Sunday, July 6, 2014

Weathering the Storm

Thunderstorms were brewing all day last Monday and began rolling through by mid-afternoon. The rain kept coming through the evening, totaling as much as seven inches by the time the storms were over.  Wind took down tree branches and power lines and by mid evening, I was home alone, without power.

Just after nine, I learned I'd need to head to the hospital to take over on a labor patient as my shift started at ten. So, I put the dogs in the basement, and headed out a bit early. The rain was mostly done, but the light show as lightning arced and traced across the sky was fantastic.  About half-way in, my phone rang: the patient had delivered; I could turn around and head back home. It was good news, but I had a hunch it was temporary.  After a storm of that magnitude, I expected the babies would start raining down. So, as soon as I got home, I headed up to bed, opening the window in our room to try to catch a little breeze.  As I lay there, I began to hear a rushing and cracking sound. It sounded almost like a fire, popping branches as it burned. I got up to look and immediately realized, it was the creek.  I stood at the window watching as neighbors shined their spotlights across the expanse of grass in back, watching as the creek began to rise.

Now, Rob and I, we should have known better.  But we were complacent.  Despite living in a flood plain, half an acre from a creek that feeds the Mississippi, in a house that has been devastatingly flooded in the past, with a basement that no longer houses a furnace or water heater.  You would think we'd know better.  But, we had some overflow storage on the basement floor.  And, more important to this story, we did NOT have a battery back up for our sump pump.

I felt a rising sense of anxiety as I stood watching the creek rise into the yard.  How high would it get?  I finally texted my neighbor to ask that very question. She reassured me and asked if our basement was taking on water.  As I read her text, I was frozen in place, a sense of denial at the forefront of my thoughts.  That's crazy.  I very nearly texted her back saying as much but suddenly realized that the dogs were in the basement.  I grabbed my shoes and ran down to check.

When I opened the door to the basement, I heard it.  A sloshing sound.  Two very wet dogs made their way up, eyeing me reproachfully.  I made my way cautiously down:  there was about four inches covering the floor, and there, spread out in a corner of the basement, an array of items that I'd yet to catalog, but which were most surely getting ruined.  I panicked, and called Rob, who I knew would be asleep.  I wasn't even sure he'd answer.

Rob was in Erie, PA on an overnight.  I'm not sure what I thought calling him would accomplish.  But it was my immediate response.  All sleepiness left his voice as soon as he got the news. When he finished cursing himself for failing to install a battery backup pump, he moved on to a more practical approach.  Yes, he said,  I should try to get his old DJ equipment off the floor if I could.

And I shouldn't drop my phone in the water.

Well, I didn't drop my phone.  I let Rob go, leaving him to his sense of helplessness and set to the messy work, trying not to think about what was in the water.
Ankle deep, I sloshed around, using the light on my phone to illuminate the dark basement, salvaging what I could, for about ten minutes.  And then my phone started ringing and I did end up heading back to the hospital. I had such a sense of unease as I left our home, the creek still rising, our entire back yard under water, not knowing how bad it would get.  I put the dogs out into the garage, asked our neighbor to look in on them in the morning and went to work.

As I was walking into the hospital, I thought about Rob, across the country, feeling helpless and semi-responsible.  I sent him this email:

It's OK. I know you feel helpless. I know you wish you were around to help. And yes, I do too, but it's OK.
Don't stress. Don't have regrets. You married a strong woman who can get through... Maybe not gracefully, not as easily as she would if you were by her side.
I love you and I want you to know that I'm OK. I'm not hating your job right now.
We will learn how to be more prepared for these types of things, we will establish back up plans. It will get easier with time.
Just wanted you to know.
I love you! 

The next day was beautiful and sunny.   And I was busy at the hospital.
Rob was able to get released from the last day of his trip for the family emergency.  He was home by ten am and had a back up sump pump installed by evening.

The next day we were both off.  It was his only day off for the week.  We spent it cleaning the basement, hauling everything out, cleaning and disinfecting the floors and walls and making a trip to the county dump with a truck load of garbage.

As emergencies go, this was minor.  I was so grateful to Rob for coming home.  In truth, by the time he arrived, the damage was contained, but the fact that he wanted to be there to help me with the cleanup meant a lot.

There WILL be other crises.  There will be snow and ice storms, illnesses, car troubles and other things I don't want to imagine.  Living as we do, with Rob across the country most days of the week, we need to be prepared for me to handle these minor emergencies on my own. My thoughts and feelings on this issue have come so far over the last two years. I can honestly say that I feel no anger or bitterness at all thinking about being alone. I spent so much energy on those feelings; I'm thrilled to find that they are no longer a part of me. I do feel a practical sense of urgency in regard to the logistics of this way of life.  Top on my priority list: a snow blade for our riding mower.  It may be the height of summer storm season, but winter is right around the corner!

What kind of contingency plans or back up plans does your family have for handling crises?

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