Tag Archives: January

Winter, old friend.

 

Winter and I have known one another for a very, very long time. Granted, I don’t remember the first few years, being a baby and all, but I’m sure she does. In the same way my mother did. Knew every moment of my life from before my first breath. Gone more than fifteen years now, I am continually amazed at a love that has lasted much longer than a lifetime. Thoughts and remembrances of her awaken me like fragrances brought on the dancing breeze. The only other Earthbound soul with me from the day I was born left this world last year on Labor Day. My father and I had a singular way at goodbye, at which we would say “Don’t forget that I love you.” I never shall forget, Dad, as Mom has shown me. We don’t forget. Now here it is mid-January, right between their birthdays. His on the eleventh, hers the twenty-eighth. My daughter Miranda celebrated hers on the twenty-third.

She received a bouquet of flowers, the first time I’ve sent such a thing. There is, mixed up in this old mind, a certain bank. A pay-it-forward for the past sort of thing. It is born of the voices of my dear departed. When it comes to gifting, they lean over my shoulder as I open my precious Jack Benny wallet, and they whisper, quite insistently.
“Think of all the money you no longer spend on me. Christmases and birthdays and Fathers’ Days and Mothers’ Days.”
One has the outright audacity to remind me how he did not live long enough to gift me grandchildren bearing his likeness.
“All those Christmas presents…” he says.
As brutally direct as these ghosts may be, I cannot deny their logic. And so, this winter, this January, finds me sending a gaudy and over-priced vase of flowers with a card that reads simply “Happy Birthday Miranda. I love you. Dad.”
This marks the first birthday, the first winter, the first January since 1975 that is not celebrated with her mother.

From the loss of my father on Labor Day, we rode a roller coaster through our last fall together. For the first in thirty-five years, the kitchen of The Ark was not bustling and brimming with family and friends for Thanksgiving. My wife and I ate Thanksgiving dinner together in her hospital room. A homemade dinner, made and delivered thirty miles by our youngest child.
Alone in The Ark, I cut a Christmas tree, and adorned it with lights as the dog and cat looked on. I decorated for the holidays, not as much as a regular year, and hoped she would be home for Christmas. My children’s consternations were allayed with guarded phrases.
“Should the worst come to pass, it’s important, for the grandchildren, for my own children, maybe for me, too. It’s important to know that even when someone dies there still remains all the rest that we have come to know. Christmas will still come, and New Year’s Day. Pop Pop will still be here, still be Pop Pop, and The Ark will stand, upholding its ‘Holiday House’ traditions.”
Winters and Januaries, birthdays, springs and summers will arrive on schedule. We will continue to live and love and grow together, now without our dear “Mam”.

She left us just ten days before Christmas. She had finished most of her shopping before her hospitalization November first. She finished the rest on her laptop from her hospital bed. It was an oddly warm sensation as we opened the gifts she’d chosen. A timely reminder that love perseveres beyond the grave. A curiously bittersweet softening of our parting, as if she knew it would be at such a difficult time of the year.

And now there is my beloved winter. My welcome old friend January. There could be no better time to grieve, to mourn, to heal. A time when drawing the drapes and hunkering down is a normal pastime. Days like today; seven degrees, with wind chill: one. A foot of snow covers the ranch, and long, slender crystal icicles hang from the eaves. Yesterday was spent sipping coffee on the couch, watching birds at the feeders.
I thought I might begin to move and breathe a little. Not just going through the motions of life like the last three months, but looking for me, tossed aside in a closet somewhere during this tempestuous time. I might paint again, or fiddle with photography. Or write.

Okay, so if I’m not up to that yet, maybe watching birds. Play a few episodes of Sergeant Preston Of The Yukon on the TV. I moved the easel three times. Stared repeatedly at the unfinished canvas. The camera remained at rest beside the kitchen window. I pulled my journal from the chifforobe for the first time in months, but it sat on the coffee table, undisturbed all day. I played Sergeant Preston in the background while I performed the Saturday weekly cleaning of the pellet stove. Then shut the TV off.

 

Today, I raised the blinds and January leaped in through my window, cupped my face in her sunny and cool hands, and said, quietly and gently, “Good morning, old friend.”
A blanket of pristine snow glittered with diamonds under a bright, clear blue Winter sky.
And I opened my journal, and wrote this.

I see the temperature has risen to three degrees, with wind chill. Time to suit up and take the dog for a snowshoe hike.

Or maybe the dog is just an excuse.

For a long overdue and sorely needed visit with a very, very old friend.

 

Take care and keep in touch.

Paz

January Journal

Whitetail Deer, Rosenburg

Whitetail Deer, Rosenburg

Winter has brought its gamesmanship this year, and is keeping us guessing every day. November and December were unusually warm, and we had a “Green Christmas”, with no snow cover. On the 27th of December, I found dandelions blooming on the lawn, and it was 53 degrees F.

December?

December?

We kicked off January with Pop Pop’s New Year’s Eve Sleepover for Grandkids.  We filled the otherwise-empty nest with a few kids and stayed up to watch the famous ball drop in Times Square. We had enough snacks for a party of twenty, and enough confetti for a hotel ballroom.

 

As of today, we barely have a snow cover. We had about eight or ten inches of snowfall, most of which has melted or blown away.

Nowadays I look forward to the snow, even the cold. It really doesn’t last that long, just eight or twelve weeks when you think about it. Even then, there are many days during the toughest winters that are mild. The January thaw, those rare and gorgeous days when there’s snow on the ground, ice on the pond and it’s sunny and 36 degrees F. Beautiful.

It’s funny how people think of the weather calendar. Last fall it was barely September first and folks started saying things like “Before you know it, there will be snow.” with a twinge of agony. These same folks are looking so far ahead and thinking of misery. We had all of September and October to enjoy with hardly any likelihood of snow. Once in a while we’ll see a flurry before Halloween, on Halloween once! This year we had no snow right through the end of the year. A new record in the books for latest first snowfall.

Oddly these folks aren’t talking about seeing their first Colt’s Foot, an event that’s barely eight weeks from now.

January skies are second only to February skies. The air is clearer, the colors deeper. Sunsets and sunrises are my favorites. Walking the trail with Chuy The Wonderdog, we often “put the sun to bed” as we walk the last hour of daylight.

Haven’t been ice fishing yet this season. The first half of the winter was too mild to form enough ice. My fishing buddy Joe, a real die-hard ice fisherman, has only been out a couple of times. Not looking good for this weekend either, as temps in the low teens will combine with 20 mile-per-hour winds to make it bone-chilling miserable on the open ice.

And so, January 2016 is history. A twelfth of the year gone already. Time sure flies when you’re waiting and wishing for snow and that perfect winter day on the pond.

Meanwhile, time to plan our Zhivago day, where we put the 3-hour movie on, sip hot coffee, wrap up under blankets, and be thankful we’re not in Siberia during the Russian Revolution.

Bet they had some great ice fishing, though, once they cut through the four feet of ice.

 

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz