Is this foolhardy? That was my first thought. My second thought was that he’d left his cellphone in the car and so wouldn’t be able to text me if he fell over with a heart attack where I couldn’t see him.
How long would I wait before I’d go look? And when I went to look, what would I do? Assuming I could find him in the white out, would I start chest compressions or do a quick wrap-up of our 32 years together, bid adieu and head for the house?
These are the questions one contemplates when one is sitting in a car in a whited-out road at the base of one’s very long driveway that is drifted with snow too deep to jam a truck through. We’re here by choice. We could be in the city where there are trucks that plow streets and people who shovel driveways rather than in Grand Marais where a driveway could be plowed and completely drifted over an hour later. The wind off Lake Superior is fierce.
Now that I’m inside, sitting in my favorite very old chair, which was my husband’s cousin’s mother’s chair before it became ours, and I’m looking at our fire and our sleeping dog, listening to the blowing outside, the dark hiding the night’s white out, I asked myself a really tough question.
Am I getting too old for this?
It’s a fair question.
I’m 67. I’m fairly fit. I can walk and swim well and pretty far. But when I finally made it into the house slogging through drifts up to my knees (there have been deeper drifts, believe me) and keeping my head tucked down and my mittens over my face to stave off the wind and avoid frostbite, I was breathing so loud the dogs were scared. One sat shivering and the other paced around me like an anxious relative at an old aunt’s death bed.
Maybe this isn’t a good idea anymore. Maybe it’s too risky. If he doesn’t have a heart attack and keel over in the snow, maybe I will. He’ll probably remember how to do chest compressions but he won’t remember to do it to the beat of Stayin’ Alive. He’d have to Google the song to which one should coordinate chest compressions thus wasting valuable time and insuring my brain death. Then again, it’s incredibly cold so maybe he’d have more time to search. If he was so inclined. Which is a whole other question.
Mitigating against the notion that I am getting too old for this is the fact that once I stopped breathing like an exhausted dray horse, I strapped on my snowshoes and made my way back down the driveway to unload stuff from our car which we’d left running on the side of the road with the flashers on, hoping no one would ram into it because of the white out. But my husband had already driven the car down the road to the marina to park it overnight. So I trudged back to the house in my snowshoes, my mittens over my face, head down.
When I got near the back door, I started wondering, what if the door somehow locked and I can’t get back in? How long can I last out here? How long does it take to freeze to death? What if he simultaneously has a heart attack walking back through the snow from the marina? Neither of us would be in a position to save each other or ourselves. The obit would read “they died within a quarter mile of each other, neither knowing the other had already succumbed, thus avoiding the agony of a broken heart.” Weather can make one’s imagination run wild.
Safely indoors, warmed by the fire and the love of a fine, small, somewhat traumatized dog, I postpone the answer to the tough question: am I getting too old for this. And I think about whether I should use the bigger snowshoes tomorrow morning because we will most certainly have to hike into town if we are to have any donuts to go with our coffee, snow drifts and wind chill notwithstanding.