Winter’s blanket

I shouldn’t complain about it.  While this has personally been the most terrible year of my life, the weather stuck it out for me (it’s my blog – it’s my weather) for as long as it could.  I appreciate that.  Two days ago was Saturday.  It was in the mid 50’s and I had on a T-shirt and my motorcycle jacket.  Not the warmest out, but dry and comfortable.  Nice enough for taking a walk, Pokémon hunting, whatever it is you like to do.  I’ve been impressed by how green the front yard has been.  It’s a struggle every spring to keep it looking good as there’s this thing called snow rot that takes over, probably from the weight and dampness of the snow on the ground and it takes the grass a long time to recover.  Yesterday, Sunday, was a little chillier outside but not too bad.  But I could feel it coming.  You know when it’s on its way.  And it was.

I don’t sleep well at all.  I should wear my CPAP machine but honestly I don’t care anymore.  Who am I going to wake up?  I’ll admit that I’m sometimes up until 2 or 3 then up by 7 and to work by 9.  Last night I spent a lot of time just looking out the back bedroom window at the yard.  I could still make out the lines from the last time I mowed.  The solar lights on Mary’s garden were still shining bright.  But you could see it in the air…. making it’s way up from the south.

A thick fog fell over the whole city.  Fog freezes and turns into ice thus making the roads really slick.  I could tell it was happening because I can see the police cars with their lights on up and down Burdick, the road behind my house, flashing all night long.  Drunks and speeders.  There’s always a new batch of new military people, out-of-towners and newly licensed teenagers to make it dangerous for everyone else.  Then it started.  The wind picked up and you could finally see it in the air.  Snow.

I could see it start to powder the ground.  The low areas first.  Goodbye lawn mower lines.  The deck is starting to take on snow.  I try to run a checklist in my head “Did I get everything picked up and put away outside?!”  I think so.  There’s not much anymore to gather.  The garden hose cart is the most important.  Good thing I drained it and put it away a week ago when it was still nice out.

I get lost in my thoughts.  The floor register is hot from pumping out the hot air to keep up with the sinking temperatures outside.  I put my foot on it, mashing it down into the carpet.  Its hot but it feels nice in a weird way.  I guess it lets me know that I can still feel things.  There, next to the register, are my house shoes.  I wondered where I put them.  Much to the disappointment of Mary, I have always preferred to wear my shoes inside the house – or in my case – my boots.  I know… I know… but boots are smooth on the bottom and don’t really track in anything.

I wasn’t feeling well over the weekend.  Maybe it was the weather.  Or the thought of the on-coming winter.  Or just thoughts.  But I wasn’t feeling well.  While it’s uncharacteristic of me to take off my boots, I wanted to lay down on my new couch and try not to think.  I chugged some NyQuil and took a handful of whatever pills I could find.  I found a sweatshirt and a pillow and sat down on the couch.  The floor was mildly cold so I thought I should have something on my feet.  I suddenly remembered I had these house shoes.  I don’t quite remember the last time I saw or wore them but I assumed they were in the bedroom closet.  After a few minutes of rooting around, there they were.  Oddly free of cat hair.  Did I clean them?  Did Mary?  I don’t remember.  It’s puzzling.  Like I said, it’s been awhile.

I fell asleep on the couch that night and woke up early enough in the morning to wish I was in bed so I dragged myself off the couch, tossed the slippers in the corner and laid down.  So my house shoes have been sitting here ever since.  Next to the hot register.  The lights are off but the blinds are open and it’s bright.  Snow bright.  I can see clearly in my dark room.  Did I mention that I tend to get lost in my thoughts?

Its getting brighter in the room which again, refocus my attention back outside.  How long was I lost in thought?!  The entire ground is covered now and it’s accumulated at least an inch or more on the deck.  They said we might get 15 inches of snow by Wednesday.  My heart sinks in my chest.  Yes I know I’m in North Dakota.  Yes I know the weather tried to hold out just for me and did the best it could.  Yes I know.  I look down at Mary’s garden and the solar lights are beginning to dim.  The winter is bringing out its blanket to rest for the next several months.

I’m not ready for this.  Winter changes things.  At least when it was snow free outside, I could fool myself into thinking that the summer time and autumn were still here.  That things had only recently changed.  There was no snow or winter here when everything went down.  Before I could get in the car and just drive but now I’m trapped.  Alone.  I can feel winter’s blanket suffocating me on the inside.  It gets hard to breathe.  Gotta try to keep it together.  A few months and it’ll be over.  I keep telling myself that but the first big snow really messes with my mind.  This is my first winter alone.

I didn’t “celebrate” Thanksgiving this year.  Not this year.  I won’t be observing Christmas either.  Sure, I’ll get a few things and send them out to family, but I’m taking a break from the “holiday cheer” for the foreseeable future.  Not that I’m turning into the grinch but this is a super hard time for me.  Especially this year.  There is loss everywhere.

My birthday is the first of day of December.  It has been that way for the past 40 years and this Thursday will mark the beginning of my 41st.  The first thing I think of is the second line of Merle Haggard’s favorite song “Footlights.”

“But I’m forty-one years old and I ain’t got no place to go when it’s over

And I’ll hide my age and make the stage and try to kick the footlights out again”

I’m not really hung up on the number.  It’s not that.  Part of it is that it’s another thing to “celebrate” that I just don’t feel in the mood to celebrate.  My co-worker today asked me if I had any plans for Thursday and I said I didn’t think so – why?  He laughed and reminded me it was my birthday.  Oops.  My birthday feels more to me like a reminder now.  In 2014, my dad passed away five days after my birthday, December the 6th of 2014.  I didn’t even think of it at the time but today I went to Wendy’s for lunch and had, you guessed it, chili.  The last birthday gift I received from my dad and the last thing he did before he went into the hospital was to get me a few Wendy’s gift cards for my birthday.  I know…  but December is not the same anymore.

I’m not sure that I’m done grieving his loss but really, do you ever?  I don’t think so.  My father met the entire world to me.  I can’t being to describe the gigantic hole left behind when he passed.  In my life and many others.  There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him.  I can think of about 2 million things I’d love to ask him about right now.  While I know that he’d love me, I know he’d be really disappointed with me and what has happened over this last year.  It’s hard to explain, hard for some to understand and it’s too much to get into here…  Right now…  Yeah, I know.

My last visit with my dad. My son, John Vincent was with me. I had no idea it’d be the last time I’d see my father. June 2014


My sister sent me a text a couple of days ago with a tracking number on it.  I had to ask her what it was for, again, forgetting that my birthday was this week.   I told her I’d keep an eye out for it and let her know when I had it in my hands. You see, two Christmas’ ago, the gifts sent from my sister and mother were stolen from our door step so everyone is very paranoid about packages here – and with good reason.

As luck would have it, right before I headed back to work, the postman brought a package up to the front door.  It was the box from my sister.  Since it was slow at work I figured I could take an extra minute to open the box and check it out making sure that everything was okay.

The box was lightweight.  I really had no idea what could have been inside of it.  I carefully slid my knife through the tape and opened the box.  Inside was maybe one of the nicest gifts I believe I’ve received.  My sister paid more attention than I thought.  When we were in Kentucky in 2015 going through my dads things, we each took a few things and some shirts.  Personal things.  Things that might not mean anything to anyone else, but are priceless to us.

Inside the box, I found this:

My sister had the last shirt I had seen my father wear into a pillow.  I had to pause and gather myself for a moment.  I took it upstairs and placed it in the center of my couch.  It looks right there.  What a thoughtful gift.  That’s what family does.

It was time, overtime, to get back in my snow covered car and make my way back to work.  Out of my warm garage.  Down the familiar yet snow covered streets that I’ve driven a thousand times…  Almost on auto pilot but not quite.  Thinking about my dad, Mary’s garden, lost loves, final winters and forgotten holidays.

Plowing myself and my car though winter’s blanket once again.

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