In Defense of Shoveling
CBS4’s Alan Gionet was hard at work this week shoveling snow off his driveway in Evergreen. It brought to mind memories of his older brother Dave who died from cancer.
EVERGREEN, Colo. (CBS4) - I crunched into the driveway a little late. I had stayed a few minutes after the 10 o’clock news to answer a couple of emails. One from an old friend worried about his job.
The drive home to the foothills was a two-hander in the storm. Passing trucks on I-70 and letting the faster drivers toss snow at me as they hurried on.
The Christmas lights I’ve put up so far were half on, half off. I can never get the timers to sync up quite right. But the sight added warmth to the cold.
I squeezed in next to the kids’ idle bikes in the garage; grumbled about the lack of room to open the door and brought my stuff in.
Then I went back out.
The snow was shushing off the roof of the garage and down on the driveway. I knew that if I let those compacted tire tracks sit, it would be a bear to dig them up when I got around to it. Truth is, I’ve never minded shoveling.
Working the late news, I’ve often gone at it when I get home to put a dent in the snow before the next morning. The neighbors must hear the scraping of my reliable plastic shovel in the middle of the night and think, he’s at it again.
It’s different from the violence of a snowplow on the front of a pickup. A minute with a plow and it’s over.
I’ve thought about getting a snowblower, but they’re expensive and organized to a level I’m not and honestly, I think shoveling is better for the environment. If you’re strong enough to do it, do it. I am.
Last winter I told my brother Dave during a phone conversation about how peaceful it was as I shoveled one night. He was envious. Crumbling from cancer he said, “I wish I could. You don’t know how badly I wish I could.”
Shoveling snow was gone for Dave. So too was golf. So was hockey, which we played all winter growing up in New England.
We’d be told to shovel the driveway and it was a chore to put off — especially before my Dad had it paved. You’d hit the small stones and jam the shovel. Your wrists would hurt and you’d complain.
The snow was New England weight too. A heave to the side called for a pause.
In Colorado the snow is feathers; dusty and indecisive. A shovelful can go to waste in a wind, but it’s a pleasure.
Dave would have given you a million dollars — if he had it — if you would only let him shovel your driveway. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t get out of his living room chair to do so much as the walk in front of his home in Indiana last winter.
“You don’t miss those things until you can’t do them,” Dave told me in another of his lesson-in-life-amid-dying remarks that went along with his role as my big brother.
Cancer murdered him in the heat of July. It took almost two years from the time of his diagnosis to take him down.
I tossed together piles, figuring they’d hide the ground there along the front of the house until Spring.
All the lights turned off. The last timer knew it was getting late.
I have a big driveway and I like to at least get the part at the bottom of the hill that leads down to the house done so I worry less that my wife will slide into the corner of the dining room that sticks out.
I finished half of the drive and figured that was enough. I set the shovel against the inside wall and grabbed one of the beers I keep in the garage. I stood there in the open doorway looking out at the glittering tiny diamonds coasting off the roof above my head, following each other left and right.
I’ll get at them tomorrow. I miss you Dave. Wish you were here. It’s beautiful and quiet tonight. We’d get this done in no time.