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Sunday, April 17, 2011


I look outside and see a variety of nastiness. a kind of winter-spring limbo where the weather gods cannot make a decision about the season. Or it could be a cosmic joke so common to Canadian weather systems. Today alone we've had it all it seems: sunshine, hail, snow, rain, wind and something mysterious called graupel that I just learned about this weekend. Graupel is a German word and is used to describe "precipitation that forms when supercooled droplets of water condense on a snowflake", softer than and not to be confused with ordinary hail which are "snow pellets encapsulated by ice". This information was passed on to me by an avalanche expert so I'll take his and Wikipedia's word for it.  It's been that kind of weekend. I think I even heard thunder at one point.

Despite the confusion of the weather, I decided to leap into spring cleaning, a decision forced upon me, arguably, by the weather itself after a particularly violent night of thunder storms and heavy rain last weekend that left our basement more than a little damp.  The basement had been calling to me for a couple of years now; the disorganization and accumulation of junk had overwhelmed and nearly paralyzed me all that time. But a few damp boxes and piles of wet dust were enough to mobilize me. Most of the mess was manageable and easily controlled but it was Michael's long-neglected work bench that had me terrified.

Michael has never been a particularly neat person and in over thirty years of marriage I have had to make peace with the chaos that defined that space in the basement. As long as he could find what he needed, who was I to complain, especially since I rarely needed to use any of that equipment myself. In the first twenty years of our marriage, that was his department.

But in the past few years, I have had to take over many minor repairs in the house, and the challenge of finding the appropriate equipment in Tool Purgatory was beyond frustrating.  With Michael's advancing dementia, he no longer knew where anything was nor what an appropriate tool might be, as illustrated when he took a hammer and large screwdriver to our now-defunct turntable.

Yesterday I rolled up my sleeves and spent a happy couple of hours purging (interrupted, of course, by frequent dashes upstairs to check on Michael, hoping that he wouldn't cotton on to my activities - he's still remarkably protective and defensive of that mess). I filled canister after canister, bound for the recycling bin, with loose and random metal objects, ranging from rusty nails of all sizes to free-roaming nuts, bolts, broken tools, and odd bits and pieces that had no significance to me.  I pared the whole mess down to only what I would use and need. To that end, during a morning outing last week, I purchased a full set of screwdrivers and wrenches for myself because Michael's set is not only incomplete but also horribly maimed in some cases from botched "repair" jobs.  I bought two briefcase-sized (and probably overpriced) containers filled with a lovely, well-organized and labeled array of nuts, bolts, and screws so I will no longer have to forage through the clutter on the workbench to find appropriate hardware.  The miracle of all this effort was a satisfying, clear, empty space on the table inviting actual work to take place, the first such space in thirty years.

The focus of the work allowed me to shut out the ambivalent Weather which was just a reminder of the current limbo and confusion that life has thrown at us right now.  My sister, somehow, still clings to life after nearly three weeks in a coma and more than two without sustenance.  An offspring has cancelled a wedding and is uncertain of the future of that relationship, leaving it, at present, in a hellish limbo and with it a heavy sadness. And there's my Michael, who left me years ago for the limbo of Parkinson's dementia and withdrawal.

I saw the work as life-affirming and a hopeful step towards clearer, more decisive, perhaps happier times, even if the weather cannot figure it out.

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