The snow is a show;
The drifts are aglow.
You just don’t know
How I want it to go.
That’s where my playing in the snow begins and ends these days — because I would much rather view snow from inside the house or, better yet, on the television while lounging under a sun-soaked palm tree.
But that is not to be, now that the first snowstorm of 2014 has blown through and the news is filled with images of kids sledding and playing in the white stuff. One local reporter even fell backwards into a field of untouched snow to make a snow angel.
I wish I could muster up that much excitement for the flakes — the snow, that is, not the reporters.
There was a time when a prediction of snow ignited dreams of a snow day from school. As a school employee, I still experience that rush — but it’s tempered by the frustration that now comes with snow.
Yes, it makes the world fresh and white — at least for a few hours — and it provides a chilled respite for perennials and bulbs, as well as a steady watering as it melts. Snow is a necessary evil for those of us living in northern climates. The older I get, however, snow has become less of a novelty and more of a headache — or, more accurately, a heartache.
Snow is a reminder of what I can’t do.
Eight years ago, winter cold made me acutely aware of an ache down my left arm. Once I warmed up to room temperature, the ache disappeared. It was a pinched nerve, I rationalized, that was aggravated by cold.
Spring arrived that year, and the ache remained — only now it was accompanied by shortness of breath and could occur with any physical exertion. At the end of the school year, I scheduled a doctor appointment, where my EKG was normal. Fortunately, my primary phoned a cardiologist, and made a next-day appointment for me.
At that appointment, my EKG and blood pressure were again normal, but the cardiologist asked if I would like to take a nuclear stress test. He described it as a walk on a treadmill to elevate my heart rate. How hard could a walk be?
I failed that test, and from his office, I was sent to a nearby hospital. Blood tests indicated that at some point I had suffered a very mild heart attack. In a matter of days, I was diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and had eight stents placed in my coronary arteries.
One of the medical personnel who stopped in to check on me insisted that I had a love for the other kind of white powder, if you get my drift, because I didn’t fit into any of his preconceived notions of a heart patient. I wasn’t overweight, had a relatively healthy diet, and didn’t smoke, drink, or use drugs.
He failed to consider genetics.
Regardless, though, my cardiologist laid down the law: “No snow shoveling for you!”
I’ve always shoveled snow — from childhood, when shoveling snow with my father was like a military operation, to adulthood, when it was a winter chore that Joe and I shouldered together.
Today, though, I have 13 stents, a series of medications (which, by the way, seem to make me more cold sensitive), and Joe — who now does all of the shoveling. That’s where the frustration lies.
I watch him through the windows as he shovels and lifts and tosses, shovels and lifts and tosses — and I’m sad because I’m unable to help him. To do so would tax my heart. Each snowy forecast is a nagging reminder that I’m a bit broken and slightly used — and with that comes the worry — the unfairness — that the snow removal responsibility falls solely on Joe.
Yes, I can help him dust off cars and I can make hot tea or hot chocolate for him when he comes in from the cold — but it’s not the same as sharing the task, especially for those storms that are especially deep.
Complicating this year’s first snowfall is the result of my most recent stress test. I have a 40 percent blockage in another one of my arteries, which my doctor says can act up because of cold and/or stress.
Clearly, I no longer have a heart for snow — but, thanks to the parade of seed catalogs that arrive by mail, I have dreams of warmer, more color-filled days ahead.
And that’s the kind of medicine a gardener’s heart can love.