Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tornado Alley

            Six years ago my son and I were living on the beautiful Mendo-Noma California coast. I was a teacher's aide at a small, friendly mountain school replete with redwood trees and cougars. My son was 19 and about to start his second year of college.  Life was good, or at least, good enough.
            But then we both got swept up in our own separate tornadoes of unpredictable, uncontrollable events.  With the help of my kind and benevolent older brother, I landed here in Bloomington, jobless, homeless, and hopeless.  Quite a different situation from my first time arriving in Bloomington in 1969 as a naive and enthusiastic very "fresh" eighteen year old entering Indiana University ready to try my independence, balance my own checkbook, and learn everything there was left to learn.
            While I was training for my new job and camping out at McCormick's Creek State Park in the insufferably hot July weather, I got a distress call from my son whose stormy predicament had landed him in Chicago.  With the kindness and generosity of my younger brother this time, I was able to gas up my little 1984 (older than my son) Toyota truck, pick up my son at the Greyhound Station in Indianapolis, and feed him a big generous meal on our way back to McCormick's Creek.
            We lived a couple of weeks at the park making friends with the baby raccoons who came right up to us after dark. We carefully parceled out our dollar packages of hotdogs and buns to last all day, and on my birthday, July 28th, I received my first paycheck, a partial one of only $25, but what a great birthday present. We splurged and celebrated by eating off the dollar menu at McDonalds. 
            As soon as I was receiving full paychecks, my brother helped us out with a deposit and first month’s rent, and we moved into a two bedroom trailer with air conditioning and two (hallelujah!) bathrooms.  Soon after that my son found a job and we began our pick-yourself-up-dust-yourself-off-start-all-over-again- lives.  Our jobs were low-paying and stressful; we worked, and worked, and worked in a strange land where the slamming hot summer sun never knew the sweet cool kiss of the ocean's breeze, and there were no tall stately redwood trees to shade us with their ancient wisdom and calm us with their quiet endurance.  All our friends were back in California.  All we had was the determination to make the best of a bad situation.
            My son had to forego college for a year so he could eventually qualify for in-state fees. I know this was a big bitter pill for him to swallow, but I don't know if it was bigger than having to move back in with his crotchety, ill, and menopausal mother. I've never had the gumption to ask him. I do know I struggled daily with the as yet undiagnosed, life-threatening disease I was harboring that left me feeling every day like the weakest elk cut from the herd by a ravenous pack of tireless, relentless wolves who were constantly nipping at my heels as I ran and stumbled, ran and stumbled to keep from being pulled down.
            One hot sweaty late afternoon in August my son trudged through the door after a hard day's work at the restaurant and stood, wooden, exhausted, defeated in the middle of our tiny living room/kitchen unable to take even one more step. I started to ask him "How was your day?", but I stopped myself. I knew how his day was, and he knew I knew. So, instead, I asked, "Can I do anything for you?" Drooping and dejected, he said, "Yes, you can hold me up. But I have to warn you that I'm not moving from this spot for the rest of the day."
            I knew from previous experience that his six- foot- two inch solid frame folded over my five- foot- two inch weakened frame would cause ever increasing pain in my back and shoulders if I were to offer myself up. But I didn't hesitate. I pushed myself out of my squeaky goodwill rocker and lumbered over to stand in front of him. He folded himself onto my neck and shoulders as I attempted to surround as much of him as I could with my short, soft, motherly arms.
            We stood there for an eternity, quiet, still, wordless, in the eye of our tornado and held on to each other for dear life. 

all through the fierce storms
dogwoods have bloomed and remain
tenacious beauties

Malu for the Poplar Grove Muse

1 comment:

  1. Grace in the eye of the storm. Beautiful. This woke me to the power of standing still and summoning strength as mothers will when that strength is required. Thanks Malu. Beth