by Ray Bendici
Jan 16, 2013
01:10 PMUnsteady Habits
So like many of you, I spent the early part of Wednesday morning clearing my driveway. Unlike most of the past few decades, however, I had help beyond my faithful shovel ...
Now that may not seem like a big deal to you, but for me, it's *wonderful*.
Growing up in Milford through the 1970s and '80s, I was the only male offspring in our family—I have two sisters—which meant I was also the head groundskeeper and chief snow-removal engineer. My father used to commute daily to New York City (a tough ride) and also traveled a bit for work, which meant fairly early on the tasks of cutting the grass and shoveling the walk fell on me.
Now the lawn didn't bother me too much—I love the summer and the heat, we had a riding mower and our property was less than acre, so it wasn't all that big a task. Heck, I could even work on my tan while doing it (hey, it seemed like a good idea back in the 1980s). The snow, however, was another story.
Snow is misery to me. After years and years and years of moving it off asphalt in all sorts of unpleasant conditions, I convinced myself that if there is a hell, it's not all hot like a sauna or the beach, it's a cold, snowy place where accursed souls spend eternity trying to clear a never-ending uphill driveway. For most of my life, shoveling snow has been a lonely, physically taxing and Sisphyian task that I despised from the first time I picked up a shovel.
I'll never forget one particularly miserable and wet storm when I was in high school. I was struggling to removed the heavy slushy snow from the driveway when I heard a rapping on a window behind me. I turned to see my sisters, waving and laughing, enthusiastically taunting me from the warmth of their bedroom.
I swore at them, then picked up a fist of the icy snow, packed it into a tight ice ball and let it fly at the window ... which promptly broke upon impact. This is even funnier if you knew how weak my throwing arm is, but I'm guessing my rage and frustration amped it up. Regardless, that made my sisters laugh even harder and the cold around me suddenly seem even more miserable. Grrr ...
So after I moved out of my parents' house, I still was faced with snow-removal duties, clearing off the walkway of various apartments and digging out sundry vehicles. When I got married and we bought a house, my driveway-shoveling days had returned, but by then, we had little ones, so my wife would watch them while they waved to me from the window ... at least I knew better than to throw a snowball at them. When my sons got bigger, they would occasionally come out while I shoveled—I'd have them try to clear the snow off of cars, but that would quickly devolve into some sort of Three Stooges-inspired escapades that would ultimately make more work.
A few years ago, my friend's father who was downsizing to a condo gave me his old snowblower, which was a help while it lasted (it died about 3 year ago), but the driveway of my current home is a big challenge, mechanical aids notwithstanding. The driveway is long and downhill—our garage actually faces out of the back of our house (don't ask). It also gets very wide in the back, almost 30 feet across, which during bigger storms makes throwing snow beyond the edge of the pavement a real pain in the asphalt—speaking of which, after decades of poor drainage, it's all broken and buckled. Yeah, a real pain.
Anyway, I suppose I could've paid to have it plowed or I could go all in on a heavy-duty snowblower, but that just seems like money better spent on food and other essentials. "At least I'm getting some exercise," I often told myself of this decades-long endeavor. Yeah, that's the ticket.
So about two years ago, I was out during one heavy storm, grinding away against the great white tide and feeling my age. I was about halfway through when I heard someone behind me. It was my 11-year-old son, standing there with a shovel. "Hey Dad," he said. "I'm here to help you."
I looked around. "Really?" I said. "Are you kidding? Did your mom put you up to this?"
"No," he said. "It looked like you were working really hard and I thought you could use a hand."
"I can," I said, a tear actually forming in my eye after 35+ years of shoveling all alone. "Thanks!"
He started shoveling. After about ten minutes, he turned to me. "Hey, this is hard."
"That's funny," I said. "Suddenly, it doesn't seem so bad."