Three years ago.
The crest of a hill down to a frozen pond that was part of the family home and land Jim nurtured. At the left is one of three antique blue-green sheds which were settled on a slope in closely descending order of size (somewhat like the three children we had when we moved in).
The sturdy out-buildings were filled with the detritus of family life: outdoor games; sports equipment, including the soccer nets Jim built with the boys; the red tractor that appeared one day on a flatbed truck (“Um, I don’t remember ordering a tractor” I said to the delivery man who was asking for a check. Jim forgot to mention the acquisition.).
An entire section of the largest shed was devoted to winter, including ice-skating and hockey equipment for those rare, perfect days when the pond would freeze glassy and smooth and a flash of gliding fish underneath the thick ice would thrill us.
It was the home where our children spent most of their school years, and the home where Jim died.
Three years ago, three generations of our family gathered on the hill, covered with a good foot-and-a-half of fresh snow. Smaller cousins (and one of their moms) bore animal-shaped knitted mittens. Jim trudged out with folding chairs so his parents could watch their children and grandchildren. Older children took charge of younger ones. The non-risk-averse built jumps and sailed over them, thunking upside-down in the snow in a spray of ice-blue nuggets and laughing to break the blanketing winter silence.
Many of us knew in a way that it would be the last time Jim was well enough even for such an outing at home.
I’m certain Jim didn’t think of it that way, as he enjoyed every minute outside with his family.