Saturday, February 23, 2013


We knew the storm was coming and needed to plan accordingly. Although the amount of snow on the ground was deceptively light at 6:40 a.m., the time I usually leave for work, the forecast warned that this was just the beginning of a long day. I stayed home deciding I’d rather be snowed in than out. Having been caught in both situations, on my last year in the working world, I have no desire to put my car in a ditch.

I do believe the nearly foot of snow was more than expected. The snow fell at about an inch an hour, and to make it more interesting thunder rumbled. The thundersnow fell, fell, and fell. I started measuring with a ruler and the last time I sank it into the ground, a mere inch showed. Then it started sleeting.

The intense snowfall brought the world to a screeching halt as banks, shopping centers, restaurants, and other businesses sent employees home. Interstates and airports closed. So many cars were stranded that in Kansas City, they towed them off by the hundreds in order to clear the highways.

Thundersnow is rare, and a little bit weird. In a normal thunderstorm with rain, thunder can be heard for many miles from where the lightning strikes. Snow acts as an acoustic suppresser and the sound of thunder can only be heard for two to three miles.

When we wake up each morning, we expect the usual, and we can be caught off guard when the unusual happens. The unexpected can strike at any point in time. It can come in the form of a phone call, a text message, a medical test, a bulletin on TV, or a knock on the door.

Hundreds of mundane days can be shattered with one nanosecond of the unusual. We can often chunk our lives into sections based on moments when our world tilted and never quite righted itself. One of those times in my life was when the doctor told us Jim had “dementia of the Alzheimer’s type.”

When you hear news like that, your ears start to buzz, as if they can’t bear to hear the unexpected information. Your heart quickens, and you stop breathing as your brain echoes with the words it refuses to process. Denial, hope, and despair wage a battle to see which one can get the upper hand.

Jim always said, “I don’t have that.” He preferred to think the psychiatrist was inept. It turned out that Jim had a rare type of dementia. It wasn’t Alzheimer’s, but it was just as bad, with the same inevitable outcome.

Not a day passes in this world without someone struggling to live through an impossible situation. Globally, 156,000 people die each day. That is a lot of grief to go around. In order to live a happy, normal life, we often harden ourselves to suffering if it does not affect us personally.

On the flip side of the death card, we celebrate the births of 350,000 babies each day. Of course, some people have more cause to celebrate births than others do. Babies born into poverty, although loved, may be a worry to his or her parents who struggle to provide basic food and shelter. Through the joy, every parent is afraid that something will go wrong. Our instinct is to protect our children from the cruelties of the world, but that is a goal set up to fail. Too little protection puts them in danger, too much can make them vulnerable. Births and deaths while unusual in our personal lives are daily occurrences when we look outside ourselves.

What does the future hold? No one knows. The future is both as unpredictable and predictable as the weather. Weather is never an exact science. Yes, sometimes we can be warned of the possibilities, or probabilities, but what will really happen can be a different story.

This morning I saw two opposing predictions for the storm expected on Sunday. We can have another ten inches of snow, or a thunderstorm with rain. In either case, it is expected to come in the night, so it’s anyone’s guess as to what Monday will bring. Will it be a normal workday, or another weird day with thundersnow?

Copyright February 2013 by L.S. Fisher
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