Saturday, February 15, 2014

Resiliency during Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

I want to THANK all the people who have worked tirelessly to keep us safe (firefighters, police, EMS, tree cutters, etc.) and warm (electric and gas company workers).

The week began uneventfully. I prepared two posts for the blog carnival: one on Sunday and one on Monday. I hosted the blog carnival on Tuesday. Pamela and I attended school like we always do. Our headmaster (also a volunteer firefighter) called off school because of Winter Storm Pax, which seemed scarier than Leon. The governor urged everyone to stay home. They were right. Early Wednesday morning, someone in our county died in a car accident.

While everything looked sparkly and lovely with an icy glaze, I worried about the power. My folks had gone several days without it in the ice storm here back in 2001. I headed out to take pictures for Steve and posted them before we lost power. It rained and sleeted off and on all day. David cleaned the tub and filled it with water for the toilet. I filled jugs with fresh water for us to drink. Then, we waited.

When lights flickered that evening, Pamela turned off the ceiling fan lights (4 bulbs) and turned on the desk lamp to dim. She explained, "I don't waste power." Her thoughtfulness impressed me, and I posted a note about it on Facebook. At about ten o'clock, we heard a tremendous crash. Pamela woke up and asked me, "What happened?" My favorite branch had bit the dust (sniff, sniff). Then, we all went to bed warm and cozy, and the temperatures dipped below freezing.

At 1:30 AM, I woke up to the Amityville Horror in my house!

The blue LED light of my alarm clock was blinking madly. The smoke detector was beeping at odd intervals. The house alarm system randomly cut on and off. A bright orange glow blazed eerily through my window. I grabbed a shawl and ran out to the front porch to see wild sparks and a grass fire along the telephone pole in my neighbor's yard. My dad told me later that he saw it through his bedroom window and thought he was dreaming that his front porch was on fire. I shivered in my socks and jammies and watched to make sure the ice would prevent it from spreading. Pamela popped her head out and asked, "Is the power off?" I told her, "Not yet."

Once everything looked safe, I ran inside to wake up David. I grabbed my cell phone and we watched a spark that flashed between blue and orange travel down the power line. Here is a short clip (turn up the volume to hear the crackle). These are the last dying breaths of our power.

We heard a terrific BOOM. The sparking stopped. We had no power. The next morning we figured out that a tree branch had smashed the light bulb of the street light and caused the light show. We headed back into the house. David used his new iPod as a flashlight and I looked up the number for the power company in the phone book. Since Duke bought Progressive Energy recently, I couldn't find the phone number. We bundled up and went back to bed.

The most amazing thing about that night was that Pamela didn't freak out. In spite of the noise and the fire and the loss of power, she didn't cry and she didn't scream. She saw that I was calm and that her brother was calm and that our neighbors across the street were calm. She borrowed our perspective and didn't lose her cool.

Do you know how amazing that is for an autistic person?

We woke up the next morning (Thursday). Pamela wasn't upset nor did she cry about the loss of power or the lack of electronics. At some point, she had rummaged through kitchen drawers and pulled out two flashlights for me. The house was very cold, but the thermostat had reached rock bottom. I found the thermometer we use for science and discovered that room temperature was 50°! I headed outside to assess the damage and take more pictures.

Until you've been through an ice storm without power, you have no idea how eerie it is. Dead silence. Totally cut off from the world. Silence broken by the branches cracking, which sounds just like gunshots. Sirens blaring down the road. Heavy vehicles rumbling past to help someone in need. Melting ice sliding off the metal roof and hitting the windows.

I decided to keep warm by cleaning house since Steve was due to arrive the next day. I had a pile of laundry to fold, dusted, and worked on the floors. David woke up at around eleven and said, "That's weird. I'm picking up Opa's wireless." When offered the chance to hang out at her grandparent's house, she refused. I took a break at one point and enjoyed a cup of coffee before heading back to Planet Hoth. At about one, we decided to find some hot food. Hardly anything was open and what was open had Soviet Union style lines. I managed to order a delicious meal for us, only to learn that they couldn't take credit cards. An hour later, we came home with groceries from The Pig.

Pamela got a little upset at one or two times, but she did well in the face of so much uncertainty. She consoled herself in the car by comparing the situation to history. "No power. Just like cavemen." "I pretend to be Ma and Laura." "Knights had no power." When we heard a favorite composer, she'd say, "Mozart had no electricity." I was so impressed with how much self-regulation and resiliency she displayed in the face of adversity.

I cleaned until sundown, and the thermometer was at 46° when I left. Miraculously, my folks still had power. Mom offered me a glass of my sister's award-winning Madeira. I rarely drink but the thought of going home to a frozen house with temperature dipping into the twenties convinced me to sip a quarter of a glass. At around eight o'clock, their power went out! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! We went out to the street to look for a cause and, to my great joy, a man from the power company was working in the cold and dark to restore power! I jumped up and down on my mom's porch like a contestant on The Price Is Right! Before long, the power came on so I checked on my house. I turned around to get Pamela when I heard the lovely purr of the heating unit.

We slept well in a warm, cozy house. And we slept in! I spent the day vacuuming, doing laundry, running the dishwasher, etc. I emptied out the freezer and counted birds. Pamela and I picked up our hot meal. Bright sunny day. Ice gone! Except for the fallen trees and debris and the sound of chainsaws you'd never have guessed that our town had looked like Narnia the day before. Of course, lots of people are still without power, even now.

That evening, I was doing the finishing touches of cleaning up. There seemed to be a bunch of power trucks in front of the house. I found out later they were pruning the live oak in the yard of the neighbor across the street. Apparently that tree was an outage epicenter. While I was working on the bathroom, Pamela burst in and announced breathlessly, "I saw CBS."

Me: "At Oma's house yesterday?"

Pamela: "A reporter."

Me: "Where?"

Pamela: "Over there!"

She pointed to the window. I looked out. Seven power trucks lined the street with a WLTX vehicle in front of my house. A reporter was giving a live report for the news for a station in Columbia — the night footage is in front of my house.

You don't see that everyday! You might not think much of what Pamela did. Let me explain. First, she noticed something extraordinary in a week of unusual events. Second, she realized I was so busy cleaning I failed to notice what was happening on the street. Third, she could not keep the exciting news to herself. She searched for me and went upstairs to tell me.

This is one element of what they call experience sharing in RDI. Situations like this may seem minor but, when you add them up, you see a huge improvement in quality of life as a friend has shared at her blog.

Steve finally made it home and we were so glad to see him. He took a nap while I waited for the blanket to finish drying. Just when things had finally calmed day, Pamela and I felt a sharp jolt shove the house. Pamela asked, "Is it earthquake?" I replied, "I'm not sure," and waited to see if a tree was going to fall on the house. About a minute later a friend on Facebook asked, "Did anyone just feel an earthquake?"

Yes, as far-fetched as it might seem, a 4.1 earthquake hit Edgefield, SC, and we felt it on our side of the state. So, like any good citizen scientist, I filled out an earthquake event form and went to bed before the locusts arrived. After all, you never know what might happen with a full moon.


amy in peru said...

all that and you're still smiling! :)
no wonder pamela handled it so well, she has a fantastic example!

Mama Squirrel said...

I think Pamela showed a great deal of fortitude!