Snow in April

When I look out the window and see white on the trees, I smile. After all, there couldn’t be better weather for this time of year.

OK, now that you think I’m nuts, let me explain.

Snow in April is one of those things that can boggle a Front Range newcomer. One minute, the sun is shining and the leaves are budding … and then, just like that, your neighbor gets to explain why you never plant flowers before Memorial Day.

Even when you know it’s inevitable, an April snow shower always has the power to catch you by surprise. And it changes everything when it comes. So for our family, there couldn’t be a better setting for this time of year.

After all, April is also when we became “Missy parents.”

For those who haven’t met her yet, Missy is my wife Heather’s developmentally disabled aunt, a woman who’s my age chronologically but often greets the world from a much younger place. Sometime after her parents passed away, Heather and I moved in to take care of her … 13 years ago in April, as it happens.

Needless to say, all three of us found ourselves with a lot to learn.

We entered a world where the morning must always start with tea, and where the best end to the day is always a bedtime story.

We learned a certain amount of translation (Heather had a massive head start here) to understand Missy’s needs. “Book” could be an actual book or purse, “Up” was usually a request for help and “Mom” could be any parent figure, male or female. But in moments of high excitement, new words or even complete sentences could enter the fray. (The most astonishing remains the “Hallelujah” she picked up one December.)

We discovered just how intense even simple things can become when life is lived without filters. A piece of peanut butter pie. (“Wow!”) The much-awaited climax of a favorite book. (“Yeah!”) The sudden appearance of a much-loved movie character. (“Look-look-look!”)

She demonstrated for us how much a purse can hold, how loudly a stereo can be cranked, and how many different ways the same jigsaw puzzle can be put together if you apply enough force. And that there could never be “enough” when it came to Christmas music, cutting up magazines for artwork, or cute dogs on the street. (“Hi, you!”)

And as we loved and exasperated each other, we re-learned every day that “family” isn’t a one-size-fits-all term. And that we had a pretty darned good one.

The world changed – and we couldn’t see how much until we were in the middle of it. Like snow in April. Powder on fresh grass.

I suspect many of us have a moment like that. The ones where you take a step forward and everything changes. Where you thought you knew what was coming, only to realize how different everything looks from the inside.

It can be humbling. Frightening, even. But it’s also those moments where we truly learn. Where we’re forced out of the comfortable and the familiar, and have to see the world with new eyes.

After all, spring is the season of rebirth. And when your perspective gets reborn with it, anything can happen.

It’s something not to be missed.

But it just might be Missy’d.

Turn, Turn, Turn … The Page, That Is

When the weather turns cold, my activity speaks volumes.

OK, I admit that that’s also true when the weather turns warm, or windy, or cloudy with a chance of meatballs. Books and I have had a close relationship since I was two and a half years old – sometimes exhilarating, sometimes exhausting, sometimes downright heart wrenching and painful, but always sticking around no matter what. Kind of like Keith Richards, but with better articulation.

But when the skies turn steel-gray, the ground turns white, and the Broncos start retreating from playoff hopes like the British from Dunkirk … well, that’s the ideal time to dive into the thick books and the long series, when there’s nothing around to distract you from the story except the hanging threat of house cleaning.

So naturally, I decided to take another turn at the Wheel. Or rather, a re-turn. Sort of.

Allow me to explain.

If you’re not deeply familiar with epic fantasy, The Wheel of Time is a series that started in 1990 and stretched over 14 volumes and the next couple of decades. The author, Robert Jordan, actually fell ill and died before completing the final books (George R.R. Martin, take warning!) but left sufficiently detailed notes that another author could bring the adventure in for a safe landing.

I was a faithful reader of the Wheel for about the first nine volumes or so. And then – well, life happened. There were jobs to attend to, and family health issues to deal with, and of course the constant dalliance with other books in the gaps between volumes, like that teasing Harry Potter series. (I feel so … unclean.)

Well. You can guess the next step. When you’ve been away from an unfinished series long enough and decide to correct the matter, the first thing you have to do is bring yourself back up to speed. And while I am a dedicated re-reader (old books are old friends, so why not pay a visit?), plunging back through nine thick books to get your mind back to where you left off is a little intimidating, even for me.

I needn’t have worried. Good prose remains good prose, however long it’s been. And there was even a side benefit. It had been long enough that I could come at the book almost like a first-time reader – but with hints of what was to come, as memory excavated bits and pieces of significance, like precious artifacts on an archaeological dig.

Familiar … yet changed.

Yes, this is the perfect time of year for that.

This is the time of the first snow, when familiar landscapes get changed into something new overnight.

This is just barely past the time of masks and costumes, when familiar faces enjoy the fun of a new identity.

This comes as we remake time itself for the fall and winter … as ballots give us the opportunity to remake parts of the world we live in … as lights and decorations start to sneak out into the world and give it a different hue.

Spring has the reputation for rebirth and transformation, but in all honesty, it may be the fall and winter that stand out more –  the near transformation, the one where you can still see the outlines, but in a new light and a new way.

Familiar … yet changed.

That’s not a bad perspective for any of us to have. To step back from the well-worn path and the comfortable view – not necessarily to leave it (sometimes the road more traveled is more traveled for a reason) but to take a different angle on it and learn a new lesson. To see more of who we are.

It’s a time for reflection. For examination. Maybe even for decisions, even if it’s just to finish a good book.

Which reminds me. I’ve got a chapter that’s waiting.

After all, it’s the Wheel thing.