MY LIFE - Memories of blizzards past

MY LIFE - Memories of blizzards past

I love being retired, and never more so than when the snow flies like it did yesterday.

Back in the old days when I worked as a nurse, the rule was you went into work no matter what. Blizzard blowing? Tough luck! Gird your loins, grab your shovel, and get going, and you had better hope the second shift made it in to relieve you at quitting time or you would be stuck there for the duration.

I still remember driving to work in a raging blizzard one morning only to find the parking lot unplowed when I arrived. The snow was piled so high against the door of the building that it took me the better part of 15 minutes to wrestle it open wide enough for me to squeeze through, only to be paged once the maintenance crew arrived halfway through my morning med-pass and being instructed to move my car to another lot a 5-minute walk away. All that and not so much as a pat on the back for your your trouble or an apology for the inconvenience.

During the Blizzard of ’78, I was one of the lucky ones who made it home, just barely, when the evening shift (who would be stuck there for at least two days) came into work. Nothing moved for several days, but once a path was cleared up my street, I got a call from the hospital informing me that the National Guard would be picking me up for work.

I was one of the lucky ones. I was at least in an enclosed vehicle. Some were brought in by snowmobile. One nurse who was near retirement age told us how she had sat behind the driver, hanging on for dear life as they crossed the city from Diamond Hill Road to Fogarty Hospital in North Smithfield (now the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island), and how with every bounce they hit ,she wet her pants just a little bit more. She fortunately had a sense of humor and way with words and we all had a good laugh about it.

My sister Joan used to work at Woonsocket Hospital (now Landmark) and likes to tell the tale of how she once had to work a double shift because of a snowstorm, only to discover when she left work at 11 p.m., that her car had been plowed into the parking lot.

She called her husband, but for reasons that I can’t remember he was unable to come pick her up. She began walking home to Blackstone, Mass., in the freezing cold dark of night only to meet her husband halfway. She found mighty small comfort in the fact that he had come to walk her home, but again, in retrospect it was funny in its own stupid way, and we can laugh about it now.

I retired 12 years ago in December, and early in the morning of our first snowfall of the season my phone rang. It was my friend Sandy, a fellow nurse, also recently retired. “I was just sitting here looking out the window, admiring the snow, and I asked myself, now I wonder who else might be enjoying the snow from the comfort of her home, too, and I thought of you.”

The years have flown since then, but every time it snows I think of that phone call and I smile to myself. You were right, Sandy, it is pretty darn nice.

Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.