As I posted last week, my Uncle Bill with whom I was very close, passed. He was not a young man, but his passing was still somewhat unexpected. My aunt called the morning before he passed and told me the progression of things as they happened over night. I immediately packed and headed for Erie, PA where he had been life-flighted. In my home town where they also lived, there is no hospital. The closest hospital is a half an hour away but is not really equipped for anything serious.
Anyhow, as I left WV, the weather was mostly ok, but I knew it was supposed to be bad as I traveled north. Somewhere in the middle of PA, the weather turned from ok to total junk. It started raining and then the rain froze. I had a good cake of ice on my windshield and all over the car. I knew I would not make it to Erie as the weather is always bad in Erie due to the lake effect snow they always get. It had snowed 8-10 inches before the freezing rain so the situation was pretty bad.
I aborted the push north and headed to my hometown…where the weather was also terrible. The roads were terribly icy and the snow was 2 or so feet deep…and now covered with ice. My mom who was also in WV followed me in to their place. We had to hit “the facilities” as soon as we got there. Mom tried to turn on the lights but they didn’t come on. I checked the breaker box and discovered water running through the panel. That of course had tripped some of the breakers. It also provided a serious hazard as far as I could tell. Having jumped in the car in a hurry, I hadn’t packed adequate snow gear and my parents’ ladders were in WV…and besides, I am no expert on water in the breaker box. My Mom called a local handyman who immediately came out and, with a torch, melted the ice dam off of the roof above the panel box. The ice was at least 10 inches thick under a foot of snow. It’s a wonder there weren’t worse problems.
As the repair man tried to leave, he got incredibly stuck in the deep snow which we hadn’t yet plowed off. After digging and pushing for at least 30 minutes, he broke free. He basically floored it kicking snow and slush all over me as I pushed him up onto some pine branches we had cut so he could get traction. Not having winter gear, I was a complete mess…soaked to the bone.
We were exhausted from everything so ate quickly and went to bed. The next morning, we headed to the hospital in Erie where we made it just in time to say our good-byes. It was very difficult to say goodbye and even more painful to watch my Aunt as they were probably the most closely knit couple I know.
When we made it back to Tionesta, I followed the footsteps of the repairman from the night before. I got my Subaru stuck up to the tops of the tires. Luckily, my brother arrived later int he day with his Jeep. With a little work, he was able to yank my car out of the snow. I have always been pretty stupid with what I expect my Subaru to do and it has always excelled in stupid situations…deep snow/ice/slush was just too much for it I guess. It was too much for about any car that didn’t have knobby tires I think!
We spent a few more days with my parents, brother and sister-in-law and my aunt reminiscing, talking, and drinking a few beers in my uncle’s honor. It was a good time considering the situation. The night before I was to return to WV, I returned my aunt to her house. She walked in to find no heat. It was still pretty cold…single digit temps at night so that wasn’t going to work for her. She called a furnace company who would send a guy to help. Like everything up there, the company was an hour and a half away. His ETA was 1am. I actually had a really good opportunity to spend time with just my aunt until he came. We talked and remembered and talked some more. It was good. The repair guy came at 1 and by 2am had her patched through until he could get parts. I returned to my parents’ home but still woke up at 7 am for my return trip to WV. That sort of sucked. I had a thermos and an insulated cup of coffee so I had plenty of “fuel” for the return trip.
You might be thinking that it seems like a lot went wrong on an already stressful and sad trip…you’d be right. It wasn’t much fun in many ways. In other ways, though, it was just the sort of craziness on which my Uncle thrived. He was generally happy and laughed a lot…about everything. Crap happened and he chuckled about it. Good stuff happened and he chuckled about it. While all of this stuff kept piling on, I kept thinking about how he always responded to things in life that just happened. In a way, it was the perfect way to mourn his passing. I chuckled as things heaped on. That’s how Uncle Bill would have handled it….