Thursday, December 18, 2008


The sky is curdled-milk white, bright as the sun peeking through the cold, unforgiving layer of clouds will allow. It will darken soon, the forecasters say, and ice will fall, covering cars and power lines and lawns.

And streets, including the narrow, hilly streets of my neighborhood. Just as it did that day, when the three and a half-block drive to Methodist Medical Center became a slippery nightmare, but I had to drive it, I had to get there, since Mom lay dying in the hospital.

Not that I knew that, of course. I mean, I knew, but I couldn't acknowledge it. She was ill, yes, catastrophically so, and death would arrive soon enough. But not yet, not now, not on such a terrible, cold day, not on this day, oh no, that couldn't possibly happen.

Why am I thinking of this now? Why do I think of it every single time ice falls from the sky, when the streets become mirrored surfaces, like frozen tracks of tears? How does it grip me, the out-of-nowhere melancholy brought on by the occasional stray memory? Can't this weather conjure some alternative memories?

It could, but of what? Of childhood? Ah, but Mom was always there, offering me something to eat when I came in from playing in the cold, or offering soothing words when I slipped on the ice. Or other memories: I'm an adult, living far away, but Mom still faithfully calls to complain about being housebound because of an ice storm, or asks how I'm dealing with the ice she heard is falling where I am.

Try as I might, I can't banish the pain, the scorpion sting that lashes on days like this. Maybe such thoughts are inspired by the very nature of ice, shimmering on branches and rooftops, so pretty to look at but so dangerous and cruel, like a joyous memory that turns unbearably sad.