Morning light pierces the dark shuttered house as I open the door to survey the outside world. I wade through an obstacle course of poinciana branches and palm fronds. The trees took a whipping from this Category 1 storm. Irma actually landed as a Category 3 on the other side of the state. Here, 200 miles away from the eye, it was more like a Cat 1. Still, it raked our neighborhood with a fury.
|Neighbor's front yard|
The shredded trees look like yesterday's nerves when we rode the Irma roller coaster. Cooped up inside, between whistling wind, distant eerie rumbling, tornado warning buzzes that grated every fifteen minutes, and cranky family members (myself included), the nerves were snapped and dangling just like our ficus branches.
|Morning moon the day after.|
With every tornado warning, the emergency recording commands to find shelter away from windows. I try to rally the family into the windowless bathroom, but they pay no attention. The 88 year-old mother-in-law can't hear. At one point, she finally understands the TV tornado alerts, so we both go into the bathroom with small chairs, cushions, tea, a Bible and a deck of cards.
"Tim, come give us a Bible study in the bathroom," Grandma hollers.
My husband ignores her. She leaves to go get something. I call out, "Are you coming?"
Annoyed, Tim answers, "No, I'm not coming!"
"I wasn't talking to you. I was talking to your mother. I know you're not coming."
(This is the kind of mis-communication madness that we sank to during the peak of the storm.) Perhaps devastation would have been better, I think more than once.
Mother-in-law comes back to the bathroom. I light a candle, so that in case the power goes out, we aren't in complete darkness.
"Why is that wick lit," she asks, eyebrows furrowed. There's no explaining to her. She will either argue or not hear. I give up and I blow out the flame.
"Have a seat, " I say pointing to the chair.
"No, I want to sit on the floor," she insists, plopping down on a couch cushion. "We'll see if I can get up, later." My thoughts exactly, of course, kept to myself. She keeps calling for Tim to give us a Bible lesson.
I grab the cards and not the Bible.
"Do you remember how to play poker?" I ask her.
"I don't know," she says. "Let's just play and see."
I deal. We play two rounds. She beats the snot out of me. Her two Jacks beat my two Fours; she creams my flush with a Royal Flush, proving she remembers poker just fine.
Tornado warning is over, and after a great effort to lift herself off the floor, she trots happily off to the TV news. Yet another warning demands we take cover for 15 minutes more. I disregard it and grandma doesn't hear. This goes on for three miserable hours.
|Irma over Cuba, the day before her Florida visit.|
I vacillate from extreme mental irritation to impromptu dancing in the kitchen. One moment grandma is asking why I fixed the same dinner two nights in a row? Why didn't she get Tim's kale? Why did I serve her so much spaghetti? The next moment, Tim and she are arm wrestling and goofing off. Cabin Fever defined.
Throughout the day, I distract myself by sorting old photos, but am jolted by the reality that a fierce hurricane whirls outside. I better cook lunch before the lights goes out. We should eat dinner before the power fails. Wash each dish after you use it. Check the backyard trees. Did they fall on the neighbor's car? Oh God, not Keith's car! He's so careful about hurricane preparations. He boarded up a week ago--at night--and even removed his mail box off its stand so it wouldn't blow away. I would be mortified if so much as a twig landed on his property. Most of the time it's too windy to dare open a door, much less slosh into the yard to investigate tree conditions.
Thankfully we never lose power. All that relational chaos in the a candle-lit cave would have been unbearable.
Later, when the howling wind softens, husband and I pour wine. A drink on the patio might end a tumultuous day quite nicely. I set out chairs and stemware, but the wind still whips. So I pull it all into the house. Instead, Tim and I sneak the White Zinfandel into the bedroom (mother-in-law would not approve), and relax. We do a little more than relax. I wonder if couples all over the county are "relaxing" the same way we are after the week's ordeal.
Today, we face several day's worth of clean up.Tim had trimmed trees in advance, but it was little help. Time to reset our surroundings
and our psyches.
But, better the trees and not the roof. Better our nerves and not our lives. Better on so many levels. Seven days of harrowing preparation and tormenting thoughts of loss, have turned into a welcomed day of peace. Now when I think of my faithful God, his protection and severe mercies, gratitude comes from a deeper place inside, a place that wasn't there before the hurricane.