Outside it has stopped snowing. My father ashes into a Folger’s can, exhales—breath and smoke coupled, indistinguishable.
Once, back when he could still shovel, I saw him close his eyes, prayer moving his silent lips. He’s never spoken of it so I don’t know for sure it was prayer. It could have been lyrics. It could have been a song. Maybe there’s no difference.
I shovel for him now. Sweat. Ice. Slush. Powder. I rest leaning on the handle until I see he is watching. I begin again.
This time of year the afternoon sun will melt it all away with or without me. I told this to him once and he shook his head like I didn’t understand.
Everyone around here knows loss precipitates silence and distance. Everyone around here knows too much. A pitying look is worse coming from someone you know you haven’t told.
Your mother, he says. She hated the snow. I nod. The sun parts the clouds. I want to tell him, See! It’s only a matter of time, but he can’t take his eyes off the drifts, even as they begin to melt.
Damn it’s bright out.
I’m almost done here.
More snow coming tomorrow.
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