Today is a holiday! One of those rare days where there is enough snow to close down the school district I work at, but not enough for Jasper to stay home. I am caught up with things around the house, and though there is always work that I can be doing, I am choosing not to. It is quiet, there was time for that second cup of coffee after breakfast, and the dog is sleeping. And…it is snowing. Hard. I already shoveled 6 inches this morning, and I will head out soon to shovel again. Once it gets to about 10 inches on the metal roof, or it warms up a bit, the roof will slide. Crack like an avalanche…and slide. Avalanche debris is not light and fluffy, it is heavy, and sets up like cement. Jim did the math once, and figured out that each time this occurs, I move about 2 tons of snow. He helped sometimes, but due to the nature of our schedules, and his back issues, most of this chore fell on me. It pushes me to my absolute physical limit…there is no need for a gym workout when the roof slides.
A few years ago I redesigned our back porch area so that the house slide and the garage slide did not combine, and there was not a gate in the way of pushing snow where it needed to go rather than lifting it. It has reduced the load somewhat. Still, I came home to multiple slides after a backcountry trip last year, tired, hungry, just wanting to hit a shower, some food and my bed. Realizing that help was not coming, I started to shovel. I got about 1/2 way through before the tears and the snot started flowing. I had hit the female crying point. Fortunately, Jasper arrived home from an after school meeting after about 15 minutes of sobbing. He gave me a good long hug, he let me wipe my nose on his sleeve, he picked up another shovel, and we finished together. This, his kindness, made me cry again.
When Jim and I first got together, we went on lots of adventures. Back packing trips, climb and skis all over the Cascades, mountain bike rides with no maps, and he asked me to marry him on top of a 9000 ft peak…in the middle of a hail storm. I went back country skiing for the first time when I was pregnant with Emerald, and we hauled her up there again when Jasper was 1/2 way cooked. Jim was an endurance animal, and a finely coordinated athlete. I guess I thought it was a compliment that he assumed I could keep up. I hit the female crying point. A lot. Using every ounce of strength I had to haul heavy skis on my back to far above timberline…all the while wondering how the heck I would ever make it back down that scary steep chute. Trying to keep up on a mountain bike trail when my wheels were 24″ and everyone else’s were 26″. Refusing to give my pack up to the guides as we skied out of the Wallowas on a bobsled run, and every time I fell, having to remove it and my skis, turn over onto all 4’s and stand up, as my abdominal muscles had already been split by pregnancy.
After a few years, I stopped crying. My skills improved, the equipment got better, and 2 kids left less time for novel adventures. I also learned that “follow me”, was not a command, and that slowing down allowed me to enjoy my surroundings a lot more. Jim learned how to make things easier for me. He always took my boat through a rapid if it scared me, being half again as big as me, carried twice the load. We also did less together. Tag team parenting meant that I went running in the early mornings, he rode his bike in the afternoons. Epic bike rides and spring run off rivers were shared with stinky boys, rather than his wife. Having now gone through menopause, I have slowed down even more. I love being outside, I feel like I can go on forever, snow and water make me laugh, and running trails on Moscow Mountain is a dance. I never seem to hit that female crying point during outdoor activities or athletic pursuits, joy is ever-present.
Yesterday I cried. Jasper presented his Extended Learning Internship (ELI) at the high school. He presented on service organizations, utilizing his Wish Crane Project as his area of study. Jasper dressed up and looked far more handsome than any teenage boy has a right to be. He was articulate, concise, and funny. Self assured and passionate about his topic. I was in the audience with a friend and his mentor. I held it together until I was alone, and about 1/2 way home. Realizing that my son was not only OK without his dad, he was going to be just fine. Knowing that, if his dad had lived, Jim would be proud, but Jasper would not be who he is today. The awareness that the kindness of this community has held so much of the burden of grief…for my kid, and for me. Kindness makes me cry.
There is a lull in the snow, so I need to get out and shovel. The roof has not let go yet, though I did just hear the first crack. Now that Jasper is done with his ELI, he will likely help when he gets home from school. I will cry again.