Wednesday, November 10, 2004

not in kansas anymore

The wind from an approaching cold front grabbed the loose tin on the dairy barn roof and slapped it against the concrete. It was a familiar sound to Liza as she ambled down the lane with Faith at her side. She used to listen to music when she walked…….now, the only sounds were of a small plane coming in for a landing nearby and the tinkle of Faith’s tags around her neck. Faith had found an ear of field corn to play with during the trek and was playfully jerking it back and forth by the husk. At six months, she was a good size dog but still had plenty of pup in her.

Liza’s thoughts of the cooler weather tumbled back to another time when the forces of nature had turned her world upside down. She had never been afraid of storms…..far from it. She reveled in the excitement and electricity charged atmosphere of a good storm. Her brother Harold had been a weatherman as long as she could remember. His wife Anetta was a reporter also and they worked weekends at TV stations in neighboring towns.

On this particular Sunday evening, Liza and Lacey had been listening to music and doing their usual girl thing. About 9:30 PM, the phone rang. “I’m watching the radar and there’s a tornado headed straight for y’all” Annetta said grimly. Liza hadn’t even bothered to notice that the winds were tipping the treetops over and the lightning was ferocious. “Okay” she said. “We’ll hit the basement”.

Lacey grabbed the cat and called for her Mom to hurry. “ Just a minute” she screamed. Liza was attempting to open the back door to peer outside at the weather. She tugged on the door with all of her might, but it wouldn’t open. Then it struck her that the pressure from the passing tornado was keeping it shut.

Immediately, the power went out. In the darkness Liza found Lacey and a candle. They were headed toward the basement door when the phone rang again. It was Annetta. “ The tornado has destroyed the motel across the highway. Casualties are reported” she said. “Are you okay?” “Yes, we’re fine” Liza replied with a growing sense of dread about what lay out in that darkness. In the total blackness she could hear the wind howling and the rain pelting her old farmhouse.

Lacey was pacing back and forth in the darkness. “Mom…I want out of here!” she cried. “OK sugar….let’s get to the car”. They made their way through the pouring rain to Liza’s car and cranked it up. The headlights shone against the dark farmhouse in a ghostly fashion. As the car moved slowly down that lane, she deftly dodged the debris that littered the flooded road. Turning onto the main road from the lane, they spotted power lines hanging low in a V overhead. “Mom! Please don’t go under there…..I’m scared”.

Liza replied calmly to her daughter. “We’ve come this far baby, we’re not turning back”. She prayed as she eased under the dangling wires and kept her eye out for debris. It was like running an obstacle course in a car! Relieved that they were not electrocuted, Lacey calmed down. “Mom….LOOK!” she said. There were limbs across the road every few feet. It seemed that they were totally alone in that eerie world. “I want to go see my Daddy!”. “That’s where I’m headed” Liza said.

Pulling onto the highway, they eased through the rain toward the spot where the motel sat. It was demolished! There was no sign of rescue activity yet, but they kept moving. No traffic anywhere….just two scared gals running from the darkness of the country toward something! Lumpy was at Noler’s house waiting for Lacey to get there.

Liza tried numerous streets to get to her ex-husband’s house. Every route that she chose was blocked with huge downed trees across her path. Navigating in the dark slowly and carefully, they finally made their way through to where Lumpy waited. Liza began the trek homeward in shock at what she had seen.

When she returned to the darkened house, she entered slowly and lit a candle. Then she sat down at the kitchen table and began to write:

Dear Fred, I was so afraid tonight that I would die and never get the chance to tell you how very much I love you……………

The week that followed was a Murphy’s law mixture of bad happenings. That night, after writing the letter to Fred, I laid down in the hot dark quiet and slept fitfully until time to go to work. The town in daylight was worse than I expected and there was very little electricity for the first two days. I was promised that mine would be back on by Tuesday. Tuesday afternoon came and went and found Lacey and me emptying the entire spoiled contents of the refrigerator into garbage bags to haul off. I cried and sweated and ranted, to no avail. After being told that they had “no idea” when the power would be restored, I began looking for a place to stay. Ann graciously offered to share her palace with me…that’s how I referred to her beautiful house with a pool area dubbed The Garden of Eden. The lines of thunderstorms and heavy rain continued to cross the river in wave after wave and more tornados were spotted each and every day. Following Tuesday night’s gully washer the old concrete box culver collapsed under the road and there was no way to get home even if I DID have power. A large portion of the downtown area of the closest large town was demolished by another tornado.

Eileen, my co-worker was leaving town for a week to visit her kids so she offered me the use of her house in the country, with yet another pool. The only time in my life I’d lived, albeit temporarily, in a house with a pool and it was a non-stop week of thunder and lightning! Since the road was caved in, Daddy had to take me through the muddy fields to get my clothes …enough to last for who knew how long. Finally I was settled somewhere. The phone, which had continued to work during and after the storm, went out on Tuesday. Sheesh!

On Wednesday I got the news that the phone was back in service. By Thursday there was power restored and the road repair was promised by Friday. Friday morning my mom called with this little tidbit: “Well..there’s good news and bad news.” “What now?” I asked. “The road is repaired and you can get through to the house. BUT..the road crew cut the phone line while they were working”. I was so ready to get home and settled I could have died, but not until everything was cool. “I’ll wait, I said.”

Saturday brought a funeral to attend, an old friend’s Dad. Since I was not expecting to need anything but scrubs for work, I had to go buy something to wear. The muggy heat and humidity dragged on through that day as well. On Sunday,I was finally able to go home to a cool house, a phone and a tree laying across the roof. I didn’t care, cuz I was home at last! That old redbud tree laid there for a couple of weeks until Brian and Sanner came with a chainsaw to help me out.

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