Updated: Feb 5
Once when I was in elementary or middle school, I got off the school bus and walked the little lane to get to my house. The closer I got to our driveway, I saw a huge snow fort, as tall as me and much wider than that. It was beautifully, perfectly formed, arched at the sides for even more coverage; but I couldn't figure out how it got there. I stood there for a few moments looking around trying to understand what I was seeing, when suddenly, my father popped up from behind the fort and started a full-on snowball assault.
Because my father was a big kid himself, I was already experienced in the art of snowball wars. But with this one, I didn't stand a chance. He had gotten home early from work -- likely JUST to build this snow fort -- and he had prepared for the attack by pre-making hundreds of snowballs. It must have taken him hours. As he pummeled me with one snowball after another, I scrambled to catch up, thinking I had a chance as only a child would. But he was quick, practiced, prepared, and for every one of my snowballs that missed its target, he likely had ten perfectly hit his mark -- me. And he couldn't stop laughing.
Looking back from an adult's perspective -- and not the kid that was losing -- this event must have been the highlight of his winter. He loved to play, even in the snow. We got snowed in for a week once, and we built forts, snowmen, and a big slide down a snow wall that the the plow had abandoned in the middle of the road. We embraced winter and went sledding, ice skating, snow angel-making, whenever the opportunities arose. While other kids would complain about the cold and snow, my father's kids were having the time of their lives out there enjoying all that winter brought with it.
I was reminded of this when shoveling our driveway this morning. I went out without him, got out a shovel, and started working on what must be a quarter of a mile loop driveway (or at last it feels that long when shoveling it). Because of my love for winter, I've always enjoyed shoveling and have never bought a snow blower, just because I like the beauty of snow days, the exercise, the sense of accomplishment. At least I did before I had such a long driveway.
But being the kid that he is, my father couldn't stand at the window and watch me shovel. Pretty soon he was outside in his snow jacket making snowballs and throwing them at me and my dogs, reminding me of who he used to be. When he offered to help shovel, I gave him mine and went to get another one. While general wisdom suggests that 80somethings with vascular issues shouldn't be shoveling driveways, my mother and I agreed early on in this living arrangement that we would let him do physical work like that if he wanted to help. Sure, tasks like this could literally kill him. But he'd be doing what he loves: helping me and playing in snow. Not so bad, really.
Unfortunately, we couldn't finish shoveling the driveway, as we no longer have the energy and strength of that child and her 30something father that survived the snowball war of the late 1970s. But a new strategy is starting to formulate: after I break for coffee and Zoom meetings, I may just sneak back outside and build a hidden snowball arsenal. Then I start shoveling again right in front of the big window, which will likely inspire him to come out and help me. And may today be the day I take my revenge, Inigo Montoya-style. Prepare to be pummeled, old man.