воскресенье, 13 марта 2011 г.

One of Those Mornings

Chicken Soup for the Soul: True Love

BY: John Forrest
Flowers grow out of dark moments.
~Corita Kent

The irritating buzz of the alarm dragged me from my dreams. I stretched my arm from beneath the covers to silence it. My fumbling fingers found the snooze button, pressed and then recoiled in shock at the feel of the frigid plastic. "Oh no," I groaned, "not again!"

Rolling on to my side I hauled the covers higher on my shoulder, pressed up against my wife, Carol, and kissed her awake. The radio clicked on and the local station's morning man confirmed my fear. Overnight, the temperature in Orillia had plummeted to a record thirty degrees below zero. This would be, "one of those mornings."

As newlyweds, Carol and I had overcome many challenges, not the least of them learning to work together to cope with rural life in Canada's mid-north. One of the toughest tests of our love was surviving our first winter in the wilds. It was mid-February 1970 and I was teaching in a nearby town. Although we were eager to move to the heart of Ontario's "cottage country," like most young couples Carol and I were long on ambition and short on cash. However, we had managed to scrape together a down payment and over Christmas break we abandoned our comfortable city apartment and took up residence in a very old cottage on the shore of Lake Couchiching.

Although idyllic in the summer, our new home was isolated and ill-suited to winter occupancy. We had managed to install an indoor toilet and a bathtub, but the conditions were still spartan. A tiny acorn fireplace and temperamental old oil stove were our only sources of heat and there was no insulation, so frozen pipes and drains were a common and frustrating occurrence in our frigid abode. We prided ourselves on our ability to cope. Outfitted in arctic boots and one-piece snowsuits, we spent that first winter shoveling tons of snow, splitting forests of wood, and on really cold mornings using a hair dryer to thaw our frozen plumbing. Our love was tested and grew stronger as we battled the elements together, coming to grips daily with the rigors of rural living. However, it seemed that this morning would provide us with our toughest test yet.

We had awakened in a freezer! The minus-thirty degree temperature had jellied the stove oil, cutting the flow of fuel to the space heater, and I knew our water lines would be frozen. It would have been a perfect day to stay in bed; however, as a probationary teacher, I just had to get to school.

I tested the temperature with a puff of breath over the edge of the bedspread, and watched in horror as a vapourous cloud rose toward the ceiling. Bracing myself, I flipped the covers off and leaped to the floor. The icy cold of the linoleum seared my naked feet as, like a novice firewalker, I danced my way down the hallway to the oil heater. I opened the reserve tank, struck a match and thankfully the flame caught.

Fortunately the pipes in the bathroom had not split and after some carefully applied heat from the blow dryer, hot water steamed from the bathtub spout. As I settled thankfully into the wonderful warmth of the water, I heard some thumping from the front room. Carol must have risen to begin her chores. After thawing the kitchen taps, she would leave them running to flush the system and she would use her trusty hatchet to split kindling for the fireplace.

"What a team!" I thought, as I lay in the bath, unaware of the drama unfolding in the kitchen.

Although the kitchen taps had thawed, the sink's drain was still frozen. The water running in was not running out. The sink soon overflowed and water began splashing onto the super-cooled surface of the linoleum floor. Distracted, Carol turned her attention away from her task, just as the hatchet was descending. Her shriek of pain split the arctic air.

Galvanized, I leaped from the tub, water streaming from my body as I rushed to her rescue. When I reached the front room, I was confronted by a grisly scene.

My mate was seated in front of the fireplace, left hand clutched in her right, blood seeping from between her fingers and dripping on to the hearth.

She was crying, "I cut my finger off! I cut my finger off!"

With my attention focused on Carol, I failed to spot the danger awaiting me and stepped, naked and unprepared, firmly onto the slick icy floor of the kitchen. My feet flew out from underneath me; I crashed down butt first in the slush, slid wildly across the room, and slammed into the wall. By the time my head cleared, Carol was alternating between sobbing in pain and laughing at me.

Still, it was obvious that swift medical attention was needed. Carol was already dressed, so I wrapped her hand in a makeshift tea-towel bandage and hastily donned my own snowsuit for the trip to town. Thankfully, the block heater had kept our faithful Chevy warm enough to start. However the rest of the vehicle, including the heater, was frozen solid. No problem! With me driving and Carol wielding a window scraper in her uninjured hand, we pounded on flat-spotted tires along miles of rural road to the town hospital.

The nurse in Emergency escorted Carol directly in for treatment, leaving me to handle the paperwork. Needing my wallet, I reached up and grabbed the zipper on my one-piece snowsuit and pulled, opening it to my navel. "Oops!" I was nude underneath.

While the receptionist and I turned matching shades of red, I hastily re-zipped and provided from memory what information I could.

A nurse appeared and invited me into the treatment room. Carol had been very lucky! The doctor explained that although she would suffer a permanent loss of feeling in the tip of her finger, the bone was undamaged. Her nail and much of the severed flesh would grow back! After some stitches, a bandage and sling, and a call to my very understanding school principal, we headed home.

Once there I carefully rekindled the fireplace and made coffee. As Carol and I sat quietly in the glow of the fire, looking at each other over the rims of our steaming mugs, subtle smiles spread slowly across our faces. Although bruised and bloodied; we toasted each other and sipped, silently congratulating ourselves on surviving another trial.

Our young love would face more challenges before we reached our first anniversary and overcome many others as the years passed. But early adversity builds strong relationships and now forty years later, when winter's winds wail and the temperature plummets in Ontario, we toast each other over our morning coffee in Arizona, thankful that we no longer have to face "one of those mornings."


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