The old man has always been there. There was never a time in my life when he didn’t show up. True, it was always according to his schedule. Time meant nothing to him. He would show up when he wanted to and leave when he jolly well pleased. No glances at the wall to check the date and time served as a subtle reminder that it was time for him to depart. No, he always marches to his own beat.
The old man has taught me many life lessons. Patience, for one. The times when I am in a hurry, I remember his prodding me to slow down. Doesn’t life go by in a hurry as it is? Why try to rush it even more? What’s wrong with taking the afternoon, or, heaven forbid, a whole day to sit in front of the fire and read? The old man has taught me to appreciate those times when I have no choice but to stop and smell the wood fire. On those days I find myself watching the deer in the backyard more. I stir my coffee more slowly. The moments seem precious. If I could bottle them up and save them for busier days, I would.
But there are promises that have been broken. One day I was out for a run. As I approached my driveway, thinking about ice water and a shower, I noticed the runoff from the snow. The water came down from the hill behind the house and making a stream running from our driveway to the cow pasture across the street.
I stood in the middle of the stream, watching the water avert around my sneakers. It felt like winter was being washed away. Crocuses and daffodils were poking their sleepy heads from the soil. It was time. Time for the warmer weather to take hold and allow the cogs of time to turn. The water lapped at my sneakers with a promise of new life.
But the old man broke that promise. The very next day, not an hour after I planted seedlings inside, encouraged by the previous day’s warm temperature, it snowed. One minute the sun was shining brilliantly, the next, white-out conditions. I shrugged it off. It was only March, after all.
A few weeks later, more life-giving sunshine poured down on us. We wore shorts and t-shirts. I eyed our pool, planning for its season-opening. Easter approached. The crocuses and daffodils smiled at us. The forsythia budded. It seemed the old man had disappeared for the time being.
But the old man is getting senile. He returned and dumped three inches of snow on the ground Easter morning. We grudgingly set aside our light summer dresses and chose sweaters and warm slacks to wear to church. As I scraped off my car for work Monday morning, I asked the old man why he broke his promise.
I didn’t break it, he said. It’s just delayed. Bide your time. Enjoy the moment.
Still, looking at my windshield covered in snow, I shake my head. There are little brown seeds blown down from the trees mixed with the snow. The sight is incongruous and makes my soul feel heavy. But the old man was right: the promise is only delayed. The days will inevitably grow warmer, the snow will melt, and my seeds will have warm earth to grow in. I grin, knowing the old man’s days are numbered. At least for now. There is a comfort in that.
He will be back, that old man winter. He always returns. Some years it is early; others it is late. But he will return and allow the pace of life to slow down.
Strangely, there is also comfort in that. Until next time, old man.