Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Old Man…Conlin

I grew up in Michigan, went to high school in Pennsylvania and college in Wisconsin. That said I should be pretty well prepared for winter…except I am not. The older I get, the less I enjoy snow and cold and cloud filled days. I think when I was younger I just didn’t know any better…neither did my wife. Until the day I called her to let her know I had been offered a job…in Florida. We lived there for five years and she has never been the same…neither have I.

I remember when we “moved back north” and I had been on a business trip, was stranded a day because of snow and upon returning to my car at the airport in loafers and a sweater (it had been 55 when I left) I had to dig my car out of eight inches of snow…not counting the mess that had been plowed all around my car. An hour later with frozen hands and loafers that felt more like cardboard I was “free”. My hands never recovered that winter no matter the amount of “hand healing” lotion I applied.

Four Months later I was driving back to our home in Connecticut from Rhode Island…In April. APRIL. A “freak” snowstorm descended upon the region. The day before had been nearly 60 degrees. About eight inches of snow turned a 3 hour drive into a 6 hour drive. The snow was wet and heavy too so I had to exit once to clear the wipers. When I did this, another car stopped as well. A man got out and asked if I was “okay”. I nodded and explained what I was doing. He again asked me if I was “okay”. I again said yes. Finally he said “Are you SURE?” I hesitated thinking perhaps he knew something I didn’t, like there was a psychopath in my backseat. As I snuck a peak in the back window while I cleared off the taillights I suddenly realized his concern. My car still had Florida plates. I then explained that I knew how to drive in this stuff and grew up in the Midwest, etc. He then asked, “So what are you doing here?” With a goofy smile I told him we had just moved back. He just shook his head, said to himself “Why?” and left.

And so it is some eleven years later and it is the winter of 2014 and I find myself asking the same question. Snow storms, more than one polar vortex (vortie?) and today an ice storm that has left us without power has me questioning why anyone would live in the north. Yes, there are the diehards who having never lived in the south say things like “I would miss the seasons” or “I just love the fall colors” and my favorite, “it is too hot in Florida in the summer.”  Well here are my responses:  There really are only two “seasons” in the north. Hot and cold. Go on the internet and Google fall colors…problem solved. And finally I must point out to you the summer we left Florida to go to Delaware for vacation with family. Florida was 88 degrees. Delaware… 104 degrees. They had rolling blackouts, the local pool filter kept shutting off which prompted the lifeguards to panic and demand we “Get out of the water…now!” The first time they did this the exit from the pool resembled a scene from Jaws. So no…I reject those arguments.

At this point you must be asking “What prompted this…he has been back in the tundra for over a decade.” Truth be told…yesterday prompted this. The day before we had eight inches of snow; we wrestled with our newly obtained snow blower (our neighbor moved and generously gifted it to us…since he was moving…to Florida!) and did a less than complete job removing the snow from our driveway. There were patches of snow that overnight turned, well…icy. It was sunny out and knowing it might be May before I saw that again I went outside…and I took the dogs. I decided to venture out further and get the mail…a mistake. As I approached the incline where the driveway slopes down towards the street I felt it…my left foot was giving way…slipping. In a spastic effort to save myself I twisted to the right. My other foot slipped too and I was airborne…feet right out from under me. With arms flailing and feet in the air I knew I was going to hit both concrete and ice and my back was going to bear the brunt of my stupidity. I am always amazed at how certain things that happen in an instant also provide incredible clarity…as was the case during “The Wipeout.” I could see the mailbox blur through my line of sight, I saw the wispy  white clouds contrasted against the blue sky and  I had enough time to tell myself not to let my head hit…no matter what. As I landed I tensed up to stop my head from hitting and I succeeded. I also succeeded at landing hard on my right hip, at feeling most of the muscles in my back scream in anger and in feeling a good portion of the air leave my lungs. I had saved my head, bruised my hip, stressed my upper back and knocked the wind out of me. Oh and the dogs were thrilled that I had “come down to their level”. As I rolled in pain and tried to breathe again, dumb and dumber (Chase and Murphy) greeted me with a snowy, slobbery mess. I still am not sure if they came to play or were just seizing the opportunity to perhaps “off” me since I was down.

I struggled to my feet, nearly falling again and confirming that my back was “not in a good place”. I stood as straight as I could (which meant I was totally bent over) and did what anyone who ever bites it in public does…I looked around to see if I had been spotted.  I had not. Not that I knew of anyway. But what was worse was that I now felt something I have not ever felt before in my life; (okay mostly not ever except for the time I went back for my five year anniversary at college and a co-ed addressed me as “sir”) I felt…old. I wondered what this fall would have done to me in another 10 or 15 years. I wondered if a broken hip would have ruined my already dismal golf game. Mostly I wondered if we had any whiskey in the house.  I made it inside, went straight for the Advil and waited until 4:59 to make my first medicinal Manhattan.

This morning, my back hurts but not nearly as much as it should, we have no power; I dug the car out for my wife for the second day out of three (so she could go to work!) I am hearing rumors of a potential Nor’easter on Sunday and I feel old. I feel old, I miss Florida and I hate that groundhog. I am guessing I will spend today powerless, waiting for 5PM (so I can help my back) and I will ask myself the same question the man in Connecticut asked me 11 years ago…

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