It’s been three months since they rushed dad off of the ranch in an ambulance. Three months since his heart betrayed him.
Three months since we sat with him, night after night, in that hospital room in the big town as this brutal winter froze us over and life’s unexpected struggles brought us to our knees.
Three months since I told him, hang on dad, in a few months it will be spring and we have so many things to do.
And for three months it has just been my husband and I living on this ranch, going back and forth between work and home, one house and the other, checking on things, making sure everything’s fed and things are running right.
See, my parents decided to stick out the winter a little closer to town, to recover and take a breath, avoid the drive on icy roads and call someone to come in and renovate the house, nice and new for when they returned.
For three months I have been sending up a prayer each night thanking God for giving us our dad back. And for three months I’ve been telling myself that we are so blessed, so lucky to all be together in one piece.
And so it’s for all those blessings that I should jump for joy each morning, ready to get up with that beautiful sunrise outside of my window, but I haven’t.
I haven’t risen to shine very bright.
It’s been one of the longest, coldest, hardest winter of my life.
But let me say this, when we moved back to the ranch, almost four years ago now, it was not to get away from the big wide world, it was not to quiet and slow things down or to live inside a fantasy of a “simple country life.”
I grew up out here. I know it’s never been simple. In fact, living thirty miles from town on a gravel road that turns from dust to mud to ice and back again, has the potential to complicate a lot of things.
I knew this. And we came home anyway. We came to work. We came to learn. We came to make a life out here surrounded by a landscape we love and a family that can help us make the most of it.
But something shifted this winter, in the way I see this place, in the way I see this world we chose to surround us. Maybe it was the unexpected call in the middle of the night and the threat, the knowledge, that it all can be taken away in a second.
Maybe it’s our ongoing struggle to have a family and the realization that some people just don’t get what they want, no matter their prayers or their faith in something…
Or maybe it was just the relentless cold piled on top of it all, keeping me from climbing to the tops of the buttes for fear of frost bite, when climbing to the tops of those buttes is what I’ve relied on to heal me up time after time, but in the past three months this world has revealed to me her edge, and in response, it seems I’ve created my own.
And I want to tell myself that when that first crocus pops up under the warm sunshine that edge will soften and I will feel more like myself, but the truth is, I don’t think I need to go back there.
I’m not sure I want that.
Because this place is my refuge, yes. When I was a little girl so green and sheltered, it was here I belonged, here I could grow up sort of innocently unscathed for a few years before being thrown into the real world, and that is what I loved about it and one of the many reasons I returned.
But I’m a grown woman now. I’m at the age where money runs out and babies don’t make it, we don’t get the job and parents get sick…
Running into the trees and singing at the top of my lungs is not going to save me from these things, but those trees can hold me for a minute, help me breathe, help remind me that I can survive these human shaped tragedies.
And that even when this place is cruel, it is simultaneously beautiful…
Human shaped miracles happen too.
I know that. I’ve seen it.
Yesterday mom and dad moved back home, back to the ranch. Mom pulled into the yard and dad was waiting there, shoveling the drive from Monday’s snow storm, ready to grab her bag full of shoes and help her with the groceries.
Husband and I came over to visit, to see their new floors, to talk about furniture arrangement, have a glass of wine and welcome them back.
Back from a lonely winter.
Back from a hard time.
Back on the right side of life’s unexpected twists.
And I know now that we’re not all always going to be ok out here, but we’re ok right now.
Right now, we’re ok.