The wake was beautiful. Fresh flowers littered the temporary dais; a steady stream of mourners came and went, shivering in the garage while filing past the remains. I stood next to my recently departed companion, holding back tears as well-wishers hugged me and offered words of encouragement.
"How wonderful that it waited until spring to say goodbye."
"Nothing could have prepared you for these past few months."
"I was never the same after I lost mine. That's why I moved to Florida."
May my snowblower rest in peace.
I know I was not alone in my loss. Thousands of snow-clearing machines undoubtedly succumbed to the winter of 2013-14, a season on its way to entering history books with a curse word preceding it.
Atlanta, you can whine all you want about the late January, two-inch "blizzard" that "paralyzed" your city. I'll counter by contending no area of the country suffered more than the Midwest, with my town of Chicago leading the pack. Our zoos' polar bear and penguin population refused to venture outside. I saw my snowblower more than my kids. It required near daily feedings of premium gasoline and two-cycle engine oil. By Christmas it had been used so often I felt guilty for not including it in the family holiday card.
And on that mid-March (you read that correctly) day when I pulled its starter cord and heard only sputtering followed by permanent silence, I knew the end had arrived. I invited friends to pay their respects; many arrived with food. In my garage I erected a pulpit made from two by fours, a few spare sheets of aluminum siding and some old milk crates. My church minister officiated the proceedings and spoke first.
"Let's all bow our heads and say a prayer in honor of the Toro-CCR 1000E," he began. "It was a wonderful machine... almost as wonderful as my snowblower, which crapped out last month. "
"Uh, Reverend, could we just stick to praying for my..."
"Did anybody see the forecast? It's supposed to snow tonight. And possibly tomorrow. Am I the only person tired of hearing the weatherman say "snow likely," "good chance of snow," and "here we go again?"
"Can't we just have one stinking day where it doesn't snow? HUH? ONE LOUSY DAY?"
I quickly intervened.
"Thank you, Reverend, for that wonderful soliloquy. Who else would like to speak?"
An unfamiliar man stepped forward.
"I'll say a few words," he said. "I'm the neighborhood snowplow operator. From my truck I'd watch Greg's snowblower perform like a champ clearing the mountains of snow I heaped on his driveway. The sight was so beautiful I'd often wait until it had finished its task. Then I'd fire up my truck and dump another mound in the newly-cleared area, just so I could watch it work its magic again. Sometimes I'd do this all day long. Man, I'm gonna miss that little red beauty."
Was it my imagination, or did a mourner from the back utter, "murderer?"
One of my children, tears streaking her face, approached the pulpit. Why was she so upset, I wondered?
"When it died, that meant I had to, had to... shovel. I actually had to put on my coat, put down my phone and go shovel," she whimpered. "I didn't even know what a shovel was before this winter."
I had my answer.
Then it was my turn.
"I want to apologize," I said, gazing at its salt-crusted exterior. "I'm sorry I kicked you when it was 13 below and you failed to start on the first pull. I also know it wasn't your fault that I consistently ran over newspapers and Christmas decorations trapped under the powder. You still managed to carve out a portion of the driveway just wide enough for my car. I am eternally grateful."
And with that, I pushed it to the curb with the rest of the weekly trash. A few flakes from still another round of snow landed on my coat.
I walked into the garage, sighed and handed my daughter a shovel.
She began to cry.
Copyright © 2014 Greg Schwem distributed by Tribune Content Services, Inc.