Monday, November 05, 2012

Life, Not at Patience Corners

"Isn't it great that Uncle Jim is out of the hospital now?"

I know. It's annoying when someone starts in on a story in medias res, without the (usually rather important) back story. (In my family, the common example is the enigmatic, "Isn't it great to have another 'A' in the family?" that appeared on a postcard from an aunt.)


Uncle Jim is fine now, and we're looking forward to getting started on rebuilding Patience Corners, hopefully sometime this month. We've got the plans all drawn up (those drafting classes did come in handy, after all!), a contractor we like, and a place to stay nearby so we can be involved in the demolition and construction. At this point, we're waiting on the bank to cross all the ts and dot all the is on the financing.

But, wait, you say. What happened?

Well, this happened.

On June 29th, the trees that had made me uneasy ever since we bought the house 14 years ago made good on their threats when a sudden, powerful storm blew through. The whole storm lasted seven minutes, but that was enough.

I was at work at the time, keeping an eye on the radar as the storm approached. I gave Deborah a quick call to tell her to bring the clothes in off the line, and joined the crew rubbernecking at the storm once the power went out.

Meanwhile, Deborah had just gotten the clothes in when the storm hit. With the rain pouring sideways, she tried phoning me to ask if the storm was bad. The phone was dead, and she yelled to the kids to get into the bathroom, screaming as the house shook and started to crack as the tree came down right behind them.

I hadn't heard my phone ringing, but Marti found me and told me my mother had called: There was a tree on my house, and I needed to go home right away. I went. I got there in time to meet the firemen asking me if there was anyone inside. I stammered the directions to the bathroom, and waited in shock until they appeared a few minutes later, carrying the kids out, barefoot and shaking. Deborah walked herself out, no less shaken.

My parents showed up.

My insurance agent showed up. She handed me a bag containing five bottles of water, two notepads, a handful of business cards, and a packet os State Farm branded tissues. The rest made sense, so I asked what the tissues were for. Linda gave me a look I don't see too often, and informed me that most people she visits under these circumstances were sitting on the curb, bawling, not sitting there matter-of-factly asking what happens next. She also handed me a check for what I thought was a ludicrous amount of money, informing me that she expected that to last me a day or two. (Later, once we'd picked up minimal set of essential supplies and groceries—$250!—I conceded she had been right about the costs involved.)

My church called. Would I like to use the missionary residence? Why, yes, I would. I arranged to meet the church secretary a bit later, and as we hauled mattresses over, I spied a box of Legos and asked if we could use those, as well. Little details had been escaping me in the larger scope of things, and I realized that the kids had nothing to play with until that point. As I would learn over the coming days and months, those little things added up, and were, in some ways, more important than the big things. Happy kids who thought this was all an adventure was a huge blessing.

The firemen let us in tot he house to grab essentials; I grabbed our PC, and the basket of clothes by the back door. For once, I was extremely grateful Deborah had not folded and put away all the clothes, and we were both amazed that it contained a at least one complete change clothing for each member of the family— one of many little "coincidences" that did not escape our attention.

As we ordered dinner (a rather boisterous affair, given the circumstances) some of the reality started to sink in. As phone calls rolled in and we told the story over and over, it became more and more obvious that life was going to be very different for a while—but that it was going to be all OK.

There are more stories to be told, but some will have to wait for another day.