Monday, September 17, 2018

Storm track mania

"And when the sand was gone and the time arrived
In the naked dawn only a few survived
And in attempts to understand a thing so simple and so huge
Believed that they were meant to live after the deluge."

Waiting for a hurricane is like being stalked by a turtle.

I didn't make that up. I read it on Facebook.

It's so true though. For days, more than a week, Neil has been relentlessly watching the news and graphing the position of Hurricane Florence.

It is ironic that we left Houston on the heels of Hurricane Harvey and here it is, one year later, and we have Florence on our doorstep.

Did I say our doorstep? You'd think she was, with the number of people checking in with me. But we're 200 miles from the coast and 800 feet above sea level. We may see some wind and rain, but flooding is unlikely and the threat of power loss seems remote.



Anything could happen, and something surely will happen, but first we have to hurry up and wait. And while we're waiting, we might as well enjoy the sunshine, the breeze, the calm before the you know what.

I'm OK with waiting, really I am. What I find harder is everyone's obsession with the storm. We went to the grocery store, which was well stocked with everything except bread, and replenished our pantry. We didn't buy a lot of perishables, just in case we lose power, so no ice cream for me.

We have three bathtubs that we could fill with water, but probably won't. We have some candles, not a lot, since we mostly switched to Scentsy warmers when my daughter was selling them. We have some batteries and flashlights, gasoline in our gas tanks, and the ability to charge phones and tablets in our cars.

I think we'll be fine.

Keeping occupied, I returned three pairs of shoes and exchanged one pair for another size. But I can't stop playing the shoe game, I have more shoes in my shopping carts. I may need another size in the pair I kept. I have one pair of hiking shoes on the way and two more that I'm looking at, even though I only need one. But it may as well be the right one, and how would I know that if I don't try on at least two or three?

At least if I order enough to get the maximum discounts and free shipping, there are free in-store returns and they prorate the discount. Plus returning shoes gets me out of the house.

And takes my mind off, not the storm, but Neil’s brooding obsession with it. I wish it would just get here or pass by. It’s a strain to live with his palpable anxiety, fixation, and negativity. Probably because it’s unlike him to be other that level-headed and relatively upbeat.

I’ve had so many people checking up on me that I’ve come up with a form letter response. “Hi Xxxx - Yes, we’re fine, 200 miles inland and at 800 feet elevation. We may get some wind and rain, but I think the risk of flooding or power loss is low. We did pick up supplies, just in case we are stuck at home for a bit. Thanks for checking! Love, Liz” ...

It’s very sweet that so many care. It does make me miss my mom, who always checked in, usually daily.

I’m not such a great mom. I probably don’t call my kids enough. My mom used to call me every Sunday, without fail. During some of the dark years of my life, that phone call was one of my lifelines. We’d often talk for an hour, back in the days before email and text messages and Facebook and Instagram.

Nowadays, if I don’t call, at least I usually have a clue what my kids are up to, since both post semi-regularly on social media.

In later years, my mom’s calls became shorter and didn’t always happen on Sunday. Then, if she couldn’t reach me, my mom would call Monday, because, she liked to say, the week isn’t complete until I’ve talked to my daughter. After she got email, she’d sometimes leave a phone message if she couldn’t reach me, telling me to send her an email to let her know things were OK.

I’m ashamed to admit that sometimes I felt a bit stalked.

In the last few years, the Sunday calls continued to happen but the became short and devoid of content. I said at the time, it was as if, once she’d reached me and heard my voice, she wanted to get off the phone as quickly as possible. Knowing now what I didn’t know then about her dementia, it makes sense. My dad probably prompted her to call, but once she’d called, she didn’t have much to say.

I’m grateful that in the years when I really needed an ear and a long-distance shoulder, she was there to listen and care. Not that at times she didn’t tire of the topic before I stopped needing to talk about it, but at least there was always something to say. By the time she stopped wanting to engage in conversation, my life had reached a stable place and I had other support systems in place.

Once my dad died and my mom moved to assisted living and a three-year semi-fugue state, phone calls were a challenge, short, awkward, superficial. My mom’s aide would dial my number, and mom and I would exchange simple words, but the days of dialogue were over. We did our best, and just touching base was something.

At the end of next month, my mom will have been gone for five years.

And a month after that, it will have been eight years since my dad passed.

I know I was lucky to have had them as long as I did. Both lived for 90 years, give or take three weeks or five months.

Even though I’m not worried about the storm, I keep the NOAA National Hurricane Center site open in a tab on my iPad. I check it periodically, mostly to keep perspective and for a reality check to counterbalance Neil’s worst case scenarios. More and more it looks like it will be circling around us. At most we’re on the very outer edge of the cone.

Ironically, the storm will be hooking a u-turn and heading up toward the east coast, where Neil will be in a week or so from now.


We saw his mom and dad recently, but Neil’s dad especially struck me as frail and something of a shadow of his usual self. Neil is the executor of his dad’s will, and Bob wanted him to plan a trip in January to go through all the finances. We both thought that maybe sooner would be better than later, so Neil booked a trip. And as long as he’s there he’ll pop down to his mom’s for a couple of nights.

At least both his parents are still quite sharp mentally. But they’re not getting any younger.

And it strikes me that we are also waiting for what happens next. The handwriting on the wall is even less conclusive that the meteorologists storm track predictions. Neil’s dad is 89, his mom is 88. They could have years left to live, and we hope they do, but the alternatives are there at the back of my mind nonetheless.

Mortality. You can’t run or hide. Neither should you focus on it overmuch. Because how does that help anyone?

Like waiting for Florence. Do what you have to do. Evacuate if you’re in a coastal flood-prone area. Keep an eye on the news, stock up on supplies, fill your gas tanks, bring in your patio furniture. Then find something else to do.

Ideally something other than watching the trees sway in the wind, listening for raindrops, or watching for water to boil.


Some of them were dreamers
And some of them were fools
Who were making plans and thinking of the future
With the energy of the innocent
They were gathering the tools
They would need to make their journey back to nature

While the sand slipped through the opening
And their hands reached for the golden ring
With their hearts they turned to each other's hearts for refuge
In the troubled years that came before the deluge

Some of them knew pleasure
And some of them knew pain
And for some of them it was only the moment that mattered
And on the brave and crazy wings of youth
They went flying around in the rain
And their feathers, once so fine, grew torn and tattered

And in the end they traded their tired wings
For the resignation that living brings
And exchanged love's bright and fragile glow
For the glitter and the rouge
And in a moment they were swept before the deluge

Let the music keep our spirits high
Let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal its secrets by and by, by and by
When the light that's lost within us reaches the sky

Some of them were angry
At the way the earth was abused
By the men who learned how to forge her beauty into power
And they struggled to protect her from them
Only to be confused
By the magnitude of her fury in the final hour

And when the sand was gone and the time arrived
In the naked dawn only a few survived
And in attempts to understand a thing so simple and so huge
Believed that they were meant to live after the deluge

Let the music keep our spirits high
Let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal it's secrets by and by, by and by
When the light that's lost within us reaches the sky.


(Jackson Browne © Jackson Browne/Swallow Turn Music/Night Kitchen Music/Open Window Music)