Last week I drove in the insulated silence of an intense snow storm. The only noise was the screeching of Sisyphean windshield wipers heroically trying to keep up with an impossible job. The storm was more ephemeral than most Nor’easters, but left some permanent scars: a hit and run to the front fence and mailbox leaves me unable to collect mail, and with yet more maintenance to do.
This storm’s snow was so dense it clumped like beads which defied gravity and clung to the long line Jim set up as a run for our less-reliable beagle.
It sat so heavily on every branch and leaf that the trees along each road listed and seemed to reach out to us, like the sinister forest swirling around Snow White in a cartoon kingdom.
It coated the rhododendron bushes by our porch with so much snow that their branches fell to the ground, crushed, sagging in wavy layers like sad and dejected furrows in a crumpled face.
I was reminded of an exchange just two years ago, before we knew Jim was sick—before I saved every message from him, no matter how ordinary–when he emailed me from work (his hearty truck could get there when everyone else remained snowbound) and told me I needed to make sure our boys “cleared the snow from the bushes or else they would die.” I sent back a grammatically tongue-in-cheek email to the effect of being hesitant to send our sons out for work that sounded quite so dangerous, or at very least threatening. “The bushes, not the boys,” he replied.
Last winter was marked by the steady accumulation of storm after withering storm. I looked out one of Jim’s hospital windows last March and saw yards of accumulated snow, peaked at points as if frozen into white ocean waves. At home the roof literally groaned from the weight of wet snow.
Since then, the tiny white Christmas lights Jim had entwined in the same rows of bushes and which had sparkled through the nights of every season, greeting me during the silent wee hours when I came back from the hospital last winter, have gone out. I don’t know how to get them working again.
Last winter was one of waiting. I waited as Jim slept. I waited as he underwent fruitless examinations and procedures. I waited for test results.
We all waited for the inevitable. We waited as the symptoms of his cancer took hold.
We waited for medication to be delivered. We waited for it to take effect, to give him relief. Sometimes it never did.
This winter has been punctuated wildly with spring temperatures, leaving no accumulated snow and bringing out confused fowl, including the bright-red cardinals who remind me I need to fill Jim’s array of birdfeeders. Among all the tasks which have gone by the wayside, I shall fill those for him today.
(c) 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon