On Thursday, Dec 2nd, Jennifer, Maggie, Sadie & I headed up to VA to visit Mama’s family. We planned to stay through the weekend… that, however, was not the case. It started snowing on Saturday morning & didn’t stop until Wednesday. Now I realize that this kind of snow is old news to many areas of the country. But for this South Carolina girl, it was pretty much crazy-wonderful.

I’m so thankful for that snowfall. If given the choice, I would have never called into work repeatedly & stayed a week at my grandparents — I’m just so routine-oriented that it wouldn’t have even occurred to me. But the snow took that decision out of my hands.

And honestly, it was more than the weather. When we arrived on Thursday, we realized that Grandpa’s “cold” that Grandma had mentioned on the phone was so much more. He had a cough that had settled deep in his chest & was struggling to catch his breath. He napped multiple times a day, which is very unlike the man who is perpetually outside, perpetually working. It scared me. I suddenly saw how old he’s gotten, how frail he’s become. It suddenly became clear that Grandpa has never really been physically the same since Mama’s death… that losing his only daughter seems to have changed him in a way that is manifesting itself through physical illness. Maggie, who has always been particularly attached to Grandpa, was worried. She followed him around the house, watching him quietly. When he once again disappeared into the bedroom to take yet another nap, she would “tattle” on him to Grandma — “Gwanma, Poppaw laying down! Is he tirwed?” She tracked him constantly, even knocking on the door when he went to the bathroom — *knock, knock* “Poppaw, what you doin’ in dere?” *knock, knock*.

On Monday morning, we actually packed the car, said our goodbyes, & made it to the top of my grandparents’ hilly driveway. As we were leaving, Grandpa said his usual prayer that we would have a safe trip home. But, for the first time I can remember, he broke down & cried. By the time he said “amen,” every eye in the kitchen was full of tears. As we drove away, Maggie waved at him & then began wailing. It was one of the saddest sounds I’ve ever heard — more of a keening sadness than crying. Within minutes, Jennifer & I were crying as well. I just kept thinking “what if.” What if this is the last time? What if he doesn’t get better? What if? As children, Jennifer & I remember crying & begging Mama & Daddy to turn around & let us go back, but they never did. For the first time, we turned around less than a mile down the road & drove back. It felt right. It was the right thing to do.

As we turned into the icy driveway, my cousin David was standing there asking us what was wrong, if we had forgotten something. We just waved as we slid by, careening all the way back down the hill into my grandparents’ yard. The smiles on my grandparents’ faces were beautiful. Grandma kept laughing… just laughing with happiness.

And so we stayed for three more days. The schools were closed because of the weather, & so we all huddled down together with hot chocolate & Christmas cookies & family & just enjoyed being snowed in. Together. Snow is the perfect excuse, you know? It removes the guilt, the pressure of “real life.” My grandparents don’t have a television or internet. Because they’re nestled in the mountains, they get few radio stations, & cell phone service is laughable. It was lovely, it truly was. And by the time we left (again) on Thursday, Grandpa acted like he felt much better. No tears this time as we pulled out of the driveway…

Oh, & I took more than 1600 pictures. Yay for thorough documentation!