The largest blizzard I ever lived through was in 1996. I was 7 months pregnant, lived with my ex, our 3 year old, and my 7 year old step son. We lived in a twin on a block made up of other twins, most of which were filled with young children. It was a great neighborhood, and some of my happiest memories are from those years. In 1996 we got 3 feet of snow. I have pics of my 3 year old walking down our newly shoveled sidewalk, with snow looming over his head on either side of him. It was the type of storm that shut down our city and surrounding areas, with only emergency responders allowed on the roads.
By the time we were able to leave our homes, my ex and I had to decide which of us would go to work. It was a difficult decision. I was the HR Director at a retirement community, 4 miles from our home. He was the Executive Chef at an airport hotel, 25 miles from our home. Both jobs needed us. Both employers were anxious to have us come in. My guess is that the decision came down to traveling distance, so I went to my job and he stayed home.
There isn’t a huge calling for HR people during a blizzard, so I found myself performing other tasks. At first I helped serving meals in our main dining room. This was extremely fulfilling. I had many residents, after seeing my belly, ask me to sit so they could serve me! I felt useful and appreciated, and I enjoyed my time with the residents. Some told me stories, some just thanked me and let me work, others chided me for performing such “physical labor” so late in my pregnancy. It was hard, but it was fun, and I enjoyed the experience. As a mom, it was just really nice to have someone thank me for feeding them, something that doesn’t happen frequently as a mom.
(aside – my sister-in-law, who adopted a 2 year old, likens motherhood to servitude. She said “it’s great for her; I wait on her hand and foot”. Yes, there are many joys to motherhood, but honestly, it does often feel like a form of servitude)
Later, I found myself in the skilled nursing unit. I ended up feeding an elderly gentleman in the throes of Alzheimer’s. I was out of my comfort zone, to say the least. To begin with, I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. Multi-task or sleep, no in-between. Plodding along patiently, which is required when feeding an Alzheimer’s patient, is not my thing. Also, I am highly skilled in terms of verbal contact, one of my greatest attributes. Not being able to capitalize on this skill was nerve wracking. He was an interesting man. One moment he was happy as could be, imaging himself in some past, pleasant environment, maybe having cocktails on a sunny veranda, or playing tennis with his faithful foursome. The next moment, though, he’d seem to realize he was disabled, being spoon fed, and unable to influence what was happening around him. At those moments he would become hostile, he’d push me away, he’d be nasty and scary. Suffice it to say, I was happy to be done, and to leave him, but also felt guilt for feeling that way.
The next day my ex went in to his work and I stayed home, trying to rest, no easy feat when taking care of 2 children cooped up in a small house for 3 days. If I remember correctly (no guarantee!) the 4th day all was back up and running, and we were both able to return to our jobs, and our children to day care. What a relief, to have everything back to normal, all of us in our proper place, doing what we did best.
As usual, this was not what I had planned to write, but, as we are now in the midst of a blizzard said to rival that one, here I am, reminiscing and writing. This blizzard is much different. This time I am a single mother, in a single home, with a driveway in addition to our sidewalk. I am here alone with my youngest teenager, because my middle son is back at college and the oldest is spending the weekend with his girlfriend. My ex is spending the weekend as he has the past 1 1/2 years; at his GF’s house, not at all concerned about us. My guess is that he’ll shovel her driveway, then they’ll head to a neighbors house for drinks and dinner (she lives in the “cool kids” neighborhood, the one he always wanted to live in; the one I dreaded visiting, and would never consider living in!).
As I write, I can somewhat relate to the gentleman with Alzheimer’s. One moment I’m happy as can be. One moment I feel like I am in a happy, warm space, and the pain of the past years is gone. Before I know it though, I am catapulted into my current reality, and I find myself filled with anger, fear and dismay. It is humbling, scary and sad. I am filled with grief, regret and disbelief. Here I sit, waiting for someone else to take care of me. I’m waiting for someone to shovel my driveway & sidewalk. I’m waiting for the moment my teenage son wants to engage me, talk to me, watch a movie with me. I’m waiting for that glimpse of a past that felt warm, predictable and comforting.
In 1996 I knew, as I fell asleep the night before the blizzard, exactly what would happen. My ex would get up in the morning, pile on his snow gear and head out into the storm. He and the neighborhood men would shovel one side of the street, then radio the township plow. The plow would come down, clearing out the middle of the street, then the men would clean out the other side. Cars would be moved back and forth, and, by the end of the day, the street and all of the sidewalks would be clear. Meanwhile, the women would care for and entertain the children, bring hot chocolate to the men, dry the snow gear when it was heavy with melted snow, dress the children who wanted to build snowmen, dry them off when they were done. It was so predictable. There was no discussion, there was no negotiating or debate or worry that things wouldn’t get done. It all got done.
Forgive me, to those dealing with Alzheimer’s, but right now I wish I had it. How much easier it would be for me to slip into the memories of those days and believe that I was still there. How much easier it would be to be back in that time that I thought all was well, that I thought it mattered what I felt, and what I wanted, that I felt like a full, contributing part of society, and an important person to my spouse, my employer, the community. How much I yearn for those days in which I believed that what I wanted, what I thought, what I cared about, really mattered. And those days when I felt like no matter what happened, I wasn’t in it alone. I would tackle it with someone else; someone who loved me. Those days are over. Today, I am here with a 14 year old, who is dreading having to walk the dog and shovel the drive. I am here wondering where I went wrong. I am here trying not to cry, trying not to let my boys know how sad, hurt, scared and alone I feel.
I am in awe of single mothers. There is one single mom I know who has been alone with her 2 children for as long as I can remember. Her children, ages 19 & 17, are the kids you want yours to be. They are polite, accomplished, and successful. When I first met her I thought she was as crazy as the summer days are long. She was a barracuda when it came to her kids; she was a shark when it came to their dad. She was Cray-Cray! Yet now her family is the one I yearn for. Her family is the unit of 3 that right now is sitting around a fire, playing monopoly, or watching a Netflix movie, after having made and eaten a wholesome dinner together. The dishes will wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow they will clear their drive and sidewalks together. Tomorrow night they will pop popcorn and play cards, after sharing dinner and hot chocolate. As much as I admire their life, as much as I envy their closeness, their enjoyment of each other and their apparent happiness, I still want to be alone. I still want my old 1 bedroom apartment and my old crappy furniture, my tiny kitchen, with 3 plates and one pot and one pan, my bathroom that I barely fit in to but was always clean and warm. How terrible is that, that all I want is to go back in time and live in those carefree, easy days, before my ex, before my step son, before my children.
So, apparently, I really, really hate the snow. As much as I want to put a positive spin on this, I just ain’t feelin it. So now I feel guilty too. Yuck. Damn snow.