“I can’t do this anymore.” He turned from our bedroom window as he struggled to pull on his last layer of clothing. I met his eyes and saw my own anguish mirrored in his. Behind him, brilliant reflections of snow buried our deck and pool. I knew it was time.
Winter always released it. Each year, the claws of Bill’s depression tore deeper in him. He fought back with movies and monopoly games with our daughter. He booked countless vacations to tropical destinations. The cold and dark days were too much this year. He turned back to the window and released a sigh that had been building in his soul too long.
I turned my head to hide my quick tears. Bill wanted my full support. I couldn’t leave twenty years of friendships and my community and church. I didn’t want to move. This was my life. This was where I belonged. How could I start over?
We were in the bowels of winter with record low temperatures. Bill was finishing a remodeling job in an old house without heat. His torpedo heater had to warm him for the next 10 hours. I packed his lunch and watched his truck skid down the snow packed driveway. Pulling on my parka and boots, I grabbed buckets of dog food and water and trekked to our lab who peeked from her hay covered dog house.
“Here you go, girl.” I pushed her wriggling body out of the way and sidestepped the chain twisting around the bucket. Whoosh. “Ugh.” I found myself staring at the grey sky with my leg twisted like the chain in the frozen snow beneath my body. Instantly, pain shot through my leather boot.
“Get off me, Maggie.” I shoved the lab’s cold nose from my own and winced in more pain when I did. The wind was picking up as swirls of fresh snow frosted her black fur. I edged my body to a sitting position. Stabs of pain like ice picks assaulted my ankle. I’d never be able to walk back to the house. Pulling the hood of my parka further down on my head, I glimpsed through my tears the reality of my situation.
Bill wouldn’t be home for hours and we lived in the country with our nearest neighbors two miles away. No one would hear me if I shouted. Maggie sat next to my shivering form and whined for attention.
“Oh, dear Lord, what am I going to do?” I tested my foot again and with the next surge of pain knew I wouldn’t be walking anytime soon. My teeth began to chatter with each breath. My lungs ached from the cold pushing its tentacles deeper.
“I’m so cold, God. I need your help.” I sobbed to the wind.
Maggie pressed still closer. Forcing another breath into my frozen lungs, I considered my options. I could crawl into the doghouse and wait for Bill to return or crawl through the snow to the safety of our house. Glancing at the angry clouds and judging the force of the wind now lashing my face, I knew that if I stayed in the dog house, the next storm might bury me.
“Come here, girl.” I unhooked her chain and pulled my hand through her collar. “Go home, girl.” I prayed she would head to the house like she did every time we freed her. Leaping to her feet, she bounded out of my frozen grasp. “Come back!” I pounded the ground with my gloveless hand.
My only option was to crawl. Dragging my useless limb, my numbed fingers dug into unrelenting mounds of snow as I moved against the fury of the building storm. “Please, God, get me home,” I prayed as the distance shortened.
My back door loomed before me as Maggie quivered at my arrival. Reaching for the door knob, I fell to the warmth of my kitchen floor as the wind rushed in behind me. The heat in the room thawed my frozen body while the pain in my soul slowly melted in puddles around me.
I had been holding onto the wrong lifelines.
Scooting to the phone, I dialed my closest neighbor and friend. “Beth, Can you come over? I just hurt my ankle. I also want to tell you about our plans to move south.” I glanced at my swollen ankle. “I just had to let go of a few things but I’m ready now.”
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