For three days now we’ve been living in the wake of a “derecho” – that being a storm that smacks down anything in front of it with 90 mile an hour winds. It was a strange thing to watch on Friday when it hit. In my office I was struggling with my persistent urge to not work when the blue sky started to take on a yellow tint and the breeze that had been blowing slowed to a standstill. Uh oh, I thought. This feels like earthquake weather. The kids were at the pool for swim practice. Wonder if they’ll cancel, I thought. Then BAM! That storm struck like a runaway freight train. The power was knocked out immediately. I went to the front door to make sure the dogs were inside, they were. Then I ventured outside to see if I could find the source of the power outage – yep, easy; a tree had come down and ripped the line out of the house. The loose wire was now slung across Heather’s care and about half of our driveway. Great.
There wasn’t much more worrying about the power because seconds later another tree came thundering down, helping me realize how ridiculous it was for me to be sightseeing outside. I pushed as hard as I could against the wind that was assaulting everything by that point and got back to the house. The kids. Panic set in and I started speed dialing Heather. It’s not that I was worried that they weren’t safe, I assumed they were. But I wanted them home, selfish as that may have been at the point. They had to be terrified. No answer. I tried again. Voice mail. Shit, shit.
Suddenly here they came in the van, barreling across neighbor yards because more trees had collapsed in the road, taking more power lines down with them. The street was now blocked in both directions. I ran outside and waved her to drive as close to the house as she could. Inside both girls were terrified and crying, though the howling wind made it impossible to hear anything. I flung open the door and yelled “Come on! We’ve got to get inside!” grabbed them both, rushed them through the house and to the stairs, vaguely processing that one of our giant trees in the back had fallen down… one that would have crushed our house to the ground it had come down on it. Downstairs we collapsed under a pile of blankets and pillows. I spent a few minutes calming them down, then went upstairs for the dogs. That’s when the rain decided erupt. Torrential rain. I’ve seen storms before, but never anything like what was happening. This was bad.
I couldn’t reach Rhonda either. Both my cell phone and ipad service were terrible in the basement, or because of the storm…whichever. The fact of the matter was that I was going to have to trust that she was smart enough to be somewhere safe and my job was to take care of the girls.
Ok, flash forward a few hours and there we were outside talking to the neighbors and surveying the destruction. Surreal. Given how many trees had come down, the fact that our house wasn’t smashed to pieces was hard to fathom. Some of them looked like they had just been plucked out of the ground – roots and everything. Some seemed as though they’d been twisted by giant hands. Power lines were strewn across the street, some of them still supporting the trees that had pulled them down. Rhonda was finally able to get home, though our street still wasn’t officially open yet. She had to negotiate with a cop and finally just drive past him.
It was more than obvious that power wouldn’t be back on for at least a day. Given what we all had been through, we decided to stay in a hotel for the night. That plan lasted all of about 30 minutes which was as long as it took us to drive to hotel row and see all the customers standing outside smoking. No power there either. That also meant all the restaurants in the area were out. We drove to another town about ten miles away. Nothing. We later found out that power was out for at least a 40 mile radius. This was worse than we thought.
Its three days later. It’s been a consistent 100 degrees with high humidity. We don’t have any air conditioning and have been keeping a slow but steady pace of recovering from the storm and repairing our house. A lot of our friends are in the same boat, though perhaps with less damage and wreckage that needs to be cleared, so we’ve been making everything a community event. All the food that’s been at risk for going bad has been thrown into coolers until it’s time to fire up the grill…again. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard in my life, or ever done so many things out of my comfort zone/skill set. In fact, Brock, Rheuben and I decided to shave our heads as a symbol of how earthy and renaissance we’ve been. I did mine in a mohawk for a couple days. Lily was sick when I decided to shave it all the way down. Here’s how that exchange went:
Me: Well think of it like this. Daddy has to go to work in a couple days so he can make money and buy juice. Would you rather have juice or me wearing a Mohawk?
Me: (stuck, confused) Well… I guess you’ll have lots of time in your teenage years to act that one out.
Lily: (cries harder)
I’m keeping a list of all the manly things I’ve done to help my family recover from this mess. Take a look:
- Chopped up trees with a chain saw.
- Drank beer. Out of cans. Lots of it.
- Cooked meat over an open flame.
- Purchased a new tool kit – including a maul axe.
- Spent time in an electrical warehouse finding parts we need to get our power lines reattached.
- Assisted in hard wiring a generator to my power main.
- Drove a 4×4 truck.
- Hauled countless loads of branches and chopped wood out of our property.
- Bought a leaf blower (I also injured myself with the leaf blower but that’s another story…)
I’m proud of how I have handled all the situations that usually cause me stress (not knowing how to fix things, not having any manly know-how, really). I need to note how I feel about all of this. I feel good. I feel stress-free and capable – just the opposite of what I (or anyone) would expect. Productive. Being out of touch with work and instead only focusing on what is right in front of me and my family and is without question a priority has me feeling very calm. That’s rare and it is unexpected. I learn things I need to do, and then I do them. I’m focused. I’m thinking about what is right in front of me and not jumping from one thought to another before I finish. Then at the end of the day I take everything out of the coolers that needs to be cooked. That makes me feel even more in my element. Confident. I’m being a good Dad and a good husband. I’m taking care of my family. I’m taking care of the house we all live in. It’s me doing all these things.
I’m sure at least part of what’s going on is related to our discussion in therapy last week about tabling the decision/plan to move. We had, or I had, back-to-back therapy appointments. The first hour was just me and the second hour was the two of us. I spent my hour talking about all the pressure I’ve been feeling and trying to locate the source of the stress. With some help, I was able to put it into context with everything else going on this year (presidential election, etc..) and figure out what anxiety is natural and necessary and what is being self-imposed. Moving to Colorado is self-imposed and has been unnecessarily placed (by me) on an accelerated timeline. Then the other night, with out warning, I said to myself “I think I don’t want to deal with moving right now,” and instantaneously I felt an enormous burden being lifted off of me. Physically, I felt it.
I know it threw Rhonda for a loop when I asked to postpone the conversation. She came in for our joint appointment and unbeknownst to me was prepared to tell me that she was now committed to moving. Ironic! I had to be very clear to her that me saying I don’t want to talk about moving wasn’t about me being nasty or passive aggressive with the conversations – it’s just literally too much for me to handle right now. We decided that at the end of the year we will revisit the topic – or not. God I feel relieved.
So… a common theme that’s been coursing through my head is responsibility. Jennifer made an off handed comment about how Colorado is really my thing and as much as I really want it to be our thing, Rhonda was never going to want it as much as me because I am the catalyst of the conversation and all the reasons we’d move are about me. I don’t think that conversation was supposed to stick with me as much as it did, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about whether or not I have been being a responsible spouse and father. Have I been selfish for eight years now? Always planning to leave, never viewing my friends as permanent, rarely acknowledging all the good things that have come from being here… I’ve got to take a hard look at myself and my motives and what my responsibilities are at this point in my life. I think I am living inside an outdated version of me. Responsibility.
Update – It took us nearly three months to get all of the trees cleared out of our backyard. To get that done I also operated a hydraulic wood splitter. Add that to the list.