Family Matters

Family Matters

Plowing - The art of facing an impossible task

By Hope Payson

March/April 2007

When I was about 10 years old, I climbed into the cab of my father's truck to join him for an evening of snowplowing. A storm had transformed a Sunday into a no-school night and lengthened my weekend visit with him. I basked in the warm blast of the heater and the rare opportunity to be alone with a man I didn't know well, yet loved anyway.

My father was a quiet man and I'd been raised to be quiet, too. From quick, sideways glances at him, I noticed how the light of the dashboard cast an eerie, green glow upon his unshaven profile. He resembled the bronze statues I'd seen on museum field trips, figures forever captured in their private thoughts. They were stoic, brave, enigmatic men with secret missions and dreams about which an onlooker could only speculate. Large white flakes hurtled toward the windshield like comets as we drove toward the driveways and parking lots he'd been hired to clear.

Throughout the night, we fought the storm, scraping away the snow, only to see it pile up again. As soon as he cleared all of the properties, he immediately circled around to plow them again. It was a job that appeared to have no end, yet somehow it did. I fell asleep at some point in the evening, but awakened as the truck came to a halt outside of the local coffee shop. I watched my father as he walked in, his flannel shirt rumpled and his normally bouncy gait subdued by fatigue. Several moments later, he shouldered open the foggy door of the shop and headed back toward…

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