The weirdest part of grief is you never know what exactly is going to make it come on. Sitting on my front porch on a beautiful autumn day, waiting for my youngest child to get home because she has a half day today. Then all the sudden tears start running down my cheeks because it should be Dad, not me, waiting on the porch to take a very special little girl to the diner for some rare one-on-one time. The fact that those moments are gone forever makes me feel like someone hit me across the chest with a baseball bat. I know the feeling will pass and she and I will have a great outing, but it doesn’t make the pain any less real in the moment.
It’s been just over a week since Dad died and the things that get to me aren’t what I expected. Going to his house or driving his car – fine. Sitting on a park bench waiting for the kids to go to the bathroom – completely choked up. I keep feeling like I see him coming around corners or in the edges of my peripheral vision.
That’s the amount of time between the declaration of the initial COVID-19 emergency declaration in New York State (March 7, 2020) and when our house lost its status as COVID-free (April 23, 2022). It was nice while it lasted!
I woke yesterday with what I thought were bad seasonal allergies, with the only thing unusual being a very mild sore throat. Out of what I suspected was an abundance of caution, I took an at-home COVID-19 test and put on a mask. While the test kit said it can sometimes take as long as 15 minutes for the test result to appear, mine was almost instant and very clear, indicating a high level of virus in my system. Thankfully, our house has a family room with an adjacent bedroom that is reasonably isolated from the rest of the house, so I immediately moved everything I need to work from home into there and started isolating myself from the rest of the family. With a little bit of luck, this will hopefully begin and end with me.
Nothing reminds me of the Christmas Eve’s of my youth like looking at the soft glow of luminaries in the snow with a belly full of cookies and Chinese food. The fact that something as simple as a paper bag, some sand, and a tealight can make something so beautiful never ceases to astound me.
I received this “portable” beauty for my parents as an early birthday present. It’s missing a manual and some suction cups, but it works great for a radio that was discontinued during the Korean War. It’s capable of running off both DC mains service and large dry cell batteries in addition to AC, so I’ll be prepared if this whole Tesla fad finally peters out. And there’s no denying that it just looks great on a shelf.
We were so close to having a nice normal holiday. The car was loaded and gassed up, the kids were happily munching away on their bagels in the back seat, and we were on the highway to Grandma’s house when my lovely wife got a message from one of our friends saying, “I can’t believe the kids are in quarantine again…”
Pulling off at the nearest rest stop, we found the recently sent email from the elementary school principal telling us that kids 2 and 3 were under a quarantine order from the Department of Health (the rest of us are fully vaccinated). We got back on the road and turned around for home at the nearest exit. While the kids were understandably disappointed and shed a few tears, they handled the news very well for the most part. Once we arrived home and unloaded the car, kid 1 and I went out and bought everyone special treats to enjoy during our quarantine Thanksgiving tomorrow. True, ice cream cones, chocolate-covered pretzels, and Pop-Tarts aren’t part of our typical Thanksgiving spread, but hopefully the memory of “Treatsgiving” will be one that persists past the end of this pandemic.
I forgot one element of my earlier escapade today. After finally making it to the Wal-Mart parking lot, I realized I didn’t have any masks in Jen’s car. So I dug around, and the only one that sort of fit was a mask of Kid #2’s made from the lovely fabric depicted below. Thankfully, the lining is plain robin’s egg blue, so I flipped it and went inside.
As I was making my way to the checkout, carrying a pair of boots, a pair of shoes, and five decorative metal cookie tins, I walked past a manager of some sort. He took one look at me in my Champion hoodie, green wool Cabela’s bib overalls (probably encrusted with snow from digging the car out of the drift), and a child’s mask making my ears stick out like Alfred E. Neumann, and barely managed to get out a “How’s it going, guy?” To which I replied, with surprising enthusiasm and apparent sincerity, “Great!”
This holiday season, I am very thankful for the manners instilled in me by my parents Joanne Koennecke Lamb and Patrick Lamb. Even when I’m at the end of my rope, I make sure I never lose it on anyone who works in food service or retail. The hours are long and they don’t make enough money to have to put up with my honest feelings!
6:15 am – Wake up to excited children bouncing around the house.
6:42 am – Get out of bed and realize that the forecasted 12 inches of snow are closer to 30 inches of snow. Briefly fantasize about instituting a “Hunger Games” style competition among Upstate NY meteorologists.
6:55 am – Don winter bulky winter gear in preparation to hike through the snow to retrieve the snowblower from the shed. Help screaming child #2 (age 8) into his winter gear, as he also wants to go in the snow.
6:59 am – #2 has had enough of the snow and goes back into the house.
7:10 am – Arrive at the shed to find that the snowblower is completely out of gas.
7:15 am – Arrive back at the garage to discover that the gas can is out of gas.
7:25 am – Commence shoveling driveway, while child #1 (age 11) and child #3 (age 5) shovel back porch for the dog.
8:18 am – #1 and #3 arrive to help shovel the driveway.
8:25 am – #3 loses a boot and has to be carried back into the house to fix it.
8:50 am – Remember that the riding mower has gas in the tank. Attempt to siphon little remaining gas from the mower. Fail at getting any gas, but succeed at getting a really interesting headache from the fumes. Continue shoveling to get a car out to get gas for the snowblower.
9:25 am – Realize that the driveway is about 60% clear and that #2 is screaming like a banshee after losing his shoe after jumping off the playset in the backyard. Commence looking for the shoe.
10:00 am – Give up looking for the shoe with #1 after shoveling off every inch of ground that was trodden by #2.
10:38 am – The driveway is shoveled enough to get the car out of the driveway. Clean off the car and head out for the gas station (for blower gas) and Wal-Mart (to replace the lost shoe).
10:42 am – Discover that the car did not, in fact, have enough inertia to make it through the snowdrift that the plow left in the middle of the road.
11:05 am – Free car from drift with the help of neighbors.
11:15 am – Successfully dodge fishtailing vehicles to arrive at the gas station.
11:25 am – Find a nicely plowed spot in front of one of the two entrances at Wal-Mart.
11:28 am – Discover that particular entrance is locked. Bond with other dads who also find themselves at this particular entry on a snow day.
11:32 am – Enter Wal-Mart to discover that Wal-Mart management has gone with “Christmas Rave” as the seasonal theme. Discover Wham! and the cast of Glee did not make the worst versions of “Last Christmas.”
11:42 am – Find shoes, boots, and decorative tins that can be packed with thank you cookies for the neighbors.
12:04 pm – Arrive home.
12:13 pm – Arrive at the shed with gas and power cord. The blower, miraculously, starts on the third attempt. Commence singing a medley of “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover” loudly in celebration.
12:35 pm – Turn off the blower and allow it to cool so that more gas can be added.
12:40 pm – Refill the blower with gas. Pull the start cord, and discover that the cord has decided to end its co-dependent relationship with the blower.
12:41 pm – Laugh uncontrollably in the driveway while my wife watches and contemplates calling a mental health crisis team.
12:42 pm – Give up and go inside for lunch.
One of my favorite Christmas memories from being a kid in Marcellus, NY was driving through the village and seeing house after house on South Street and Bishop Hill with beautiful luminaria on their lawns. So this… https://t.co/QnZofWMhSU
— Gideon Lamb (@gideonlamb) December 24, 2019
from Twitter https://twitter.com/gideonlamb
December 24, 2019 at 06:36PM