Across the street, Mack pushes his snowblower down his driveway. It’s early yet in this February snowstorm, late afternoon. The severe weather alert is in effect until midnight. We are warned there could be 5-7 inches, maybe 10 with lake effect snow. If I was shoveling, I would wait until one minute after midnight and only start then if not a single flake is falling. Why do things twice?
But I’m not shoveling because we now hire people to shovel. They come wordlessly in the night, only waking us if we hear their shovels scraping the driveway’s pavement. They are fast and exacting, and when I look out at the window, I am so glad that the snow is gone, that I don’t have to shovel, that I want to throw buckets of dollar bills at them. Instead, I Venmo payment to their company.
In my lifetime, I have shoveled a lot of snow. I have always like shoveling snow, at least the idea of it and the first fifteen minutes or so. It’s very healthy and wholesome until it gets heavy and endless. And then, at my age, there is the risk of dropping dead. There are worse things – like suffering a long lingering death or being maimed, say, by an errant snowblower.
If I died shoveling snow, my obit would have a robust flavor to it, a reckless swig of joie de vivre missing from many obits as occupied as they are with listing every single relative a person ever had or will have. The accompanying picture could of me in my old brown parka and my favorite red snow shovel from the True Value down the way. I’d have a smile on my face and behind me, old people would be peering out their windows in envy and worry.
The rabbi’s son is shoveling their front walk. He chases his younger sister, and she runs down the sidewalk in her long skirt, boots, and hooded jacket. Her hands are in her pockets. The brother gives up, leans the shovel against the house and joins a group of kids in thick coats, two of them pulling sleds with smaller children. It is almost dark, and the wind is blowing very hard. They don’t care. They are laughing and shouting. They continue down the block, I think to find more kids. I’ve watched their joyfulness for years, so I’m not surprised.
The news will come on soon. We will hear about all the cars in the ditch and how many old people already had heart attacks on the sidewalk in front of their houses. We will not be among them. Not this year.