“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”~ Havelock Ellis

There is a vulnerability in sharing the deepest parts of you with those who have only been privy to the superficial until now.  But here goes; I hate winter.  I am not a fan of the blustery winds that seems to tear right through me, exposing my skin to their icy grip. I dread the darkening of the skies that come earlier and earlier until it feels like I wake up and live all day in perpetual gloom. The holidays bring a brief reprieve from wintery boredom, but January descends on me like an avalanche of snow, threatening to bury me until spring.

Most years, I escape the gloom and doom that January and February bring to visit my parents in warm and sunny Florida.  They would disagree, however.  The moment my feet touch their tropical soil, an “unseasonably cool” period begins. I won’t suggest that some (Nana and Papa) compare my arrival to a natural disaster, but I will say that heaters are readied just in case.

Upon reflection, maybe Winter doesn’t really get me either. Maybe Winter is confused by my inability to find joy in weather, encouraging snuggling in with hot port and slowing down for moments of solitude.

I am trying to change.  I am working on embracing moments instead of wishing them away for better ones.  After all, it is the time spent with others that provide a richness that is worth capturing and remembering.  It is especially true for those that have left an absence where their presence once stood.

Ryan did not hate winter or the outdoors.  He loved the crispness that the first winter breezes brought. He looked forward to the powderiness of snow that heralded the beginning of snowboarding.  He enjoyed heading out with Scott and Darcy to spend the day ice fishing.  Sitting in a tent, sipping coffee and telling tales of the one that got away was a favourite pastime.

For the last two years, I, along with Jubie and Nancy, have taken to spending time with the boys while they go out ice fishing.  I won’t lie and say we are an excellent substitute for Ryan.  I doubt very much that he made Scott put bait on his hook or put the fish back. He probably didn’t chatter as much, either. Scott, bless his heart, endures us with a good-natured grin.  He even invites us back.

Through these moments, I recognize that we, as a family, have been doing this for the last five years. Slipping into spaces that Ryan once was.  During hunting season, Julianna and Nancy accompany Scott out to the farm.  They happily spend the day riding in the truck, eating cinnamon buns and listening to the boys swear up a storm.  Not because it was their passion but because it was Ryan’s. A ritual with his dad, uncles and cousins.

Similarly, Scott has sat with me to binge-watch a series. Since he was a young kid, Ryan and I would cuddle on the couch faithfully watching ” The Walking Dead” or “Lost.” To my everlasting shame, we may have been partial years ago to “America’s Next Top Model.” It’s obvious now why Ryan was so invested in that one, but I loved the time spent with him.  Even as he grew older and the distance on the sofa grew, we would still hang together and watch our favourite show. Now that is a role that Scott has taken on.

Reading that was once a passion of mine and Ryan’s is now extended to the whole family. Jordyn and I talk for hours about authors we love and books we recommend. Watching her, deeply captivated by a story, reminds me of my son.

All these spaces.  Once taken in full by Ryan have now been parcelled into roles that we take on to help each other grieve his loss. Fused in our souls are memories that we hold onto.  They are subtle but beautiful reminders that he is always with us. 

I may never be able to stop winter from coming but perhaps I can find grace in the season I am in.