Winters Blast by Christine Swiderski

A blast of cold blew through the windows. Old beyond repair, the windows shiver in the wind. She sits in the chair near the front window with a woolen afghan upon her lap. She wonders how she will make it through the winter. She isn’t poor as some are, her checking account is substantial. The lack she feels is loneliness. Her family and friends have predeceased her. She sits by the window just to get a glimpse of joy neighbors and passersby exude.

Her fears throughout her life have now been realized. She will die alone and no one will know or look. Snow starts to fall, wet large flakes blurs her view. She can hear children laughing and calling out challenges. They know her as the lady with the cookies and hot chocolate from last year. This year has left her infirm. Her hands are stiff, unwilling to hold a spatula.

A nurse and aide come 3 times a week. Helping her with her daily routine making sure she has enough groceries, checking her blood pressure doing all their job requires. They stay the minimal time being sure to call out a goodbye when they leave. The service is costly in so many ways. She had always volunteered tended to elders, children animals. In the back of her mind, she thought karma would reciprocate. Her needs are few. Just a friendly conversation, hug, plate of homemade cookies. A little gift of love and compassion.

Darkness settles early this time of year, yet she sits at her window watching lights go on within her neighbor's homes. Lonnie and Joel their three children across the street. She bought gifts for each child when they were brought home from the hospital. Each Christmas she would bake cookies or apple bread as a gift.

The Morgans next door have an empty nest. Their children are grown and starting their own families yet there house is always greeted with someone stopping by. She isn’t bitter just wondering how she could be so forgotten. The cold she feels deep within her being is the lack of love.

Not the kind of love a man has for a woman, nor the kind that a parent has for a child. Instead, the kind of love one would have for humanity. Neighborly love and concern. She wonders if it is the lack of personal touches with e-mails, texting. No longer writing a note and dropping it at the post office. Or picking up a phone to call and see if someone would need anything or to invite them for a meal.

The clock chimes 7 times. She drifts into a quiet sleep, the wind howls rattling the walls, not just the windows. When she opens her eyes she realizes she is cold. Her automatic lights did not go on. As she lifts herself from her chair to check the switch, there’s a knock on her door. Joel is standing on the stoop and asked if she was okay. He tells her the electricity went out. The electric company does not expect to come back on for hours. Maybe not till morning. She starts to weep. He reaches for her and says: “Wilma, grab some of your things and come home with me. We are sorry for not being attentive. Lonnie lost her mom. Within a month she lost her dad. The boys took it hard. I hope you can forgive us?”

She smiled and said: “Of course Joel forgive an old lady her lack of manners. May I impose upon you to help me gather my things. I seem to be a bit stiff.”

“No problem, I would be glad too. Lonnie will be glad you are with us. She has been worried about you. We love you like an aunt. Again let me say we are sorry to be so consumed with our grief we forgot to check on you.” Joel said.