The day was finally here. dark and forbidding in itself, and also the day of my trip to the hospital. The surgery had been scheduled weeks earlier, but when the day came I felt unprepared. Trying to act nonchalant, I had prevented my inner self from accepting the unavoidable facts of any surgery: it’s unpleasant, painful, and risky, at best. As adults, we go through the steps quietly: changing into a flimsy gown, allowing needles into our body, and allowing strangers to poke and peek in places we felt were private. It’s never routine.

I accept it; I’m a grown-up, yet I envy children who are free to express fear and uncertainty on any invasion of their bodies. I’ve been here before, had similar surgery before, and know the procedure is for my own good. That’s the proof of being a grown-up. As I lay waiting for my turn in surgery, these thoughts danced in my mind. I would get through this. In the recovery room, seeing my dear wife’s face was the best medicine ever. It was over and we would soon be going home. Adulthood isn’t so bad, after all. It was routine.

Although only one day in the hospital, I was glad to be back home, but knew I would be immobile or have limited mobility for several weeks. Snow was falling on the ride home and a storm was in the forecast. To live where we do and not be able to clear snow can remove one’s ability to leave their house. My condition was such that I knew shoveling snow was out of the question, but my only priority was resting in bed. One problem at a time.

As evening came, the snow fall began to twist itself into a storm and, by morning, our home was snowbound. The driveway was hidden in almost two feet of snow while the storm continued unabated. Darkness prevailed through the day and into the night while the storm raged. By the second morning, my dear wife could not open the front door due to the heavy snow. Fortunately, we did not need to leave the house, so a warm bowl of soup started our day.

And then… yes, I heard it. The chug-chug of a snow blower in front of the house. Peering through the front curtain, we viewed an angel, wearing a parka and slowly removing snow from our driveway and sidewalk. No plume of snow from a snow blower had ever looked so good. Our neighbor. And the next day he did it again. And the following day, again. That storm lasted several days, yet we were free from snow throughout. By a neighbor.

There was a lesson there for me. A big one. We miss a lot of this world when we overlook the many people who know us; they are part of who we are. When asked of our friends, we tend to think only of those with close attachments, yet we forget that our world is so much bigger, that our place on this Earth relies on the relationships we share with everyone. When we feel most alone, we forget the unspoken many who care about us.

And our neighbors know us for who we are, not what we earn or what degrees we have or what accomplishments we may or may not have. They’re there. And being there when needed is what life’s relationships are all about. That experience brought back many little memories of unrequested help my wife and I have received. Rarely big, yet always demonstrations of caring. I have more friends than I imagined. Life is good.