It has been a cold, cold winter. But I’ve known colder. In January 1979, snow blanketed the prairie, piled up like icy, white mountains. I was a freshman at the University of Illinois in Champaign. The blizzard forced the cancellation of classes, ushered our world to a momentary standstill, eerily silent and frozen.
I remember trudging across campus through the frosted tundra. Then it grew colder: news that my father had been killed in a car accident. It hit like an unsuspecting storm.
Then came my trek from the snow-laden Midwest to Evergreen, Ala., to stand, finally, face to face above the casket of the man who had deserted us by the time I was 4. My collection of red-clay dirt by which to remember him. My tearless farewell to the father whose absence left me with a certain internal—perhaps eternal—coldness.