly in my face, I knew my visa was stamped.

That same Wednesday was the day the kids were due to arrive as their Mom was headed south to Sunny Florida for a little mid-winter siesta as a treat towards her impending 40th Birthday. By now, I think you all know that we are no longer together but just in case you were wondering – we are no longer together. But all is amicable and comfortable and I had no problem burning a few vacation days so I could be home to pick up the kids from school on Thursday and Friday. It would give me a little extra bonding time with them (we alternate the days they come to live with me – trading off Wednesdays and Thursdays every other week – so this was a bonus Wednesday). It would also give me ample time while they were off at school to get some errands done; provided my cold didn’t knock me down for the count.

On that same day – the local TV station started spouting doomsday propaganda that “The Storm of the Century” was upon us – warning of a major blizzard to hit the New England area from Friday through Sunday. We’re not that deep into this century and already we’ve had about 1,000 of these calamities. Anything more than dime-sized hail and you’re urged to stock up on milk, batteries and SHOVELS?!?!? People, shovels are not disposable. Stop throwing them away at the end of each year and then staging a run on them at Lowe’s whenever we get wind that a flurry may fall.

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So – being of sound mind and smoking body (it’s my Blog, I can lie if I want to) – I had a sneaking suspicion that there was no way on Earth my kids would see a home room on Friday morning. Not when the Governor was already declaring his future intent to declare a State of Emergency. That guy – always the alarmist. So, I ended up squeezing as many errands as I could into Thursday and by that night – as I was shepherding the kids to their play rehearsal – I got the call from their school superintendent who chased his usual pre-recorded “No School” announcement with a sweet rider for us parent types.

“…and although children do not have school on Friday, that does not get them out of work scott free. They should spend a portion of the day helping their Mom or Dad by cleaning the room and shoveling the driveway.”

I had to play the message back to the kids 3 times before logic trumped their initial horror.

Colin immediately shot a hole in the supposedly fool-proof plan.

“How can he possibly go around and check everyone’s bedrooms. The governor said you have to be off the road by 12 pm.”

Damn you, Deval!!!

Friday rolled around with my cold continuing to thicken at a rate in line with the building clouds. It was OK though. I had the day off. The kids could sleep in. There was nothing to do but wait for the Snowpocalypse or ThunderBlizzard. (I’m trademarking both titles before the SyFy channel can grab ’em and pit ’em against Pirahnaconda.)

Around 11 am, just as forecast, the first flakes began to fall in our area – West of Boston/South of Worcester – right on the Connecticut border. They picked up in intensity throughout the afternoon and by evening the blizzard was in full effect – with whiteout conditions and a state-wide alert banning all vehicles from roadways. By the time I went to bed at 12 am – miraculously having maintained power the whole way through allowing me to complete the latest Bourne move (I forget the title… Bourne Again?) – anyway, we had easily a foot and change outside and you could barely see 40 feet in front of you.

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Before turning the page to Saturday, there were two phone calls I had – in complete succession – one ended just as the other began, that couldn’t be more diametrically opposed but are united in the fact that I’ll always remember where I was when I had these conversations – smack dab in the middle of Snowpocalypse™. I’m keeping the details out of this post to preserve anonymity but both calls were important in their own right.

The first call was with someone I had been previously communicating with via e-mail; having been introduced by a mutual friend in hopes that she and I would spark some sort of connection and potentially step out on the town for a first date. We talked for a couple of hours – just one of those great, friendly, casual conversations that meander far and wide and tell you a good deal about someone you’ve known such a brief sliver of time. We inked a plan for a date (for later this coming weekend) and no sooner did I end that call, did I make another call to a completely unrelated person with a simple question I had and knew they could answer. (I’m being purposely obtuse because this is their life not mine and therefore I don’t aim to point a spotlight on their business).

All I can say is that this call which began so simply grew immediately complex when they confided in me a recent diagnosis of cancer. We’re talking, the gutt-punch you never see coming. We talked for about 25-minutes; running the full gamut of emotions and by the end of it – we actually closed it out on a hearty laugh, as improbable as that may seem. There was a positivity to everything he said – and we both knew – life will go on!!! Like most of these diagnoses, the news immediately alters the recipient’s life. Time is of the essence. So, a plan of attack had already been etched; due to begin this week.

A couple days ago, I reached out to this friend and related the following:

Like all of the big moments in a life, it’s going to be very easy for me to recall exactly where I was when I first heard your news. It was in the middle of a raging Blizzard.

Our conversation quickly changed and when you confided in me what was going on, for a moment – the wind was sucked from the sails. But then I heard the bravery in your voice… the courage in your cadence… the positivity in every single beat of the plan to eradicate this threat and to come out on top. 
 
We’re New Englanders. Blizzards and Nor’Easters always threaten to blow us down. We stand tall – we weather them out – and we come out the other side stronger than ever. On a night when the snow was piling and the wind howling – when suddenly all those silly fears of a powerless night were dashed by your very real and sobering diagnosis, I ended up closing that call with a slight smile. I could hear it in your voice. There was no doubt in my mind that this cancer could huff and it could puff but there was no way on Earth you would let it blow you down.
 
I look forward to coming back to write the epilogue when all is said and done and you stand tall; having knocked it down for good. This news came in like a lion. I predict it goes out like a lamb.” 
I reprint that in testament to this dude’s spirit. He will beat the hell out of this. I know it!!!
So, when I went to sleep that night – my head clouded with a storm of emotions. Minor annoyance at my cold – which suddenly seemed so insignificant. Hopeful that the power would remain on and the kids would wake to a warm home. Excited at the prospect of a first date with an interesting person. Humbled by the courage and strength of a good friend.
It’s that last one that let my thoughts drift to those two sweet souls slumbering away – mere yards – in their own rooms. I knew that once the storm had had it’s say, we could get our play, cold be damned.
These are the moments that make a life.
By midday Saturday, the storm was done. With Aria fully embracing the jammie day she lobbied for earlier in the morning, Colin & I left her behind to read in her bedroom as we hit the tundra to try and make a dent. Back at my old house, I had a huge industrial strength snow blower – the type that clears an Interstate in one fell swoop. Here at the apartment – a measly shovel.
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Fortunately, my cold was one of those rare ailments that kills you when you first wake up and again when you settle down for the evening – but retreats in strength during the day – so I knew I had no problem shouldering my portion of the work. With the guy who lives downstairs grabbing a snowblower from the garage, we came up with a plan. He took the top half of the driveway where the plows had erected a mini mountain range and I worked the lower end. We would meet somewhere in the middle.

I also offered myself a little incentive. Although the storm and my cold had steered me off my normal gym routine, there was enough work ahead of me to not feel too guilty when I offered up “a beer for every 20 minutes of shoveling.” I figured I’d be done in an hour and 3 frosty ones might remedy my head much better than 400 additional milligrams of Sudafed.

When I finished 3 hours later, I realized I’d have to bank some of those brews. Never a good idea to stage a one-man keg party while on kid duty.

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As Colin and I surveyed our kingdom, we found our good friends and next door neighbors, Stacey and Josh – out in front of their house. Their brood had taken advantage of the traveling ban and were racing sleds down the center of our street. So, Josh and I, being duty-bound Dads who have pledged to uphold the laws of our land – turned in our badges and grabbed two sleds so we could race each other. Little did I know, the course was rigged. Despite the best efforts of my pit crew to give me a great starting push, I lagged a full league behind Josh – obviously a victim of the shoddy plowing on my side of the street.

Those few runs down the road were mere appetizer for the main event the next day, when upon pulling into my driveway, midday – I got a text from Stacey looking to see if the kids and I wanted to join her fam and that of our other friends, Sarah and Bobby – at the local golf course for another several dozen runs on the slopes. The kids were in snow clothes before the words could exit my mouth and we spent a good couple of hours flying down, running back up, and soaring down all over again and again and again. Despite my cold, my energy returned. It’s days like that where I’m 40 going on 14.

It’s days like all of these that I’m thankful for this Blog – to let these memories stick.

And to share it all…

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Comments now closed (4)

    • Actually – I have them in full size. I just have to shrink them on the site or it throws the formatting all out of whack.

  • Awesome as always Ed! Love what you wrote to your friend. Remind me to call you with all my life drama so I can be inspired by you like that!

    • That’s a plan. And I told Sarah, if something bad ever happens to me – I hope there is one person out there who steps out to say something nice about me.

      Then I remembered – of course there is.

      YOU!!! 🙂