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The First Snow: Filters

The furnace needed attention, and so did some of my wrong thinking.

Snow on the mountain pass this morning reminds me that winter will soon be descending into the valley, and it’s time to check the filters.

In our first home in the early ’60s, I didn’t know to change the furnace filters until I awoke one snowy morning to a freezing house. Because my husband was out of town, I had to find a repairman. After numerous phone calls, I discovered the only available furnace repairman was on the south side of town, where I rarely went. I hesitated at first, but the welfare of our two babies came before the prejudices I may have had. By the time the old beat-up truck with “Jones Heating Repair” neatly lettered on the door pulled into our driveway, I was beyond caring about the color of the driver’s skin. A burly man with dark skin rang my doorbell.

At the same time, Madge, our next-door neighbor, tapped on my back door. I showed the repairman to the furnace located in the hall and hurried to Madge’s urgent rapping. She had coffee in hand and a grim look on her face. She took her usual seat at the kitchen table.

Madge eyed me, and I sensed a warning about “low elements” was on the way. But before she could speak, the repairman stepped into the kitchen. “Just need a filter,” he said with a wide grin. “Got one in the truck.” When he returned, Madge and I followed him to the furnace and watched in amazement while he slammed in a new filter. “See—easy, huh?”

Following him out, I reached for my pocketbook. “What do I owe you?” I asked.

“No charge,” he answered. “Those filters are a dime a dozen at the hardware store. Had to be out here anyways.”

The sound of his departing truck faded as I confronted Madge standing in my already warming kitchen. With a sheepish grin, she said, “I gotta go home and check my filters.”

And it was time for me to check my own. How much was I missing due to deeply ingrained and misguided filters? Filters that, when not cleaned, blocked the warmness of an expanded relationship with my fellow humans?

Mr. Jones never knew the impact he had on my life or that now, at every first snow, I’m reminded to check all my filters.

The AARP Bulletin's "What I Really Know" column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online.  Elsie Marie Rochna is a Bulletin reader from Redmond, Ore.

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