Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Winter's over; Keith heads south
I yesterday bestowed upon a truly great man an insight that nearly moved him to tears.
He’s Keith. Like me, he’s a regular at the corner tavern where we go for giggles and boredom-bashing inebriations.
Other than that, we have little in common. He’s on my Mt. Rushmore of great personal friends because he volunteered and served with distinction during the Vietnam War. I admire anyone who fulfills that noble sort of duty.
I elevate Keith above even those honorable men and women because after he’d finished serving in the special forces he immediately volunteered for two years in the Peace Corp.
“I’d seen and done so much destruction in the war, that I wanted to do my part to restore some balance to the world,” he says.
So in the prime of his life, while bubble-headed young men like the one I was destined to become were making merry on riotous college campuses in the ‘70s, Keith was swatting mosquitos and installing sewer systems in poverty-stricken hamlets throughout Central America.
He does everything with an infectious joy that makes watching “The Price Is Right” with him over lunch as entertaining as attending any professional sporting event.
And he acts like he doesn’t mind that I always ask, and I always do, if his daughter, a FBI crime tech at the Quantico HQ, ever sits around and sings to the Disney melody, “Someday my prints will come!”
So, truly, this is a great man.
He told us the other day that after a year he’d sold his house and would be joining his wife in the home on the North Carolina golf course they bought last year. He’d been commuting every two weeks or so to house tend and tie up loose ends at a local company he’d over the course of a satisfying career helped build into a global powerhouse.
People have said how much they’re going to miss him and that they hope he returns often.
But it was left to me to freeze him with a statement so profound that this great man gasped.
“Do you realize,” I said, “that you’ll probably never have to shovel snow again for as long as you live?”
If I hadn’t said it in the sort of bar where people still make Brokeback Mountain jokes, I think he would have kissed me.
Keith’s a visionary man. He can envision things like world peace, lunar agriculture and the Pittsburgh Pirates being competitive (well, maybe not that last one).
But after the most miserable winter any of us can remember, I don’t think anyone can envision a future without snow.
Even this late into March, I still obsessively check the five day forecast and am stunned to see 60 degree temperatures and no indication that yet another monster storm is going close the schools, make roads impassable and maroon me 1.1 miles away from the bar I need the way worms do dirt.
For the first time in my life, I can honestly sympathize with what post-traumatic stress victims go through. The brutality of the past three months has me feeling mentally defective in ways that cannot be healthy.
I saw the snow shovel leaning in the corner of the garage the other day and it looked so forlorn that I began to pity it. For three months, I was as emotionally attached to it as many people are to their iPhones.
I’d pick it up three or four times a day and used it to heave so much snow that my lower lumbar still throbs. I don’t know if the pain will ever go away and am pondering chiropractic remedies.
That ergonomically designed green shovel was my Tonto. Together we waged so many heroic battles that I was seized by an irresistible urge: I grabbed the shovel with both hands and ran out into the driveway and started shouting profanities at the heavens.
It was just like old times.
I haven’t asked what Keith, that great humanitarian/warrior/vicarious Price is Right contestant, is going to do with his shovel.
But after this winter, I think I’ll be buried with mine.
I just pray to the God we both serve it doesn’t happen in eight months under another 106 inches of snow.