It was the first snow the boy could remember. Like the first time anyone sees snow, he was amazed by the awesome power the white powder seemed to have over the world. Snow held the world still so that every second that passed seemed to teeter on existence for a beat and then fall into an abyss of awe and wonder. The boy’s father worked a lot, too much his father would say many years later. But on this snow day the father stopped working so that he could take the boy out to play in the snow. The boy would never forget that moment.
The father noticed the boy staring quietly out the window, watching the snowfall, watching the world turn white. The boy looked outside, steam fogging the window in front of his gaping mouth. The boy kind of understood that this was what happens to rain when it’s really cold outside but this seemed far more fun than rain ever could be. The father stopped working, put down his pencil, closed the account book he had been writing in and took off his glasses. After putting on his shoes and winter coat, he bundled the boy up. They both giggled as the father stuffed the boy’s hands into mittens and made a cap snug on his head. Grabbing the boy by the mittened hand, the father took him out in the nearly blinding whiteness outside.
The boy hadn’t played much with his father until that point in their lives. The father worked too much, just like he would say many years later. But that day they played for hours. First they just explored the sensation of being in the snow. They let snowflakes dance down to their tongues, the crystal’s melting demise making their tongues tingle. The boy spent a lot of time just picking up snow and dusting it from his mittens. They made snow angels, they built a snowman and even had a playful father and son snowball fight. The father let the son win of course. As the sun’s light became eclipsed by the grey of the sky and the dark of the night, they started to end their day in the snow.
As they were walking towards home the boy looked up at his father and told him that this was the best day ever and the most fun he’d ever had, that he loved spending time with his father. The boy asked if the father could stop work to play with him more often. The father kneeled down so that he could look his son in the eyes, his knee in the snow sounding like a muffled crunch. He took a small handful of powdered snow and put it in the boy’s mitten, cupped his own hands around his son’s hands and together than made a snowball. He told his son that they would save this snowball, forever, as a reminder of the day, of the fun they had. This snowball would be a reminder that sometimes you had to stop and have fun, spend time with the ones you love, enjoy life. Once inside, they took the snowball, put it in a Ziploc bag and placed it in the freezer.
The boy’s mother had died years before, so many years in fact that all the boy could remember of his mother was a comforting smell. Years later, the boy would try to identify that smell – always smelling perfumes, foods, shampoos, deodorants – always searching to put a name to that comforting olfactory sensation that dangled in the back of his memory, just out of reach. The father worked hard to support himself and the boy, but maybe too much, as he would say many years later. But after that one snow day, the father would often stop and play with the boy. He still worked a lot but on occasion he would look up from his account book and see a yearning in the boy’s eyes. The father would put down his pencil, close the account book he had been writing in, take off his glasses and play with his son. Sometimes they would play cards, sometimes they would go outside and throw a baseball and sometimes, if the weather was just right, they would play in the snow.
The boy grew up and started to play more without his father. He played baseball at school with his father cheering him on in the stands. He played clarinet in the school band and his father would tap his foot while sitting in the audience. Even though he didn’t play with the boy so much anymore, the father would still stop and watch the boy play. It always made the boy feel proud and full of love when he saw his father watching him play ball or clarinet. The boy would never forget those moments.
Eventually the boy became a man and moved out of his father’s home. His father gave him speeches about responsibility and prudence, things that he thought men should know and practice. The man was given some money and a wristwatch that had been on his father’s wrist for as long as the man could remember. His father told him that the money would help him start his new life and the watch would help him find time to stop and enjoy life. His father also gave him a Ziploc bag with a snowball in it. The man looked at the snowball, once so large that it barely fit his mittened hands but now the size of a golfball in his grown hands – hands that looked more like his father’s did when they made the snowball together many years ago. The father gave the man the snowball and told him that he should always stop and take time to play, to love life, to never forget the day they stopped to watch the snowfall take over their small world together, their first snowman, their first snow ball fight. The man took the Ziploc bag with the snowball and hugged his father. The man would never forget that moment.
The man soon found a wife, a wife that soon became the mother of his son. When his son was born the man’s father was already in the hospital because he had fallen ill. The night the man’s son was born, he led his father by the arm from his wing of the hospital to the where the newborn baby was. The man’s father walked slowly these days, feet skimming the floor like sandpaper being lightly rubbed against soft grain wood. When the man held the baby close to his father it brought tears to both of them, as well as smiles. The man’s father had a breathing tube forked in his nostrils so that it looked almost like a mustache, a translucent crescent hanging over his lips. When the man looked at his father he saw this but it only accented his father’s smile. As they stood together holding the baby, the man’s heart was still for a moment as his memory flashed to something – something dangling just out of reach. He smelled the air between his father and his son, it smelt familiar, comforting. As he smelled the indescribable yet undeniable smell of a newborn baby mingled with two generations of his family he realized what it reminded him of: his mother.
Soon after this, the man was able to leave the hospital with his wife and their son. Unfortunately, the man’s father was not able to leave. He would never leave the hospital ,in fact.
One night the man got a call from the hospital saying his father was seizing and would not live through the night. The man was barely sleeping, as a father does when a newborn baby is in the house, so he answered the phone on the second ring and was immediately alert. Upon hearing the news about his father, the man kissed his wife on the lips, kissed his son on the forehead and put on his shoes and winter coat. He went to the kitchen, opened the freezer and pulled out a Ziploc bag with a small golfball-sized snowball in it. The man put the Ziploc bag in his coat pocket and left the house.
When the man arrived at the hospital his father was not conscious. The doctors and nurses were polite and consoling, telling the man that his father was in an induced coma to help ease him into a peaceful passing. They could rouse him from this peacefulness but that would most certainly be the beginning of the end of his life. Regardless, asleep or awake, these would be the last moments that the man would have with his father. The man asked that his father be awakened from the coma so that his father could have the last moments of his life, so that they could share this time together. A few minutes later a nurse had the man sign some papers, then injected a clear liquid into the saline drip. The man’s father opened his eyes, glassy and looking afar. It took a second or two before they focused on his son but when they did he smiled.
The man took the Ziploc bag out of his pocket, removed the golfball-sized snowball and put it in a plastic cup by the side of the bed. His father grabbed the man’s hands and they felt like sandpaper on soft grain wood as they rubbed together. They shared a few stories about how much they meant to each other, recounting moments that they thought the most important or most memorable in their time together. The father told his son that he wished he had worked less and played more, that even though they had so many good memories, there could have been more. The man talked about the day they went out into the snow and made their first snow angels, their first snowman and their first snowball fight. He told his father about how he had never forgotten when they made a snowball together and that they’d keep it forever. Then the man grabbed the cup beside the bed and showed his father the golfball-sized snowball in it, now even smaller as it melted. The father smiled wide and tears ran down the man’s cheeks as he smiled even wider. They sat like that through the night, the father going in and out of sleep and then man watching solemnly with a tolerance for being awake that only new father could understand. The man would never forget these moments.
Just before the sun came up, as the first rays of light trickled bright reds of day into deep blues of night, the man’s father awoke with a start. His eyes were immediately wide and scared, which startled the man – because he knew this was the end. The man asked his father if he was okay, if there was anything he could get for him. His father asked for a sip of water and the man instinctively grabbed the cup beside the bed, put his hand under his father’s head and gently tipped the cup to his father’s dry lips. His father closed his eyes as he drank the water, drinking the memory of their best day ever, the reminder to stop and enjoy life passing over his lips. The boy was still holding his father’s head when the constant beeping, that had been background noise up until this point, turned into a solid tone. The man’s father never opened his eyes again. The man would never forget this moment.
The man was really sad for a long time. He would try to work more because it helped him to not think about the sad things in life. Eventually, the man’s baby son grew up and became a little boy. One day, as the man worked nearby, he noticed his son looking out the window – snow falling outside, turning the world white. The man closed his computer, took off his glasses and put on his shoes and winter coat. He bundled up his son, both of them giggling as the man stuffed his son’s hands into mittens and made a cap snug on his head. Grabbing the boy by the mittened hand, the father took his son out in the nearly blinding whiteness outside. They marveled in the wonders of the snow filled, small world that they shared together right then. They made snow angels and a snowman and had a father and son snowball fight. The father let the son win of course. They played until the cold and the end of day beckoned them home. Before going into the warmth and comfort of their home, the man kneeled down so that his eyes were level with his son’s eyes. The muffled crunch of his knee in the snow sent a chill up the man’s spine. The man put a small amount of powdered snow in his son’s mittened hands, wrapped his hands around them and together they made a snowball.