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I’m smiling right through winter

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We’re all becoming quite tired of the cold and the snow — and we’ve only just passed the mid-point of winter — but I had to share the moment my spirits were lifted above the bleak forecast. Now I feel like I can cruise through this weather until spring with a big smile and a lighter heart.

In early January, I wake up to a break in the frigid temperatures, but not a break in the snow. So be it. Out I go to start shovelling the overnight drifts when I see they have plowed the opposite side of the street right down to the pavement, creating the prototypical giant ridge along the side of the street.

Being a Winnipegger and knowing what’s coming, I head to the shed to get the chipper so when they return on our side, I can start hacking and chiselling my way through the about-to-be-created chest-high ridge.

As I shovel the front walk and make my way streetside, the parade of graders comes down our side and, as expected, creates the mother of all ridges. I sigh, resigned to my fate, and continue shovelling snow, heading toward the wall of ice and snow.

Following the three graders were two front-end loaders. Without so much as a wink or a nod, the driver of one loader clears the ridge in front of our house down to the grass.

I am taken aback, only because I was prepared to do the work myself and the driver’s action was so unexpected. I make sure I make eye contact: I straighten up and give him a salute, he shoots back a thumbs-up, and off we go to our respective business.

In November 2011, I experienced an acute ascending aortic dissection. I spent 14 hours in surgery having my aorta replaced and more than six months off work recovering from it.

My wife now watches me shovel the snow every time, as she is afraid I’ll exert myself too much and burst, even though I assure her I am being very, very careful. We all have to do what we have to do. After almost losing my life, I left the hospital with a renewed sense of appreciation and a determined focus on gratitude and recognition of events and observations that make life so precious.

In that vein, I’d like to say to the driver of the CASE 821E loader, marked No. 11, on Keenleyside Street on Jan. 3, 2014 at about 11:30 a.m. Thank you very, very much.

It’s going to be a great year.

— Thomas Grabowski

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