It's perverse, I know, but I like to shovel snow alone. It's a simple, stolid, solitary exercise in gumption and fortitude for me. But the day after the last big snow, just after I started to shovel, my wife pushed the 14-year-old out the door to help.
He stood there, squinting in the sunlight, waiting for his eyes to adjust after a rough morning of TV, gaming and texting his friends. He radiated a 14-year-old's aversion to manual labor, gumption and fortitude.
It was a case of grizzled veteran taking on callow young apprentice. I have a snow shoveling back ache that's older than he is.
I grunted and pointed to the spare snow shovel by the front door and suggested he tackle the walk while I worked on the driveway. He picked up the shovel and took a few foppish swipes at the drift in front of him.
Well, they looked foppish to me. There was no love of manual labor there. They lacked gumption, and fortitude, and I almost stopped to instruct him in, "The Art of the Snow Shovel," but I thought better of it. I couldn't remember my father teaching me to shovel snow. I couldn't remember him ever shoveling snow at all.
He was a World War Two vet, and whenever it snowed, his shrapnel mysteriously began to act up. He would stay in the house while we kids did the shoveling. Every now and then, though, he would stick his head out to assess our work ethic, gumption and fortitude.
No doubt he found our shoveling foppish. And no doubt, when he was a kid, his father found his snow shoveling foppish too. And his father's father before that. And his father's father's father. As far back as the invention of the snow shovel itself.
My son finished the walk. His technique improved steadily and, together, we finished shoveling the driveway. It wasn't great gumption and fortitude on his part, but it was a start. A couple more years and a dozen big snowstorms and he'll be just fine.
And who knows -- 25 years from now, maybe he'll have his own kid to shovel snow with. And the family quest for snow shoveling gumption and fortitude will move another generation along.