So many people think that holidays are the hardest times after someone’s death. Maybe for some people they are – the old traditions don’t fit anymore and the new ones don’t fit yet. But holidays are just one day (or two.) They may have been special and noteworthy, they may have been the same year after year after year, but you know when they’re coming. You have the chance to reflect and remember, to make changes, or to keep things the same (or as much the same as they can be when there is an empty space in your life where your loved one once dwelt.)
I think that the regular, everyday days are harder. You can’t plan for the moment that your loss jumps up and bites you. Again and again it surprises you and catches you unaware.
Everyone who knew Bob knows how much he hated the cold. Year after year, winter after winter, he would complain about it. If it weren’t for a promise to his mother, he (we) would have long ago moved away from the cold. Mina’s exact words to him, one year as we were getting ready to visit family and friends in California, were: “Don’t buy a house. I’m not dead yet.”
But as much as he hated the cold and the snow, he really liked his snowblower. I never understood this. I would begin to shovel the front walk and he would wave me back in the house, telling me he had the snowblower, he would take care of it. And other than the time he ran the snowblower over the three morning papers and broke it, he would take care of it. Of course he would then kvetch that I should come out and brush the snow off the cars.
And I would come back out and brush the snow off the cars and move them up the driveway.
So one of my biggest challenges going into the winter has been mastering the snowblower. In early December, my next door neighbor taught me how to start and use the snowblower. I felt really powerful and strong that day. A week later, when it snowed, I had to have my across-the- street neighbor teach me again how to start the snowblower. And my powerful feeling lasted 1/3 of the way up the driveway until the wet, heavy snow clogged the snowblower. Two days later, my across-the-street neighbor had to walk me through how to start the snowblower again. But it was cold and the wet snow was frozen in the snowblower, so it didn’t matter that it started. It’s a good thing I have shovels.
This morning I woke up to more snow. A year ago, Bob would have already been out with the snowblower. I used the shovel. I’m a stubborn midwesterner. I’m going to master the snowblower. I’m pretty sure that I actually know now how to start it and I’ll find out tomorrow if that is really true. I plan to view snowblowing and shoveling as exercise. (Ok – I really think I’m going to view it as a major pain. But before I give in and hire someone to plow my driveway, I am going to become the strong, powerful woman who knows how to use a snowblower.)
I don’t mind the cold as much as Bob did, but I don’t really like the snowblower the way he did. And every time I have to use it, it’s another reminder that he’s dead. Last February he said it was the last time he was going to shovel, but he was stubborn too. As much as he hated the cold, he would have been out with the snowblower today.
It’s not the holidays that are unbearably hard. It’s the damn snowblower.