[From January 20, 2012]
All of us in Missoula are in the same boat, but at least it’s not an Italian cruise ship. It’s been three days now, and our street has yet to see a plow. I’m getting desperate. I see a front-end loader on TV, and I can feel it move a little. It’s nearly impossible to get out of here. If you can make it two blocks to the main road, you’re home free. But up here on the hillside, even that main road is one hair-raising ride. Four-wheel-drive doesn’t help you stop, as many of our neighbors have found out the hard way. The long straight road to the valley floor is littered with snowbound sedans, buried minivans, and flattened mailboxes.
If you have kids in public school, you’re dealing with two snow days in a row. Bonus or bummer? That depends. I’ve been trapped up here all week. Rusty and Speaker had already been home sick Tuesday and Wednesday. Now, with them having two more days off going into the weekend, I’m starting to feel like a guy who runs a day care, only for kids big enough to leave adult-sized paths of destruction in their wake.
They’re still technically kids, though, and their thoughts revolve around innocent hedonism. And I am their delivery device.
As soon as she got word of yesterday’s school closure, Speaker asked, “Hey, Dad, can Kylie come over?”
“Sure. How is she going to get here?
“I don’t know. Can you go get her?”
“Where does Kylie live?”
What I’m thinking: No problem. Let me abandon this deadline project and let my client twist in the wind so I can zip clear across town in this treacherous obstacle course to pick up your little buddy, and then we’ll come back here so the two of you can dick around on the computer while I simultaneously cook dinner, do the laundry, and shovel the driveway again.
What I say: “Sure. Let me get my keys.”
I wish it would occur to the kids that all this snow brings with it a lot of extra work. Barb and I have taken turns shoveling our half-acre (my estimate) driveway, and we’ve even cleared a large pull-out in the road so the mailman can safely deliver all the credit card offers and coupon mailers and AARP magazines that I put directly into the trash can.
To be fair, I was able to enlist Rusty’s help a couple of times with the driveway. Most parents of young teens go through this conflict: I want the kids to pitch in with the household labor, but I also want them to enjoy being kids as long as possible. Before you know it they’ll have graduated college, and be out there in the Real World where it’s a constant struggle and their dreams are crushed under the merciless boot of economic desperation and their souls will get sucked out of them like an oyster at a Fort Lauderdale raw bar. So Barb and I do most of the shoveling.
But shoveling is only a small part of the picture. When they’re home from school on a weekday (and this school district seems to be violently opposed to a full, five-day week), this work-at-home dad is saddled with the day-long burdens of transportation, meals, snacks, conflict resolution, social engagements and motivational speeches. The latter are usually delivered in the form of threats: “If you don’t shut off that Xbox RIGHT NOW and get outside and ENJOY THE SNOW, I swear to god I’m going to unplug that thing and take it out to the garage and play Call of Duty: Crowbar Edition.”
That particular motivational speech propelled them outside for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon. They bundled up and marched out into the driveway, drawn by the clean, freshly-shoveled surface, which is approximately the size of a regulation basketball court. Then they worked industriously to dig a series of interconnecting tunnels in the seven-foot mounds of shoveled snow that border the driveway. As I folded laundry and watched them from the warm comfort of the living room, it dawned on me that all the snow they were excavating was going directly onto my nice, clean, shoveled driveway. I closed the curtains.
Before Barb left for work yesterday morning, she’d gone out and shoveled the eight inches or so we received during the night. Rusty and I cleared off another couple of inches after lunch, and then Barb came home at the end of the day and immediately grabbed a shovel to clear away the afternoon’s accumulation. My guilt keeps overriding my common sense, and I toil away with the snow shovel in spite of a nagging back condition. I have to do my share to clear the driveway, which is approximately the size of a Super Walmart parking lot. Barb went to bed with a cold last night, so I ignored my sore back and crept out early this morning to shovel, hoping she could get some extra sleep. I was greeted by six inches of new powder, but I cranked up the Stones’ “Goat’s Head Soup” on the iPod and got most of it cleared in record time.
I was almost to the foot of the driveway when I heaved a shovelful over the snow fort mountain and felt something go “pop” in my back. My left ribcage felt like I’d been shot with an arrow. “It’s sure been a cold, cold winter,” Mick sang into my skull as I dropped the shovel and fell to the concrete, writhing around in pain. I could picture my neighbors watching me through their kitchen window, shaking their heads. There’s that Bob Wire again, doing some weirdo pagan ritual in the snow. Probably high on the pot. Why does she put up with him?
I decided the driveway was clear enough— I had to get to my chiropractor’s appointment. Now I had a brand new injury for him to work on. The appointment went well, and he was able to hammer that rib back into place. “No more shoveling,” he said, wagging a finger as I struggled to uncross my eyes. He agreed to write a note I could give my wife.
So today I’ll be captaining the SS Wire through the roiling seas of another snow day from the confines of the recliner. I’ll kick back here, surrounded by all the electronic devices I need to run the show. The ongoing drama of Speaker’s amorphous circle of friends is still at the forefront. I have to chuckle, thinking back on yesterday morning, which was an Abbott and Costello routine of confusion.
“Dad, can you take me to the mall?”
“Is that okay with Kylie’s mom?”
“No, she already picked her up. I’m meeting Kayla at the mall.”
“Kayla? I thought you didn’t like Kayla.”
Speaker rolled her 13-year-old eyes with the accomplished indignity of a 15-year-old. “You’re thinking of Carly. She made fun of Kaylee and me when we were playing soccer last summer. She’s mean.”
“So you and Kaylee are cool, then?”
“Kayla. Kaylee moved to Bozeman.”
I closed my eyes and wondered how much trouble I’d get in with Johnny Law if Speaker was caught driving my 4Runner. I realized I was more scared of my wife than of the police. “Okay, I’ll take you to the mall. Get your coat.”
Speaker clapped her hands quickly and hopped up and down. “Goody! Can we pick up Kyla and Karlynn on the way?”
Snow day. Yippee fuckin’ skippy.