Amigo kept asking me, “Mom, have you blogged the storm yet?” I finally asked him to offer his point of view. The entire family had a tough time with the recent storm and the following power outage, but the situation was hardest on him.
Amigo’s Saturdays are usually quite relaxed. He sleeps in, listens to Public Radio, and around noon will make his way downstairs for lunch. On this particular Saturday, it was between 11:30 and 12:00 when the skies became very dark, the outdoor sirens began howling, and all of our phones honked their noisy weather alerts to tell all within earshot that a tornado had been sighted nearby. Chuck poked his head into Amigo’s bedroom where Amigo was getting dressed and told him to hurry. Both of them hustled. When they arrived on the main floor, I guided Amigo down the awkward stairs to the basement to take shelter.
Our basement is more of a cellar. It’s not the modern finished basement with playroom or place to hang out; it’s cellar, storage, pipes hanging from the ceiling. Amigo and Chuck have to duck going down the stairs and watch their heads while walking around. Amigo almost never goes downstairs – unless a serious storm is on the way.
We sat in a sheltered corner on extra kitchen chairs. All three of us had our smart phones, for what it was worth – wifi went out suddenly when the power did, and we weren’t getting much cell phone bandwidth in our thick-walled cellar. We watched the wind whipping through the one accessible window, and Chuck and I took turns poking our heads upstairs to monitor the storm. I brought Amigo’s shoes and socks to him on one of those treks. He wondered why; I told him it was because the basement floor was cold. The truth was that the storm was bad, very bad, and if we ended up with shattered windows, I didn’t want anyone in bare feet. Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem.
Well, our home and immediate neighborhood fared well. We had branches down, many of them, but mainly medium and small ones. Chuck put on a raincoat (we were still getting steady rain) and pulled the brush off the street. We noticed a lot more traffic than usual on our quiet block; we soon found out that ours was the only street in the area clear of wires and trees immediately after the storm. Two blocks away, the cul de sac would need four new utility poles and multiple tree crews.
But back to Amigo. He is blind and has a high functioning form of autism, Asperger’s Syndrome. His phone and his computer are his windows on the world. Without power and wifi, he was lost. No social media, no podcasts, his audio book app wasn’t accessible – and on top of all that, no television for the sports he loved to watch.
We did what we could. Both Chuck and I needed to check on our elderly mothers, and we needed lunch. Amigo doesn’t like cold food; peanut butter and jelly wasn’t a valid option. I couldn’t get a text message out to Petunia, so we decided to combine a trip. We piled into Chuck’s car and plugged in all of our phones to charge. We traveled to the far north side of town, where a Hardee’s had power and was open. Crowded, too. We watched the gas station next door through the window. There’s a guy filling three gas cans; he must have a generator. Oh, there’s someone buying multiple bags of ice; their power must be out, too. Wow, it’s busy in here. The staff is doing their best to get everyone served.
After lunch, we drove to the rehab nursing home where Petunia was staying post-surgery. Chuck and Amigo stayed in the car and charged all the phones while I ran inside and checked on her. The home had its emergency power generator on leaving the hallways darker than usual and a wee bit spooky . Her room was fine; a lot of natural light through a window, and an outlet that worked to keep her phone charged. In general, all was well in the rehab world. Chuck called his mother and found out that she also did not have power. She was going to stay with Chuck’s younger brother in Nearby City with its power grid intact.
The outage was hard on all of us. Chuck and I made a side trip to his mom’s condo to borrow her small generator, and we stopped on the way home to buy a few batteries for radios. Eventually, we made our way to Nearby City for supper at Culver’s. Ah, Culver’s – comfort food in (or after) a storm!!
It had been a rough week for Amigo all around. He’d gotten some bad news regarding a summer camp, lost contact with his friends due to the outages, and was just overall miserable. He couldn’t even turn on a fan to create white noise or keep cool. We helped where we could, taking him out to charge his phone and get a hot meal, picking up batteries for radios, finding a battery operated handheld fan (overpriced but totally worthwhile). He was the most relieved of all of us when the power came back in the wee hours of Monday morning.
Stormy weather isn’t unusual in our neck of the woods. We’re considering getting a generator slightly larger than the one we borrowed so we can keep the freezers and refrigerator cold and keep the wifi running for a least a few hours a day. In our home, it’s not just a luxury. With Amigo’s needs, a little power means a lot.