Thursday, June 05, 2008

Of Tootsie Rolls and Gray Hair

It's been two weeks to the day, nearly to the hour, since the tornado ripped through our town to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. And that amount includes only those things upon which we can place a monetary value. It doesn't begin to address other losses we've incurred. For some of us, that loss is a sense of security. Our young kids are frightened. They can't sleep. They don't want to be too far from Mom or Dad. My own Bella, usually one of the most joyful kids you could imagine, is suddenly fixated with death and dying. She doesn't want to die, and the only thing I could say that finally brought her peace is that if it was time for her to go, the tornado would have taken her. Clearly, I told her, there's more in store for her. She thought about that, and her 7-year-old brain wrapped itself around the idea that life has purpose, and until she achieves that purpose, she's here for the duration. Good enough.

For others, that loss comes in the form of personal momentos that were swept up and scattered, never to be returned. How can we put a price on that lost family photo, the one where all the kids are wearing ornery expressions because they don't want to be sitting there in front of the camera? Or the one of a beloved parent, now long dead? Maybe the keepsake isn't a photo, but a hair ribbon. A love letter, perhaps.

Regardless of the extent of damage to our homes and businesses, all of us here in Windsor have lost something. As days pass and we reconnect with friends, make sure they're okay, offer assistance, those of us who do not live in the disaster zone can temper our loss with the idea that we're luckier than many. And there is truth in that. But while we're feeling grateful, I think it's imperative to recognize that the fact that we still have our houses, our belongings, our families, doesn't dis-count the other fact: Our lives were turned upside down on May 22, and it will take time to recover.

This became crystal clear to me when I was in the check-out lane at King Soopers last week. The cashier asked how I was, and without giving it a thought, I replied, "Well, it's a good day when foot-long Tootsie Rolls are on sale and there are no tornadoes." Then I simply stared at her, amazed that such a sentence even formed itself in my brain. "Wow," I said. "Have my standards lowered!" And we laughed, but the humor didn't hide what was left unsaid: What I once took for granted was no longer a given.

I'm disorganized, easily flustered, incredibly forgetful. I'll open my mouth to say something and before the words come out, the thought has left me. I don't like this at all. But I also know I'm not alone in my stumbling, fumbling days. Many of my friends are experiencing the same thing. There's a sense of disconnect, and when we try to focus on something, our thoughts drift. It's an odd feeling to have that happen, especially if you're usually an organized, get-it-done type of person.

And many, many of us are dealing with our insurance companies, making appointments, getting estimates...our days are really interrupted and disjointed. And even when the insurance company comes through and helps us rebuild and repair, it's stressful. I am not exaggerating in any way when I say that I've had more gray hair appear on my head in the last 2 weeks than ever before. I wake up each morning, and there they are, a few more strands. I had my hair pulled back last week, and Tucker thought it was awesome. "Woah, Mom! You have, like, Wolverine gray hair!" For your viewing pleasure, I've posted an illustration of Wolverine so you can see what Tuck means. See those black wingy things? Imagine them gray, and that's what Tuck thinks I look like. Now, he's also the kid who asked me if I was going through a midlife crisis last year when I bought a pair of white sneakers with little silver-sequined stars on the outside of them, so maybe he isn't the best judge. But take it for what it's worth. Now I'm an X-Man in midlife crisis. (And for the record, I bought those shoes because they were cheap.)

At any rate, we plug away with each day, hopefully feeling a sense of normalcy gradually replace this murkiness. I really just wanted to reach out and let people know that we should feel grateful, yes. But we should also allow ourselves time to feel sad. We all lost something two weeks ago. Big or small, major or minor, we lost.

So whatever it Tootsie Rolls or a day of sunshine (remember sunshine?)...find your joy where you can.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting into words exactly what is going on in our household too. Today has been extremely difficult; our son, who was at Windmill during the tornado, is CONSTANTLY asking me if there is going to be a tornado, then asking me to promise that there won't be one. I have tried telling him that I can't make a promise like that, but that I can promise to keep him safe. That just isn't good enough, so I have resorted to promising there won't be a tornado with my fingers crossed and silently pleading with the powers-that-be to help me out on this one.

We just had a delivery of construction materials for my brother-in-law and the driver made the comment that the weather has been weird all over the world and that its a sign the "master is coming". I thought he was joking so I laughed and THEN realized he was serious. OOPS! I was really glad when he left and told me to "have a blessed day". I think I (along with the rest of our town) need it!!

Peach said...

I know I must have some sort of PTSD... whenever the skies get dark and storms threaten, my stomach gets tight and my breathing speeds up. The other night it hailed...I jumped out of bed and tried to look outside (but it was dark.) I thought to myself, "If another one comes, we won't see it!" Sigh....I never used to be afraid of weather like that.


Anonymous said...

We got hit with a line of tornado's on Tuesday--here in Maryland.
One of my son's lives in Chesapeake Beach--the hardest hit. He helped save a man's life who was hit by flying glass inside a store. The glass cut across the man's neck. He worked with him until a helicopter was able to land.
We talk about younger children, but he'll be forty this year, and his wife said he had nightmares and talked in his sleep all night.
May we all find peace. It will happen by talking about our experiences with each other. Judith