Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Life Altering Events

Finally, finally, the storm clouds have broken up and dispersed from the plateau of my brain allowing some sunbeams to shine through. 

The past six weeks have been challenging as I embark on a new career path.  That old saying, "can't teach an old dog new tricks" is proving true in my case.  I am learning to do something that I've never done before and after being laid off in January I'm just thankful to be working.  But, it is mentally exhausting.  And stressful.  And, I am a natural born hand-wringer.  Not such a good combo.  Or, it is a perfect combo for sitting around on the couch and eating Ben and Jerry's Karmel Sutra.  Which is mostly what I've been doing in my down time.  The only way I have found to shut the brain off is junk food and old movies on cable.

Some movies stand up to the test of time and "Air Force One" is one that does for me.  My husband Davis and I saw it back in the summer of 1997 when it was a new release and we were newlyweds.  Now, as a pair of oldyweds with a kid we watched the rerun.  Everything is different when one becomes a mom.  Even watching movies.  This go-round I spent a lot of time saying, "How can that poor, first lady go through this as a mom?  How can a mom comfort her child in this situation?"  My husband spent an equal amount of time saying, "You do know this isn't a documentary, right?" 

One thing that is real and has been vastly altered by my mommy status is how I respond to natural disasters.  Back in 1999, during the early morning hours, a deadly and destructive tornado hit Cincinnati, where Davis and I were living in a 3rd floor apartment.  We were sleeping when my sister called to let me know a tornado had crossed over into Cincinnati on the west side of town very near us.  We were tired.  We were stupid.  We went back to sleep.  The next morning when the local news broadcast the tale of homes destroyed and four people dead, it barely registered.  I was late for work since we had lost power and my alarm didn't go off.  At work people were talking about the storms and the general consensus among us lower, working class was that at least the tornado hit the more affluent neighborhood.  Those people had money, which to us translated into lots of insurance.  No big deal. A misconception I'm ashamed to admit to.

Fast forward to the present day.  Tornadoes have ripped through the south and Midwest.  My son's teacher has lost a family member in Alabama's April tornado.  At school the kids have been talking about tornadoes a lot.  Fearfully.  No longer do I ignore the call to seek safety.  One night, late at night, the sirens sound.  More tornadoes.  Davis called from his work to warn me.  I grab our son Milo, blankets, flashlight, both our dogs and head for the basement.  Then I hear it.  That sound like a freight train.  It was loud and over our house.  Milo was shaking.  I tucked my boy up under my chin and promised him that everything would be all right.  Silently, ferociously I prayed, "Please, God, don't make a liar out of me to my son."  The tornado, small in size, passed us by that night and touched down two miles up the road.  The place it landed was an empty truck stop.  A couple semi-trucks were tossed around like toys, but that was all. 

Then Joplin, Missouri happened.  As images of loss and heartbreak flash across the screen all I can think of is how many Joplin parents hugged their children tight that night and promised them everything will be all right.  And, how those children now know those are just words moms and dads sometime say when they don't know what else to do or say.  My heart hurts for the people who have had their lives altered.  I could never imagine what it must be like to tell my child that his home is gone.  That we cannot keep his dogs in a shelter; that he will have to be without his two best buddies when he needs their love and affection the most. 

Hopefully, the people who have been touched by the tornadoes these past two months know that they are not alone.  People willing to step up and help out a stranger in need is the one force of nature that can calm a mom's and her child's fears in the night.


*Update - My husband let me know that later the weatherman announced that it was straightline winds that did the damage at the truck stop and the tornado touched down several miles farther than first thought.