This morning I listened to Nanci Griffiths singing as I pedaled to nowhere on my bike up on the stair landing.”It’s just another morning here,” she sings, “…and it’s a miracle that it comes around every day of the year.” When I headed to the fridge for cream for my coffee there was Papa Bob. Smiling. Macho Man on the dock in that wet suit that kept him from freezing and afloat when he swam the 2 miles across the Hudson River every year for Pete Seeger’s Clearwater clean water campaign. He trained in a pond near his farm in New York and in Rutzebeck Lake. One time after a workout at the cabin I thought he might be going hypothermic on us. We had to open the door on the wood cookstove to heat him back up. He never liked the cold.
Papa Bob is still everywhere in my house. He’s in all the family pictures. The crackers in the pantry and his coat on the hook. My thoughts. After the ambulance crew left with him for the morgue I was tidying up and sort of panicked– they had forgotten his jacket and he would freeze down at the firehall without it. Then I found a sock on the floor. One.
I really need a long walk but the high wind warning and dire wind chill alarms keep getting extended. The thermometer is still right around zero. The snow is drifting into dunes. So I have been pedalling inside, singing along to Nanci, and going to the pool every other day.(Now that’s a miracle too: warm water in a tank so big that I can swim a mile before breakfast in it)… and of course, keeping up with the shoveling and firewood. Making the chickens buttery oatmeal. Writing thank you notes to the Friends of the Library donors.(I’m on the board.) Clearing the roofs is a priority for the whole town before the big storm this weekend. We have done the garage and the coop and the porches are next, but I think they should be easy, as we can push the snow off from the upstairs windows.
Heavy snow, then rain, and warming to near 40 is forecast for the weekend and into next week. The weather service even used that dreaded atmospheric river term. I don’t want anything to happen to anyone right now. Or ever. Can we just hold the losses? I texted my girls the hazardous weather statement and one replied, “What does one do to be ready for the apocalypse?” Another said, “I think you stock up on a lot of wine and coffee.” Papa Bob would have agreed with that.
Everyone I know is doing dry January, so I’m trying, and mostly failing. I mean, my dad died. I have been taking evening soaks in my private hot spring ( the tub loaded with epsom salts) with a cold beer and a book. It is therapuetic. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. Magical thinking as Joan Didion said. She’s gone too. My mother loved her wit and insights and sent me all her books and her essays in the New York Review of Books (Mom subscribed.) My mother died alone at 71 in a hospital. She was unresponsive for days. We had gone out for lunch. Leukemia was not gentle with her.
My father had an astoundingly good death at a good old age. My sister and I have the great privlege to have been able to care for him at home for a year and a half. We are lucky. I get that.
But he’s not here anymore. His ashes aren’t even back yet. I have never lost a person in my household before. I still step over a phantom terrier in the dark, the one that always slept next to my bed, and she died years ago. After I took down the Christmas tree I moved Dad’s sturdy chair from by the stove to the window. It reminds me again that this morning is a miracle, and that’s a good thing. But I haven’t sat in it yet. I think I’ll wait until it warms up.