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First major storm of the winter brings leaves and branches down on road in North Plains, Oregon. Photography by Lorelle VanFossen.

Found out this morning that the husband of a friend of mine had died a few days ago.

I’d battled the blustery rain and wind to this meeting, braced with the first breath of winter in the Pacific Northwest, then stunned by the news. I’ve tried all day not to think about it, but the storm had other plans.

I fought to handle the car in the stiff side winds after the meeting. I dashed through pouring rain into the store to pick up some items for our two Thanksgiving dinners, one for us on the official day, and the holiday party we were throwing a few days later for friends. Leaving the store, the pouring rain had gotten braver and I was drenched through my coat within two minutes as I unloaded the cart and filled the back of the car.

Kalon, our house mate, texted me that the lights were blinking on and off and asked if he could park his new BMW car in the garage as there “branches falling from the sky.” Before starting the car, I replied affirmative and asked him to meet me when I drove in to help unload the groceries.

If I didn’t have a clock in the car, I would have thought it was near sunset. The dark clouds blocked out the sun and the rain took care of the rest. Branches were on the road everywhere, but small and easily ignored. The water alongside the road was threatening to cross the road, but the current swept it downstream.

As I climbed up the foothills towards home, I came to the T in the road near the pallet mill. Water gushed over the drain pipe and onto the road, a gray mass of slit and sludge. I swung wide at the shallowest point and drove through, water spraying outwards, tires whizzing under me.

Thrilled to be past it, but nervous about the onslaught of the storm, my mind flipped to my friend. She’d made a serious life-changing decision a while ago to put her 95 year old husband in a care facility, but it was gut wrenching. A few weeks ago, she’d gotten a call from the facility informing her that her husband was on the way to the hospital as he’d fallen down in his room and had laid there for many hours before anyone found him. He’s injured himself quite badly but had retained consciousness. No one had responded to his cries. In a place like that, sometimes it’s all you an do to ignore the cries, but this was unconscionable.

He’d been repaired and was recovering, last I’d heard. Rehab and some good care and he’d be back to normal, as normal can be with those injuries and that age. She’d spent every minute she could with him, helping him, feeding him, reading long hours to him. Another friend told me that they’d really hoped it would make it through Christmas, but life had another plans.

My heart broke for her and her family, but it also weighed on me as it does when you face morality in others. My father died a few years ago, leaving the family a mess with poor planning and bad behavior by family members. My mother, on her second (or third?) husband, just finished a few weeks in Hawaii to celebrate her 75th birthday in style (and warmth). My step-mother works hard in Arizona caring for her daughter and her children as well as aging neighbors, and she’s not a young thing. Many of my family members are aging, and I wonder what the future holds for them, as well as my old self.

I send a voice text to hubby to warn him to be careful of the water on the road and turn the corner on the street towards home to find small tree branches on the road. I get out and clear them, and drive on, wetter than I was before.

I turn down the long hill of our driveway, thankful to see that it is clear so far of trees. I check the neighbor’s driveway that Ys off from ours for fallen trees and it looks clear. We keep an eye on our older neighbor, helping where we can, but secretly. He is fiercely independent and wants to do it all himself, so we pick up tree branches and keep the driveway clear when he isn’t around.

I turn the corner and there lay a huge tree across our driveway, a couple hundred feet from my door. I texted my husband about the tree and then our house mate to get him to come help me. I grabbed purse and umbrella, finally giving up against the downpour, parked the car and made my way over the tree and towards the house to change into working clothes.

Kalon and I tried to get the chain saw to start while carrying on a third-party conversation via text messages with my husband. He kept insisting he’d come home and deal with the tree, but I was a veteran of the chain saw, so why bother. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the saw started, so I gave up and told him to come home. He wanted to anyway. A chance to chop up a tree? Are you kidding. I’d hate to spoil his fun and do it myself.

Then I realized how much I still needed him. Sure, I always needed my best friend and husband, but I realized how truly precious he was to me. I always need that reminding.

Don’t we all.