Whenever I have the good fortune to stay at Motel Four on snowy weekends, one of my favorite things to do is shovel snow with my father. Shoveling is wonderful exercise and my father has a wide selection of snow moving devices. None of these devices are motorized and all require the use of muscle and human action.
Herman is a bit of an efficiency expert; he doesn’t like to waste time, energy, or shoveling strokes. One snowy morning, my father watched me hurling snow for a few minutes and said “You’re shoveling like a girl.”
“Well, I am a girl.”
My father kindly showed me how I could “swoosh” the shovel along in a swinging motion, versus my embarrassing and jerky funky chicken method. He explained how using the natural arc of my arms and upper body, I would use less energy and shovel more snow.
In the last three or four years, I’ve started worrying about my father on those snowy days when I’m sitting in The Big Corporation, watching the frozen matter falling. He’s getting older; what if he had a heart attack? There is a lot of “chatter” in the media to suggest shoveling snow may cause heart attacks. I offered to buy him a snow blower.
He said no.
Given his stubborn nature, we were all surprised this past fall when he came home one day with a used snow blower. He and my mother made a place for it in the shed and he even built a little ramp so he could easily maneuver it in and out of its storage spot. The big orange beast sat in the shed waiting for the first snow fall.
When it finally arrived, I called my mother and asked how Herman was doing with his snow blower. As is sometimes the case with used snow blowers, it didn’t work like it should; Herman loaded it into his truck and exiled it back to the island of misfit machines.
The next time I talked to my mother, she said “your father is going to buy a new snow blower. We’re going to shop around.”
I was relieved and I asked a few of my friends what kind of snow blowers they had; I got a good list of machines and shared it with my parents. There was Toro, Cub Cadet, and even the unlikely brand “Simplicity.” Herman had a short list too and my parents went on expeditions to the two big box appliance stores and the local choice, Waterman Farm Machinery.
Last weekend, on my jet trip home for the opera, I stopped at my parent’s house to see the new snow blower. The shed was empty. My mother said it was a long story and I sat down.
Herman and Helen had made three separate trips to purchase a snow blower. Helen said each time they had gone, there had been a list of instructions and maintenance items which were recommended to help the snow blower work properly. It was suggested to pour warm water over the blades after each use and put the machine out in the sun on warmer days; there were special additives and snow blower vitamins. Helen said after the third such sales pitch, she noticed Herman was not very excited about the purchase.
They had a heart to heart talk in the car.
“Herman! Do you want a snow blower or not?”
He said no.
Even though I had been worried about my father having a heart attack, there was a little part of me that admired him for not bowing to the conventions of modern life. Helen said they had a back-up plan; friends in town had trucks and snow plows and they could plow the driveway if the snow was really heavy. I told my father that I might be living closer to home next year and I could help, too.
Then my father reminded me that the heart was a muscle and he needed to keep using it.
My father is going to be 80 this spring; I think he likes shoveling. His heart wasn’t into the purchase of a snow blower and Herman has spoken.
He’s not going to shovel off the roof any more, though.
Helen has spoken.