Posts Tagged ‘blizzard’

El Nino

February 5, 2010

El Nino has arrived just like a boy, slamming into a place, not wiping his feet, blustering about, throwing hats and scarves before crashing onto the closest soft surface.  We have had our share of snow this winter.  A 26″ snowfall in late December, another 12″ last weekend and now, another 30″ expected tomorrow and Saturday.  We don’t know how to act around here.  The local stores are completely sold out of snow shovels, ice-melt and milk.  Roads home tonight were more like ribbons or red light as far as I could see. The goal for most is to find a safe, warm place and hibernate the weather away.

Everything is closed tomorrow, all schools, courthouses, doctor’s offices, stores, landmarks, everything, except the nursing homes and hospitals.  I requested the day off weeks ago for Bruce’s birthday weekend and Ben’s first homecoming since he went back to school.  I may be called in to work depending on the availability of the workforce.  I live with Grizzly Adams, so I can get there, even if it is by four-wheel drive tractor. (I told him we didn’t need it. He didn’t listen.)

Grizz is prepared.  The generator on the back of the Ford is gassed up and covered with a tarp, the tractor likewise.  We have filled every available clean container with fresh water.  The wood pile is stacked, covered and waiting. The woodstove in the garage is cleaned out and filled with dry locust, ready to light.  A crock pot is simmering in the kitchen with a ham hock and pinto beans. Grandma’s cornbread recipe is on the table and the ingredients are within reach.  The birdfeeders are filled with black oil sunflower seeds, and suet.  Ben left college twenty minutes ago and will arrive just like El Nino, in two hours and ten minutes. I finally found a pair of rubber boots big enough for his size 15 feet at Southern States today on my lunch break.

Heavy snow with feet of accumulation, high winds, drifts and power outages are all expected.  If you don’t hear from me for awhile, just imagine me holed up in the garage, sitting next to the woodstove, reading a book and drinking a mug of hot chocolate…or scurrying the halls of the nursing home, sitting at a bedside, singing the praises of a bowl of oatmeal to get one more bite into a tiny little woman with an even tinier appetite. Either way, I will be happy.

26″ Snowfall

December 26, 2009


     I usually spend too much money at Christmas.  By December 24th I realize that I’ve overdone it and start focusing on my bank balance to see how I can eek out the bills. All of my impulse buying happens the weekend before Christmas.  My self control freezes and I spend my savings trying to buy love.  This year we had a 26” snowfall the weekend before Christmas. The storm started at rush hour on Friday evening and the last flake fell pre-dawn Sunday. Snowflakes are tiny crystal miracles.  I wondered how many were in our 26” on the ground.  Traffic stopped, people walked in hip waders to the mailbox, only to find that the postman couldn’t keep his promise.  This year, instead of throwing myself into the shopping frenzy,  I sat at home, writing Christmas cards the old fashioned way because the electricity went out.  I read a book by the woodstove. I watched my children play in the snow. I drank hot chocolate with little marshmallows. I fed the birds.

     I wrapped the three presents I had for my husband and the boys, a hand-tooled belt with a hammered silver buckle, an 1865 volume of Virginia History, and a telescope for universe gazing. Presents were few, but special because they reached out to me from artisan booths, an antique book store and the pages of the Buck Saver earlier in the year. These gifts spoke to my heart in May, August and September and it listened, compelling me to shop for Christmas when the sun was warm.

     I spent eight months creating a photo book for my mother.  My camera and I chased sunsets west on Rt. 250, rested on our elbows, eye level with dandelion blooms, waited for raindrops to hang like tiny crystal balls from pine needles, and made old, abandoned houses feel like Home and Garden cover girls.  These treasures, along with my best words were bound in leather. The book was under the tree.  If I was stuck in the snow, my family would understand that at least I loved them a little bit.

     I had to work all week, early mornings and late evenings.  The holiday season in the nursing home is busy.  People in our community want to do nice things for old people at Christmas.  Citizens come in flocks to sing carols.  They buy boxes of fruit and sugar free candy to distribute.  Each elder receives a new pair of socks and a bottle of generic lotion in a plastic fishnet Santa stocking from the Salvation Army. If the resident has no feet, the toe ends of the socks are cut off and they are slipped over the arms as “geri sleeves” to protect fragile paper-thin skin.  Staff members gather, sort, box and label gifts so each resident receives at least one item on December 25th. A special menu of ground ham with glaze, instant mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables is planned for mid-day Christmas. It will be served to a lady at the dining table with the sparkly silk centerpiece.  She will sit with a woman who takes her teeth out and licks them between courses.  Christmas is not what anyone remembers.

     Work was especially difficult this week. Extra hours because of the snowstorm, and the holidays are sad for many of our elders.  Their pain extends to enfold us in its intensity.  We find ourselves offering more hugs and tissues than at any other time of year.  For some, we are the only family they have and most often, we don’t measure up. Some residents are related of our staff. It’s hard when your job and caring for your dying mother are the same.   A nurse, cook and CNA lost their mothers this week.  Three of our residents died and left three of our staff members orphaned at Christmas. So, we prepared for the usual Christmas sadness wrapped in glittery paper and curling ribbon, and we planned to attend three funerals.   

     It rained today. I got in the car at 7:00 this morning and drove on isolated roads to the nursing home.  I delivered gifts and stockings room to room, offering a “Merry Christmas” and a hug.  Some voices welcomed me.  My Santa hat received smiles.  Several residents said, “put it over there,” while others dug into the stocking, like it was their last breakfast. Some didn’t understand it was Christmas. That was a blessing.

     My boys met me at the door when I got home.  They were ready for Christmas to begin. They waited for me.  We gathered at the tree and the youngest played Santa. Packages were meager, and I worried about disappointment.  I shouldn’t have. It seems that my heart picks out good presents, and my impulse buying is unwarranted.

     The skies cleared tonight and the universe spread out, over, and around us.  We set up the telescope and pointed it at the Pleiades star cluster. Ryan calls it his “night diamonds.”  We took turns gazing at a gift eight light years away, not a video game, i-touch screen, or text message on a cell phone, but a miracle of nature, just like the snow the weekend before Christmas.