Every couple of days, I can be found venturing west on Norway Road heading to Seneca.
Several months ago, it became evident I could no longer care for Phyllis at home. After much deliberation, we decided upon a long-term care facility, finding that Seneca House would be the best fit for her, her family and me.
But what we didn't consider too much when making that decision last March was how daunting the hill up to the nursing home would be for me to drive during the winter months.
In fact, I didn't think much of it until last Thursday, when the snow, sleet, ice, plague of frogs, etc. began to fall in earnest.
Then, it weighed very heavily on my mind.
Each day, I checked the weather conditions on my phone and on Facebook, where my buddy, Steve Douglas, usually posts weather updates. Each day, I was disheartened. My usual route was snow and ice bound, and the main highway, U.S. 60, had a couple of bridges to cross.
Back when Phyllis and I were first getting to know each other, near Christmas 1990, there was an ice storm. She called my house, inviting me to come have coffee with her at a convenience store near what was then Missouri Southern State College. She lived about a mile or so from the store and the college, and drove a rather sure-footed 1977 Toyota Corolla. I lived a good 10 miles away and drove a 1979 Chevrolet van, with the standard transmission. I used to call it “the van from hell,” during summer months, and “slip and slide” during the winter.
I weighed the odds of trying the trip and possibly getting killed in the process, versus getting to spend time with Phyllis and declined, prompting Phyllis to nickname me “ice weenie.”
I'm still an ice weenie. Each day this past week, I talked with Phyllis on the phone instead of making the 12-mile trip to Seneca. Each day I bowed to fear and didn't try the trip. Then Monday came.
On Monday, I called the Missouri Department of Transportation for a road condition update. U.S. 60 was clear, even the bridges. I checked Steve Douglas' latest weather posting on Facebook: snow was in the forecast, but not until late afternoon. I talked with Phyllis on the phone, and heard a loneliness, a desperation, in her voice that hadn't been there the day before.
My mind was made up: I was going.
I pulled on my sweats, a pair of slacks, a flannel shirt, a sweater, wool socks and heavy boots. I donned a winter parka, a woolen scarf, fleece-lined cowhide gloves and a watchman's cap. I found it hard to move under all of those layers. But I trudged on, grabbing the snow shovel off of the porch in case I had to dig my way out.
I encountered dry roads all the way. Smooth sailing. Even the hill on Missouri Highway 43 at Seneca was dry as a bone and heavily salted. All in all, a trouble-free drive. Now just one more obstacle stood in the way: the steep incline between Cherokee Avenue and Chippewa Street, where Seneca House is located.
I turned onto the roadway and found … it totally passable as well. I was able to keep the transmission in “drive” all the way up.
Phyllis was extremely glad to see me. Seeing the look on her face when I walked into her room, I knew that I would have endured a blizzard to get to see her.
The visit went well. We had lunch together, I read to her, I found a few things she hadn't been able to locate.
But all too soon, it was time to leave, time to get back to Neosho, time to go to work. I hugged her close to me, kissed the top of her head, and left.
As I left, the promised snow began to fall, fitfully at first. In fact, it held off for the most part long enough for me to get back to Neosho. That pace increased a short time later, and the city ended up getting several more inches of the white stuff.
All in all, I was glad I made that trip. It's good to be cautious, but I can't let fear cripple me.
John Ford is managing editor of the Neosho Daily News