Tag Archives: Winter

Groundhog Day CXXIII

Phil saw his shadow. Bogus.

Phil saw his shadow. Bogus.

“This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement

of a large squirrel predicting the weather.” – Phil Connors, Groundhog Day

It was just one of those days.

Things, breaking.

Dad’s closest friend called. He’d just totaled his wife’s brand-new car. My five-year-old son was complaining that one of his legs was hurting. The old Jeep Cherokee-turned-snow-plow was having trouble starting and it was snowing. And not just regular snowing. It was of the bend-over-and-how-do-you-like-that? variety.

Our family only knows one way to deal with such trying circumstances. “Did somebody say ‘tequila?’”

Drinks started flowing early, because: Suck it, snow.

Last-minute preparations were being made for the annual Super Bowl party. It’s kind of a big deal. Dozens and dozens of people because my father is one of the few people on the planet who builds not one—but TWO—pretty massive bars on his property.

The only problem with having the greatest party location in the world is that everyone wants to come and bring everyone they know.

I think Dad used to like it. Hey, look at me. I’m in my fifties, and a million people come to my parties without me even inviting anyone!

Which is true. There will be 60-75 people here tonight without any sort of formal invitations being sent. People just know to come.

It would appear that Dad’s liking it less these days. Now, he’s more of the mind to have a bunch of his close friends here but maybe not worry about how much fun 20 strangers might be having.

I get it. But I’m also trying hard to be Take-Responsibility-for-your-Decisions Guy, and, hey Dad: If you build it, they will come.

Someone my dad doesn’t know very well who looks remarkably similar to R.E.M. front man Michael Stipe (I saw him at the Super Bowl party last year, looking very shiny and happy) wants to bring a bunch of his in-laws. I heard my father tell someone “No” for the first time, like, ever.

And all night, Dad was walking the line between crotchety old guy and total hilarity.

He leaned over to his friend who just hours earlier had totaled one of his vehicles, not particularly sympathetic because he had a Super Bowl party crisis on his hands with the possibility of Fake Michael Stipe showing up with his wife’s family.

“I mean, if you’re coming, I better know you, and I better like you!” he said.

A Different Life Now

Dad’s not unkind. He just cares less about making new friends than someone like me. I live a life isolated from most of my friends and family.

I live somewhere where I have no roots.

My dad’s side of the family is 500 miles west of my house. He lives in the general vicinity of where he grew up surrounded by lifelong friends. And my mom’s side of the family is more than 200 miles away despite also being in Ohio. She too, lives surrounded by familiarity.

I took a different path. Choosing independence. Moving away for college. Then moving to Florida after college. Then returning to Ohio, but living about as far away from “home” as Buckeye State geography allows.

My ex-wife is from the area—the area in which I now live. Her extended family lives there. My in-laws. An entire family. Evaporated because of divorce.

And now it’s just me. Just me and the boy and the handful of friends I’ve been fortunate to get to know over the past seven years.

I don’t like to be jealous of my father. Especially because no human being has done more for me in my life than that man. But deep down in the part of me I don’t talk about much? I envy people surrounded by friends and family. A built-in, reliable support system to help carry you through the challenging times.

There have been some challenging times.

It’s not loneliness from an entertainment or companionship standpoint. I have wonderful friends. It’s more the feeling that I have to deal with life 100-percent alone. That’s never happened before. And the 10 months that have passed since my family disappeared have done little to erase that feeling.

And now I’m back in the nest. Safe. Here’s my dad. The guy that fixes stuff that’s broken. Here are a million friends and family members. Masking the aloneness.

But a few days from now? It’s just going to be me again.

Just me back in the quiet house in Ohio. Fingers tapping these keys. Tap, tap, tap.

And you. You serving as my support system to fill a void I’m not sure it’s fair or healthy for me to ask you to fill.

It’s Cold Out There Every Day, What is This—Miami Beach? Not Hardly.

So, it’s a little like Groundhog Day now. Not the traditional real-life event which happened today in Punxsutawney, Pa., but the 1990s film starring Bill Murray, whose movies I’ve been going out of my way to watch lately. (Because I like laughing.)

Where most every day is the same. Unlike Phil Connors’ experience, the details change. But really, it’s just the same thing over and over again. And like Phil, I’m going to have to make some changes in my personal life to get me out of the rut.

Seeing friends and family is a powerful reminder of that.

Because something’s different. And anything different is good.

“There is no way that this winter is EVER going to end, as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don’t see any other way out. He’s got to be stopped. And I have to stop him.”

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A Glimpse

It's just a glimpse. But it lingers. When we slow down. When we notice.

It’s just a glimpse. But it lingers. When we slow down. When we notice.

There’s a U.S. military arsenal not far from where I live—adjacent to the small township in which my ex-wife grew up in Ohio.

Why here?

The story I always heard is that the government chose this area to build a military facility because it is statistically the cloudiest place in the United States—making satellite surveillance of this region particularly difficult.

I don’t know whether this really is the cloudiest place in the country. But it’s so gray that I’m not sure it matters. We have our share of pleasant weather in the summer and autumn seasons.

But winter? Even spring?

It’s certainly the cloudiest place I’ve ever lived, and that’s including two other locations in Ohio hours away from here.

A lot of clouds. A lot of gray. A lot of sad.

It’s the Great Lakes.

There’s a lot of water. And water makes clouds.

The grayness feels like a prison sometimes.

Whenever you fly out of here in particularly cloudy weather, it’s always fun to break through the cloud barrier into the clear skies at high altitudes.

Free!

Day after day after day of the clouds can sometimes wear on you. Mentally. Spiritually. Emotionally.

I don’t believe it’s a coincidence they call the ailment SAD, or seasonal affective disorder.

But ever the positive spinster, the geographic conditions do cause one lovely side effect. When the skies are clear and the grass is green, we tend to take notice.

We tend to not take it for granted. We tend to soak it in. We tend to feel gratitude.

So it is today.

The only remnants of winter, a few small snow piles that have yet to succumb to melting.

The grass, green.

The sky, blue. So blue.

The bare tree branches criss-crossing the blank canvass, giving our eyes more access to the big, blue heavens.

It’s not forever.

It’s only a glimpse.

Merely a sample.

One small taste.

A whisper of spring.

Silent and still.

To hear the whisper.

Sudden noise may scare it away.

So it waits.

And so we wait.

So still that it lingers.

Like a promise.

A promise that tomorrow, and next week, and next month can be better than now.

A promise of rebirth.

An opportunity.

To do what we want.

To be who we want.

But, don’t hurry.

Winter’s not through, yet.

There’s still time.

For the world to spin.

For wounds to heal.

For scars to form.

For dreams to take root.

For growth.

So for now, we wait.

Not on our time.

On nature’s time.

Not what we want.

But what is right.

That sweet day, full of warmth, light and birdsong.

When new life begins.

And we climb once more.

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How to Feel Grateful, Vol. 3

frozen-face-dixie

The old guy at McDonald’s was way tougher than this, I bet. He probably just wore a light jacket.

The bitter cold moved in throughout the evening Monday.

Even with the house thermostat set to 71 degrees, and the furnace working harder than a crack dealer in East Cleveland, I still felt the arctic air infiltrating my living room.

The house shivered and shook. The wood and metal whining as they contracted, making noises I had never heard a structure make.

Upon waking this morning, I turned on my bedroom television and replayed the final few minutes of college football’s national championship game from last night. I had fallen asleep and missed Florida State’s incredible comeback.

I sprang from bed, well-rested, oddly eager to experience the coldest day of my life.

Someone said these are the coldest recorded temperatures for this area in 100 years. It’s probably true.

I emptied my bladder as I often do before jumping in the shower first thing in the morning. I punched the handle.

No response.

I tried again.

Nothing.

Great. That should be lovely just sitting in there all day. (Urine only. I swear. But still.)

I tried the bathroom faucet.

Uh-oh.

I made a beeline for my basement, fearing the worst.

No flooding. Whew. Thank you!

My very bad cat who I keep quarantined in one half of my basement had plenty of water.

Thank you!

My electricity was still humming along just fine. In fact, after living in my house for eight years, I have never once experienced power loss.

Thank you!

I grabbed my phone and texted my ex-wife: “Hey. You have running water?”

“Just checked and seem to,” she said.

I haven’t checked with the city yet, but there is either a broken water main, or somewhere on my property a water pipe has frozen solid, restricting flow.

It dawned on me that I hadn’t shaved in a while. That showering for work was not going to be possible.

I looked in the mirror.

Yeesh.

I had forgotten that my ex was staying home with our son today, so I apologized for waking her. She was very nice about all of it. She even invited me to come over and shower if I wanted to. (Not with her.)

And I know she means it. In a pinch, I could go over there if I really needed to, just a five-minute drive from home. That’s a nice thing.

Thank you!

You know, I’m so lucky that I get to have a life where, despite access to sanitary running water 99 percent of the time, I can afford to keep bottled water at home, too.

I grabbed a couple bottles. I microwaved them in large coffee mugs and dumped them into a large mixing bowl.

And, ta-da. I had warm water.

Thank you!

Then like something out of the Old West I cleaned myself as best I could using this large bowl of temporarily warm water. Shaving would have been possible, but I have an unsightly blemish on my jaw line and I thought the unkempt facial hair did a better job masking it than the tinted Oxy cream which does a lousy job hiding these things.

I forgot about brushing my teeth. I couldn’t use the I-just-cleaned-myself water.

Mouthwash, first. Then another bottle of water and my toothbrush at the kitchen sink solved that problem.

Thank you!

I punched the remote garage door opener I keep by my back door. The door on my detached garage opened without incident.

Thank you!

My 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the nicest, newest thing I’ve ever had before. I went out and touched the push-button to start it. It insta-started.

Thank you!

I left 10 minutes later after responding to some really nice blog comments. I always appreciate those. I don’t just say that. I hope you know how much you matter.

Inside the Jeep was a perfect 72 degrees. Outside, the temperature was -1, the digital readout said.

A few minutes later, it read -5.

As I entered the nearby town in which I work, the temperature was -11. But I was warm.

Thank you!

I pulled into McDonald’s. (Don’t judge me. Where else can you get crappy food and subpar coffee for $5 without getting out of your vehicle?)

Normally, the place is slamming with retirees congregating for subpar coffee and crappy food for $5.

But the place was a ghost town. That’s when I really knew how cold it was. When all the old men collectively said: “McGriddles and silver-dollar hotcakes? Not today, Ethel! I’m staying with you. Nothing but blow jobs and Good Morning, America for us! You’re welcome.”

I seriously only saw one customer. One old guy. Sitting alone and watching The Weather Channel. I’ll bet anything that tough sonofabitch once killed about 80 people in a war.

This nice young lady was standing at the drive-thru window getting murdered by the cold. But still she smiled. Said nice things. For $9 an hour.

Thank you!

I drove the remaining few minutes to my office.

I got a good parking spot.

The temperature: -13 degrees.

The wind didn’t blow as I walked into the building.

People seemed happy to see me after missing work yesterday.

And now, I am warm at my desk.

I am employed.

The sun is shining.

I am healthy.

Thank you!

Things are good. I started writing my first fiction story. I signed up for a health-and-fitness thing at work this morning that will require me to alter my diet and exercise habits toward the positive over the next eight weeks. (Get excited, ladies. *eyeroll*) My son is safe and warm.

If I get home and my water is running, I’m going to feel on top of the world.

And if it’s not?

I promise I’m going to find all of the things I’m grateful for anyway.

It’s the only way to live.

Even if you do look and smell just a little bit worse than usual.

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