I tend to take a rather fatalistic approach to the weather. What happens, happens. It's cold and snowy in the winter, it's hot and dry in the summer. I can do this because, thankfully, weather has never had a huge impact on my life, unlike some folks who have been devastated by weather related occurrences. I've been inconvenienced by weather many times, but nothing to lose sleep over.
However, there are weather worriers in my family, and my mother is one of them. She comes by it naturally, because my grandmother was the biggest weather worry wart of all time. Just let the sky darken of a summer afternoon and she'd be outside in a flash, whipping the clothes off the line with vicious jerks, not bothering to fold them neatly as usual, just heaping them unceremoniously into her oval shaped wicker basket. She'd scoot all her potted plants to safety under the porch awning, huddling them together in a protective little clump so that the winding stems of the petunias became entangled with the fluffy geraniums, hugging one another for dear life.
Finally she'd come looking for me, and if I happened to be off somewhere in the neighborhood riding my bike instead of lying in my lounge chair reading a book, I would hear standing on the front porch, calling my name. "Reee-beccc-aaa!" she'd call, elongating each syllable so the word carried down the street. "Beccc-aaa!" I'd glance upward, see the smudgy black clouds rolling across the blue sky, and know I'd better head for home before she got too worried.
My son carried on my grandmother's tradition of worrying about summer storms. One summer afternoon when he was about eight years old, I heard him clattering around in the basement. When I went down to see what he was up to, I found him clearing out a collection of stuff stored underneath the pool table. "There's a tornado watch today," he explained nervously, "and they said you should go in the basement and get underneath something. I'm trying to make a spot we can hide." I tried not to smile, picturing us all huddled underneath the table like my grandmother's potted plants, holding onto each other for dear life.
Winter or summer, my mother's anxiety about weather is focused on electricity - she is mortally afraid of losing electrical power, which often happens here in the midwest. In the winter, ice builds up on the electric wires, weighing them down until they succumb to the load. In summer thunder storms, wind will whip them to the ground and they lie in their death throes, sparking and flopping like slippery eels.
In recent years we've been having numerous power outages during the summer whenever the temperatures are higher than normal. Our neighborhood is old, and the power grids aren't capable of handling the modern day load of air conditioners, computers, big screen televisions, et al. As luck would have it, both my mother's house and my house are on the same grid, so when one of us is down, we're both down.
Like the rest of the country, we've been blasted with unprecedented heat all week long. "You just know that power can't hold up under this heat," she would say each time we talked. "What will we do if the power goes out?" she'd continue, her anxiety clearly audible in her voice.
I'm not quite sure what fuels this worry about power outages - if it's the thought of discomfort from the heat/cold, the loss of electricity to run her appliances (although her stove is gas so she can still cook most things she might want), or the lack of control over her environment. Whatever the reason, it's a panic type reaction that closely resembles my grandmother's frantic efforts to protect things from a storm.
Wednesday night, after three days of record breaking temperatures, our electrical power conked out, finally fulfilling my mother's daily predictions. We managed to get through the night, largely because it's never a complete blackout of power, just a "brownout," leaving us a enough current to run dim lights and ceiling fans. Nevertheless, the power company wasn't forecasting a return to full power until at least 11:30 p.m. on Thursday night. And with temperatures expected to reach over 100 degrees on Thursday, I knew we'd have to take drastic measures.
At 8 a.m. yesterday, I called our local Residence Inn, because I knew they allowed pets. "We have one room left," the desk clerk told me. I explained that we were in need of respite from the heat for an elderly person and two small dogs, and she couldn't have been more accommodating.
So we decamped to the Residence Inn yesterday, where the room was lovely, clean, and very cool. We brought in lunch from Panera and dinner from Red Robin. We watched TV, I fussed around on the internet with my iPad, the dogs napped contentedly. When a neighbor called to tell me the power was back on, Jim drove home to turn on the air conditioners and start cooling down the house (the room temperature in our living room was 92 degrees). We stayed at the hotel until about 8:30 last night, and then came home. The houses were still warm, but not uncomfortably so, and we were all grateful to be home.
An extreme measure, perhaps, but sometimes we have to go to great lengths to protect the people we care about from the things that make them afraid, even if we're not sure where the fear comes from.
How about you? Have you ever taken extreme measures to protect someone you love from their fear?