See. I knew eventually I would have something to say…

It’s the first real cold front of the season, and it’s ridiculous to be this mixed up about it.

We just finished laying a patio out back and immediately bought a round black firebowl so we could sit outside and enjoy a little fire on chilly nights. It’s such a calming thought, and I can’t wait to try it.

But underneath, I’m just not looking forward to winter, and the touch of chill in the air this evening only reminded me that I can’t run from it. Winter is coming, and I can’t stop it, any more than I could last year. It’s going to come and I have no choice but to deal with it.

There’s a time each year, usually sometime around August, when it dawns on me that summer’s ending. Normally by that point, I’ve lost interest in the scorching heat, the blinding sun, and the humidity that lays across the landscape like a hot, wet blanket day in and day out. So when I realize that summer is winding down, I get a twinge of excitement at the thought of sweaters, jackets, cold air, holidays, decorating, etc.

Last year, as always, one day it occurred to me that winter was coming. And I was surprised when all I felt was dread — a rock of cold, dark dread at my core. I mentioned it to a couple of friends over the next couple of weeks, that I was not looking forward to this winter, because something bad was coming. “Oh great,” one pregnant friend said. “That’s when the baby’s due!” No, I told her. This is about my family.

I don’t remember how often I thought about it between then and the holidays, but I’m pretty sure I got to thinking about it after the holidays and figured it had proven out to be some kind of silly, overdramatized imagining.

And then my brother died, and it all came true.

For some reason I’ve begun thinking of winter as someone, other than something. Someone who played a trick on me, let me believe everything was okay, then opened a trap door under my feet. Winter insulted me, and now I dread it again — not the same true, fearful dread as last year, but the same kind of dread you feel when you have no choice but to go out to dinner with someone who’s made no secret that they don’t like you… Just worn out before it’s even started, not only because you want with every fiber of your being to avoid it, but also because you know how much effort you’re about to expend trying to keep up the appearance that everything’s just fine.

To say I’m frightened of the slow arrival of winter here would be an overstatement. But I will say I am afraid I will never enjoy winter again, that there will be a fat chunk of time every year that I hate, that every August a day will come when I realize the good part of the year is over and the intolerable part is beginning.

I don’t want to live that way, but I’m not sure what to do about it. What if I go through all the usual activities — holidays, family gatherings — and feel hollow and phony and disinterested inside? What if this never gets fixed?