Saturday, May 10, 2008

Department of Dumb Things to Do Inadvertently

While living in Oklahoma c. 1980 for a M. Divinity, I took my United Methodist friends up on an invitation to supper on a weeknight: very casual, en famille. I had taken the car stereo out a day or two before, including the radio, so I was soundless. As I was leaving in late afternoon (Prime Time for these things), my elderly Landlady poked her head out of her side of the house and said, among other things "There's storms brewing this evening.", an entirely common exchange, especially in Spring or Autumn. "Storms" may ALWAYS include tornadoes in this context; " I didna hear yet of none sighted on the ground, but we all know it's possible." I nod and pull out, and within minutes am on a highway (4 lanes, but not Interstate).

There is a village halfway between my origin and my destination: a drive-in, a good sized Roman church, and a very few houses and streets: no traffic lights, but signs that say they'd really like you to slow down a little. As I slow from 60 to maybe 50 on the edge of town, I look once again at the cloud that has formed within the ten or fifteen minutes since I left the house. It forms a diagonal line at approximately 45 degrees from top to ground: sharp and distinct; it appears to have drawn by a ruler: black on one side, sunshine on the other. The first very big and forceful drops hit my windshield. Within a matter of seconds, I am in the village, doing ten miles an hour and reducing my speed further; it is raining so hard I cannot see the hood of my car, but catch glimpses of taillights in front of me. It is not so much a matter of going anywhere, but maintaining one's position as long as one is able; I think "If the windshield isn't destroyed (some of it is clearly big hail by now) I won't stop yet." Then, within a minute or two, the rain and hail are sharply reduced, and I can see a very wet road with limbs here and there, so I proceed carefully to Sam and Sharon's. I can't find Sharon and the kids at the Parsonage or the church next door, but a note saying "Sam, we're in the storm cellar." So where have the Methodists put this storm cellar?

As I continue my search, Sam and his golfing buddy pull up to park in front of the house. He tells me there were tornadoes on the ground, and still are to the SE, as we learn through the static when we join Sharon, the girls, and their next-door neighbor, whose cellar they use. Sam tells me, or we both learn, one of the tornadoes had touched down about 100 meters to our North, and was running parallel to the highway we were on, until it crossed about 1/2 kilometer behind us, removing the roof of the drive-in. Sam and his buddy got out of their car and lay in the ditch, getting soaked, while I drove, oblivious to the larger context.

I had cleaned up after a tornado touched down in a residential area just north of my undergraduate school: volunteers putting a community face on the anti-war (1970) movement. One had destroyed a small part of a small town where my first congregation after Seminary was located. My Oklahoma kinfolks always had a dugout for home canned goods and a quick trip if need be; now I am reminded of scurrying to the bunker outside the hooch when we heard the first "incoming" rounds go off--122mm Katushya rockets--in Vietnam, a once a week occurrence.

I have never before realized how much I take these experiences as "given": for granted; "everybody knows that." Keep living, keep learning.

13 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Johnieb, that was a near miss. Tornadoes, rockets, both possibly deadly. Take cover.

We have the occasional tornado, but nowhere to go, besides an inside closet. But we have hurricanes. Fortunately they come with warnings far enough in advance to get the hell out - if you're not too poor to have transportation.

johnieb said...

Yup; I was far enough North so's t' that "Hurricane" only met "flooding" aka "Rainy and river's getting way up." People did come and go by boat, though, as the shorter route to town when the flatlands went under: more than fifty years ago.

Paul said...

Johnieb, since tomorrow is the first mother's day without your mama (and jcf's) I want to wish you a very sweet time of remembering and some unbidden graces to ease the day.

((((johnieb ))))

johnieb said...

Thank you, Paul; did I say something somewhere? However, it's a lovely wish, and thank you for it. I am feeling it, my first in 62 years.

I like the idea of unbidden graces; something special for me! I can think of at least a few bidden ones, of late! It's been something of a discipline of late to stop suggesting and "taste, and see" without the nagging poor Godde.

Paul said...

JCF mentioned it at OCICBW and you allowed as how you were in the same boat. i happened to see it again today and just thought a companioning word might be nice. My mother died on the Eve of Epiphany over 20 years ago and by now my mother-in-love and stepmom-in-love are both gone too. It is interesting how a sense of being orphaned can come at any age. Glad some bidden graces have been there too of late.

johnieb said...

You're better at retaining details than I but I now remember that was exactly it.

'ppreciate it.

Jane R said...

And prayers from me too, JohnieB.

A good story! Whew. Narrow escapes.

Grandmère Mimi said...

How'd you make it through the day, Johnieb? OK, I hope.

johnieb said...

Fairly well, Mimi, thank you. I decided to do it partially fasting: minimal simple food through the weekend, which lifts tonight. A little restless as to sleep, but within range.

I'm only pleased when these events flash me back into "ready as I'm gittin" mode, then twenty fours hours or so later, when I may, I collapse. Other stories are coming back to me as I write, but I don't, as I say, think of them as "extraordinary", maybe "misses, more or less near". These things change over time, of course; I am looking forward to see what kind of old man it makes me.

I'd like "more at peace" with more energy, longue duree, please. Swipe. Hit "enter". Sign here.

Whatever happened to wanting to be free of identity? I suppose it didn't work out: "Move Commander (ret.) Bond's feet up for me, Dearie; I want to get that bit o dirt near the chair. Thanks then."
(In Monty Python voice)

I was just thinking of the number of times I was in "Firearms out, and not just a formality" mode: more than a dozen? The odd thing now is that all this seemed so perfectly understandable, reasonable, at the time. I think of it as a lesson in the active character of Non-violence; violence must be resisted and overcome in our own assumptions in our bodies and communities.

pj said...

Glad you made it through the storms, Johnie. :)

johnieb said...

Oh, there are always storms of one or more sorts coming, Peedge, the question is, what we do with them.

Still waters are delicious, when they come, but one mustn't fall into the trap that "because I've been there and done this, or survived that, and it's peaceful now at last" means there are not more troubled depths to be stepped lightly through yet, though the forms and directions may be radically different.

This is such a delightful crew, isn't it? Oh, BTW, as I said at MP's, and Mimi already spotted and announced, my daughter's water broke about seven hours ago; she's at five minute intervals, so it appears today's the day (he's her second.) I'll announce it here when it's official.

Doorman-Priest said...

What about the other news? THE BABY.

johnieb said...

See the following comment, of course. :-)