February 21, 2019
It snowed yesterday, and pretty much everything shut down. I suppose, if you could plan a snowstorm, this one would count as being pretty well-planned. It started before rush hour, on a day just cold enough to keep the snow from melting. Roads had been salted, but snow accumulation out-paced the chemically induced melting, and my street, which is normally kept plowed clear throughout a storm, was snow-covered for most of the day. Because of the timing–we were expecting the snow as early as 1:00 in the morning–schools and offices had already decided to close the night before. And now, the day after, the roads are clear, and, at 36 degrees with an expected high of 51, the snow is melting.
I realize that having to close costs businesses money. Full-time employees still have to be paid, and no revenue is coming in. Howard County must lay out about 1.5 Million for those eight lost hours, but having the decision made and having it all over with in a day seems pretty low impact. Even the trash was picked up on time.
Of course, some people still have to go to work. The staff at Mother’s nursing care facility all came to work. All of my colleagues in the Fire service came to work. The Emergency Operations Center was activated for the County, and everyone who supported it was working. Also of course, having every location connected to the Internet, as we certainly do in Central Maryland, means you can go to work without going to work. I wound up working five hours yesterday. Were you able to work from home? I don’t recall you ever doing it while I was growing up. You had an office, and all manner of papers and equipment around, but I don’t recall you working.
Snow days, you plowed the driveway. For hours. Pretty much until you dropped from exhaustion. Our driveway, so you told me, is a sixth of a mile long, and lined by trees. During heavy snows, it tends to drift. The snow comes over the rise of the fence line, is dispersed by the trees, and a foot of snow becomes three feet of amazing, glacier-like snow drifts. The first time I recall this happening, before I had started school, I’m pretty sure, we were locked in. There was no way of getting a car out. You certainly could not go to work.
On your orders, Uncle Bob, who lived in Hyattsville on a court that was probably plowed within 24 hours of snowfall, went to the nearest Gravely dealer and bought you a snowblower. At least, I think it was a snowblower. You also had a snowblade for the Gravely tractor. Maybe that was what he bought that day. Whichever it was, we had to make room for him to park his station wagon off the road so we could unpack it. That meant crawling (for me, anyway) over the drifts to Simpson Road and digging with snow shovels to make a parking space. All five of us went, as I recall.
When Bob arrived, with whichever appliance he had purchased, I remember that an igloo was built. Pardon the passive voice, but I don’t recall who started it. The snow was packable to the point that a shovel-full of it made an impressive, dense block. I think using those blocks for an igloo was Bob’s idea, but I can’t swear to it. You had fun ideas like that every now and then, and probably more so when your baby brother was around. I may even have managed to shovel and place one block myself–probably with help. Somewhere in there, you got angry at me, as you pretty much always did. I don’t recall why. I was probably a very annoying kid, and you were definitely a very irritable middle-aged man.
I say “on your orders.” That may sound like a strange term when applied to one brother asking another for a favor, but your relationship to your family was like that. You expected everyone to listen to you and do as they were told. Most people did. I was a glaring exception, which is probably why you were frequently angry at me. Bob was ten years your junior, and you had been largely in charge of the household when he was growing up. Pa, your father, worked away from home, in Black Mountain, I believe, and was only home on weekends. You told me that, on Sunday nights, before leaving, he would give you a list of things that needed to be done while he was away, noting that “Joan [your mother] won’t see to them.” So I guess your siblings–your much-younger brothers especially–got used to you being in charge. Bob remembers that you were also the one who came up with the organized games for them to play. You were a natural leader. I guess I’m a natural dissenter.
After that delivery, whenever there was snow, you plowed our driveway, and the Bryants’, and possibly the Huffmans’, after they moved in in 1971. You would start right after breakfast and work until dark. The snowblower would clog, and spit gravel all over the place, and you would shout obscenities; but the driveway would be clear.
The Gravely Tractor was used to death–for mowing, for plowing and cultivating, and, of course, for snow removal. I think you re-bored its single-cylinder engine at least once. When the engine finally gave up, you left it in the back yard, tied under a tarp, and then bought a scrap one that was its twin to use for spare parts. By that time, you were as tired as it was. You never fixed it. You just kept buying discount riding mowers to take its place. I finally gave it and all its accessories to a colleague to restore and use. Made me sad, but… I didn’t want to grow old with it rusting in the yard.
So I spent my snow day rearranging my office, which means going through all the stuff on the shelves, because I’m moving all of the shelves, to make more space for books and collectibles. Getting rid of the desk because, in 2019, who needs a desk? It just gathers papers that you don’t have time to file or trash, and one of the most powerful computers available on the consumer market is currently sitting on my lap, as I sit with my feet up, and I barely notice its weight.
Going through stuff means getting rid of stuff, which is good, as well as finding treasured mementos of years gone by. Which means spending time doing foolish things like clutching cassette tapes to your heart, because the boys who used to listen to them every night as they went to sleep would look at you funny if you did that to their 75-inch bodies now. My office is now torn to shreds in utter disarray–which means I have to clean it up.
I mean, you kinda had to fix the Gravely too, didn’t you?