During the blizzard of 1966, I was only nine, and up until then winter was spent outside, skating on ponds, sliding down hills, or having snowball wars. But on the fifth day snowdrifts settle over the house, and the power grid leaves us.
My mom liked table games, but when we started bouncing off walls or playing hide and seek, that brought out the warden in her. All she had was a wooden spoon as a nightstick, but it was effective. We swore she had cabin fever, because there was blood in her eyes.
Good thing the phone still lit up. It had a calming influence on mom. While the mail failed to get delivered, good ole, "Ma Bell" kept us connected to the outside world. Between suppers she wrapped herself around that phone cord like she was in love with it.
Mystery news came of our father. He left his car on the lot at the railroad yard where he worked, walking miles of city blocks to stay with relatives. Next day he hitched a ride on a snowmobile to our local grocery store, and managed to borrow snows-shoes along the way.
We all sat crowded on the couch, ears growing with each moment attempting to get most of the phone conversation. Mom rushes in to make the announcement. "Your dad is coming!" We need a volunteer to tunnel out the back bedroom window, scale the roof, and wave him home!"
We are all screaming and jumping on the couch like we hit the jackpot!
My mother's feverish eyes settle on me. "Robert boy!" You are the chosen one."
My older sister Deb steps up. "Not a bad idea mom. He is just the perfect size." A look of relief washes over her face.
Baby sister Cindy grabs my mother's knees. "I go mommy. I go!"
My brother Tom gets behind me, and whacks me with a couch pillow, perhaps in a fit of jealousy.
Mom gives him a stern look. "It's all settled then, Tom you're too big.
Next thing I know, they fall on me, wrap me up in layers like a "Gumby Doll."
Breathing was a limited option. Like a trapeze family, they hoist me up on the bunk bed, and roll me next to the window. They push the window as far as snow gives.
As I prepare to tunnel out to freedom I hear my older sister. "Okay gopher boy, go for it!"
I birth my way until my head clears the crumbling snow. The sun burns my eyes, and the blue sky feels like cold steel.
"Get to the roof!" Voices from another world tell me.
I tumble on the house, sliding along icy shingles like sandpaper. Rising on bent knees: I see this speck of a man in a blast of white dunes pressing, falling, spilling, and climbing from holes of soft snow. I try wiping my eyes with my mittens in the bright sun. The white wind stings my nose.
"He's coming! It's Dad! I see Dad!"
Cheers rise from a world below. Next thing I know the whole family is dancing on the roof in the color of a rainbow. Even mom does a jig.
My father must have heard us, because his strides grow in purpose. He shreds the snow like grains of sugar. Finally, we jump off the roof and kiss his copper face.
As years pass we grow and scatter like chaff in the wind. My mother divorces, and moves south, leaving my father alone to brutal winters in a homestead, holding only memories of family. Yet for one brief shinning moment, I bring my wife, who helps to nurse him in the sad winter of his life.
We are on our way to the gravesite. A cleansing snow covers the black ground. My wife senses the winter that grips my soul. "I know how much you loved him."
I pull over by his headstone choking back tears.
"He let me in." She says.
"What do you mean?
"All the cooking, cleaning. When you worked, we talked for hours."
"The new birth?"
"He must have remembered something, because we were watching the first snowflake fall, and he just blurts out, I made my peace with God."
I close my eyes, take a deep breadth, and imagine standing on a sea of white, watching as my father runs with purpose to welcome me in heaven. Oh the joy that warms my soul!
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