A fitting re-post from a year ago!
Yesterday, we got hit with a nor’easter/blizzard here in Massachusetts. Our area got almost a foot of snow (other parts of Mass. less than an hour away got 2 feet and more), plus nasty gusting winds, and massive tides and flooding in beach areas. We live in a house now, that we bought back in late August of 2021. So its our first winter here, and so far, its been pretty brutal – as in, really really COLD!!! Single digit temperatures are here more often than Id prefer, and lots of mornings Im outside at 5am scraping ice and snow off my van in the pitch dark (I drive a school van part-time, because bills and mortgage and life). This storm happened on the weekend, so today I get to sit here and sip coffee and write this, while my husband Nick is outside with his snowblower, taking care of our long and windy driveway. At this very moment, I am quite thankful for that, and also wish HE didnt have to be out there either. It is currently 6 degrees.
Anyway, this latest storm has got me to thinking about life choices and marriage and relationships and compromises. Nothing specific, but just thinking back to my pre-loss life, and life today. Back when I was dating Don long-distance, and he was living in Florida, there was a lot of talk about what it would be like if/when he moved to New Jersey/NYC area to be with me. How different it would be for him.
In Florida, you just park your car in the driveway. In Jersey, it was city life, and the town we lived in was less than 10 minutes away from Manhattan. You could do street parking and hope and pray to get a spot each day (good luck with that), or you could pay a pretty large monthly fee to park your car in a garage. We chose that option for Don’s car that he brought with him in the move from Florida, but Don went into it kicking and screaming. “This place is ridiculous. I have to PAY to PARK my own car WHERE I LIVE? What the hell is that? Im paying for the honor of a tiny marked spot for MY car. ” The first few weeks after he moved in, we didnt have the spot yet, because there was a 4 month waiting list to get one, (that was a whole other rant from him lol), so he had to get up early in the morning, and move his car from one side of the street to the other, for street cleaning. For anyone living in major cities, this is just how it is, and you get used to it. Don never got used to it, and he thought it was stupid. “Maybe if they didnt try and pack 8 million people into a space as big as my thumb, they wouldnt have to run people ragged this way. This place is a racket! It’s a scam!” He would shake his head , laugh, and go move his car. The first couple weeks, he ended up with tickets on his car because he was parked on the wrong side on the wrong day, or during the wrong hours, or something. He would just shake his head and say: “Man, I must really love you, because this place is ass-backwards!”
In winter, one of our favorite things to do for entertainment, or specifically Don’s favorite thing to do, was get some hot chocolate and sit by our bedroom window in the apartment – watching all the people who park on the street having to shovel their cars out, and even better, watching as they tried to move their cars to go to work or go wherever. Don loved it when their wheels would spin and spin, and especially if they came out of their car cursing and swearing. He had that “shadenfrauden” type of humor, and nothing was funnier to him than witnessing someones misery (minor miseries only, obviously.) I always enjoyed watching HIM watch the people outside, more than I liked watching the people outside. I would tell him “you’re a weirdo!” He would reply: “That may be so, but Im warm and inside and not spinning my wheels on brown Jersey snow!”
You see, when Don moved into my apartment, he was willing to make a LOT of compromises. And lets face it, moving from Florida to New Jersey was a BIG life change for him. Aside from the car issues, and there were many (his insurance pretty much doubled from what he paid in Florida), there was also just the lifestyle. In Florida, he was used to walking outside to the tennis courts at his apartment complex, and playing tennis, almost every night. All year round. In Jersey, the nearest public tennis court was a bit of a walk, and the weather was very limiting for him. He had a bicycle and used to ride it 10 to 20 miles regularly, in Florida. When he brought his bike to Jersey, it sat in our storage unit 95% of the time. He had tried riding it a few times, one time riding almost 25 miles over the George Washington Bridge and back, but the pavement was filled with potholes and there were too many hilly streets, and the traffic was a whole different animal. The beautiful lined bike paths of Florida were a thing of the past for him. There were so many other things that he had to alter, and I know all those things made him sad, but whenever I would ask him about it, he would always downplay it and just say: “Nah, its okay. It wasnt that important to me anyway. You’re important to me.”
The one area he would not compromise on was shoveling snow. In our first ever conversation about him making the big move to live with me, he informed me right away: “the one thing I will NOT do is shovel snow. Ill move to stupid Jersey, Ill deal with their silly rules that make zero sense, Ill pay to park my own car, Ill pay more in taxes and insurance and everything else they squeeze out of me, Ill find another way to get exercise besides tennis and bike riding all year round, but I will not be out there shoveling snow on my only day off. That is not happening.” I would laugh at him and say “okay, Boo. That’s fine with me. We live in an apartment, so the maintenance people do it anyway, but what about if we ever buy a house?”
And that is how it was decided that we would be condo people. Don loved the idea of not having to mow a yard, keep up with trash, and NEVER having to shovel snow, ever. When we talked about having kids, he would say: “my kids can do the shoveling while their old man dad takes a nap!” I used to tease him the handful of times where we would be at my parents house in Mass., and he would end up helping my dad shovel after a big storm. He would just look at me and say “Helping out Pop is my one exception to the no shoveling rule.” My dad would always insist he didnt need the help, and Don would just ignore him and start helping anyway. Don’s hatred of New England weather and snow became an ongoing source of humor for us, so much so that when we got engaged, we sent out a combination Christmas / engagement card, with the both of us standing in the snow after a typical blizzard at my parents house. We were both holding signs. Mine said “Merry Freakin Christmas!”, and his said: “I miss Florida,” and he was making a sad face.
We never did move into that condo, or have those kids, or do much of anything past those first 4 years of marriage, because he died, and when your person dies, all those “promises of tomorrow” disappear. Now Im remarried, my husband and I own a home, and my life post-loss looks very different than the life I was living back then. These are not statements of comparison – they are simply things I can’t help but think about with melancholy, gratefulness, and wonder – especially on snowy days.
It will always really suck that Don had to die before he ever really got to live – but I know that with his shadenfraude humor, and that big hearty laugh he had where his shoulders would shake and his eyes would be bluer than normal, he would probably be the first to joke: “Well, at least it’s pretty much a guarantee now that I’ll NEVER have to shovel snow. Because I’M DEAD!!!”
On this, he was unwilling to compromise.