I sit here in bed this morning frustrated. I’ve been taking the antibiotic, Cephalexin, and 800 mg of Ibruprofen as an anti-inflammatory now since Saturday morning faithfully, and although I’m feeling a bit better, can’t seem to shake the overall fatigue. I know I’m probably expecting too much too soon—the story of my life—but I’m just really getting sick of being sick! Yesterday it seemed to take everything out of me just to post on my blog, bring in some firewood, let the dogs out and do a few dishes. I wound up back on the couch, out of breath, feeling like I’d just swam the English Channel. It’s ridiculous. I mean, I know I’m not a spring chicken anymore, but I’m not feeble neither. Who would’ve thought something as relatively simple as an oral infection and headaches associate with TMJ Joint Disorder could be this debilitating?
I suppose I could blame part of it on stress and the weather. I haven’t exactly been Polly-Positive lately, and the weather has been less than cheerful. It’s all around me now, as I sit here in my flannel nightshirt, with my fleece, top sheet and down comforter pulled up and wrapped snugly around my chest. I catch the flashes of lightening razor across the darkened, morning sky through parted blinds. I feel the rumble of thunder move through me as it breaks. I see the images of destruction left behind from the recent swarm of tornados on the morning news, and a familiar fear overtakes me. Am I safe?
It’s not just that I get concerned in bad weather, but rather I am truly terrified by it. To be more exact, it’s storms and tornados that I fear. Crazy for someone who’s lived in the Midwest her whole life, huh? I should be used to it by now, right? Well, that’s precisely why. My mother was a worrier. I am my mother’s daughter.
Truth be known, as I’ve stated before, my mother suffered from a chemical imbalance. I suspect she was bi-polar and probably had a mild, panic disorder too. Back then, of course, she wasn’t diagnosed with such, but rather just had typical mood swings and bouts with mild depression. I, being the youngest and far removed from my other siblings in age, had the wonderful burden of carrying this crazy woman’s madness alone, and experienced firsthand what it could do to someone. Is it any wonder I’m so jacked up? One of her greatest fears was…you guessed it…bad weather.
My father had a desk job at the Union Pacific in an office not far from our home while I was growing up. He put in his 40 hours there during the week, and also worked part-time evenings working as a courier for Purolator. This meant other than having barely enough time to quickly down a bowl of chili or something after one job and before the other, he was seldom home. I don’t remember my mother minding it much, and it was a part of my life early on so I didn’t know any different to be bothered. The two of us simply bade time together, watched television in the evening, and I crawled in bed with her at ten, waiting for my father to get home and have to carry me to my own. There together on mommy and daddy’s, big bed, in the room I thought so special because everything was ‘off limits’ to me, my mother and I would sit under the antique, framed print of a baptismal pool in a Garden of Eden-type setting that hung on the wall at the head of their bed, she would fold my little hands in hers, and we’d recite our nightly prayers, always asking God to watch over daddy. On bad weather nights these prayers would turn to pleas, as I watched her wring her hands together in worry, pace the floors, and fill the ashtray with cigarette butts. I always knew when it was really bad, because we would do these things in the SW corner of the basement. I learned when I was very young to be terrified of thunder, lightening, and tornados. Daddy was the wisest, strongest, most important man I knew back then; in my mind he could fix anything. But I knew even he was not tough enough to control or fix that. Knowing this made me in awe of its power and fear it. I have to wonder now how many hours my mother wasted on this unnecessary worry. As you might’ve surmised, bad weather didn’t take daddy. The big C did. I guess cancer is even tougher than tornados.
By the time I reached adulthood and began having children of my own, these fears had begun to dissipate. Partly because I believed my ignorant husband at the time who convinced me that tornados wouldn’t cross the river. We lived on the Iowa side of the Missouri, separated from Omaha, Nebraska by a mere bridge. He pointed out how many times Omaha had been hit and we’d been spared, because it couldn’t cross the river and had to move around us. Good enough logic for me at the time. Yep, I was a dummy. Sheesh!
I was in my parents home alone with my then, 3 year old son, and 10 month old daughter on July 15th, 1988—on what the author of a book about it describes as Black Friday—when it indeed did hit, and validated all the fears I’d had to fight through as a child. In the middle of the afternoon the skies turned black, and the glass panes of the windows seemed to bow from the force of the wind. To be honest, I quickly gathered up my children and ran to the basement fearing the shattering of glass, not a tornado. Till I heard it, felt it almost moving above me, and I knew. I wrapped myself tightly around both my sobbing children on the floor, and tucked us in as closely as I could against those cold, concrete-block walls on my knees. I prayed for our safety, the safety of our neighborhood, family and friends scattered throughout the city; and yes, especially for my idiot husband who was supposed to be working across the bridge where the radio had said earlier was getting hit. I prayed as the top of the house felt like it was being torn off. I prayed, afraid to move as the creaking, banging, and rush of wind finally began to subside. I continued to pray many minutes later as I forced myself to climb the stairs.
I walked out into brilliant sunshine to find that everything I’d ever known seemed to change in an instant. Our normally clean, well-manicured, uncluttered, Ozzie and Harriet neighborhood, was now full of debris. Trash cans, papers, mailboxes, lawn furniture, etc. littered lawns. Trees were down and power lines lay virtually everywhere. Neighbors’ houses, though still relatively intact, were missing some window and shingles. I thought it devastating. Little did I know the real devastation was in cousin-neighborhood’s surrounding us, and ours had been more than fortunate in comparison. After, I never trusted the theory that tornados won’t cross the river again…or my husband.
Living in the heart of the city during bad weather, I admit, is a lot less disconcerting than being alone here in the country with a partial cellar for refuge. Neighbors are an arm’s length away, and family or friends a few minutes drive. Seldom was I alone again after that experience. The first sign of tornado watch I was sitting with some neighbor drinking coffee, or in my car on the way to a friend or relatives. It was a good system I had going. Till I moved here anyway.
I don’t know what I’m more afraid of, spiders or tornados. No, yes I do. Definitely, spiders! I found the first summer we lived here, that faced with both, getting drunk was the only real solution, and did. The weather was bad that day. They spotted several tornados in the Omaha area where my current husband was working, and they were moving east. Between the constant calls I was getting from my paranoid sister who updates me on everything, calling my children who were still living in the city, and frantically dialing my husbands cell phone every five minutes, I was logging a lot of minutes on the phone while waiting and watching. I was fearful to go down in the dark, damp, creepy cellar where I knew that everything that could possibly crawl lived, but was arguing with my husband just the same to stay put where he was, because it was passing him, heading in this direction, and I didn’t want him to get caught in it. I assured him I was fine, though I’m quite certain from my obvious hysterics that he knew different. I finally just hung up, hurriedly gathered up supplies and took them down in a few trips, grabbed my Chihuahua and the few cats I could locate before the wind began to pick up, and closed the cellar door behind me.
My husband likes to tell the story about how he found me down there in the dark about thirty minutes later (after speeding home, I have no doubt). He gets quite a kick out of it, actually. He opened the door, walked in, looked at me, and tried to stifle a laugh.There I sat in the back of the cellar in a folding lawn chair, with a flashlight tucked between my legs (I couldn’t find the pull-chain to the light), a candle burning next to a battery-operated radio and cordless phone atop a cooler in front of me, my Chihuahua sitting in my lap, a beer in my right hand, my cell phone in my left, and cats wandering around five, empty, beer bottles at my feet. I’d managed to polish off a six-pack in a matter of minutes. I only remember saying “I an scared no mo. Ikin take-da house.”
Sounds funny now, but at the time not so much. I don’t know how to explain it, but at the time I was more afraid of the spiders getting me than I was anything, and was drinking to ease that fear. Yes, my biggest fear became not so much the house coming down on me, but it coming down and trapping me in with them. I no longer seek shelter in the safety of the cellar, but rather the pantry that sits in the center of the first floor. I’ll take my chances with the tornados, thank you very much!
The weather seems to have cleared since I began writing this. I haven’t decided yet whether I’m going to remain in bed today, or try to push myself to get a little more done while I can. I’m sure my family would appreciate some clean laundry and a hot, supper tonight if I could provide it.
Any of you readers that have made it this far through my lengthy story, make sure you take an additional minute to say a prayer for the victims of these recent storms. It only takes a moment to ask Him to provide for, heal, and comfort those that have been afflicted by it. Just a moment more to give thanks how fortunate you feel that you’ve been spared this pain. It’s good for the soul.