Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Tornado, Part Three

What is eerie about spring storms in the Midwest is the calm that is left after they blow through: a soft rain and wet streets shimmering under the street lights; the sound of crickets; a gentle breeze that gently swings the blinds back and forth against the pane, its plastic tip-tap-tapping.

I vaguely remember my father getting home after the storm passed and walking down the basement steps, laughing. In fact, his arrival seemed to coincide with the exact moment the storm went away, as if he chased it away himself, when, in fact, it had calmed a good twenty or so minutes earlier, but we were still in limbo. I had never been so happy to see him. I truly felt as if a super hero had come to rescue us from an evil villain. My father has such an unshakeable confidence about him. As a child, I believed everything would be OK if he was around.

While the house was left intact, the emotional damage was devastating. In that two-hour span of time, I faced death and cowered in fear, my only refuge a green metal ironing board and some rope attached to nothing. I was not comforted by the idea of meeting my Creator or His Son or His Mother, for that matter. I questioned why we were only born to die and what the purpose was of being born at all if heaven was so great and our ultimate destiny. The internal fire of anger, guilt and confusion from these burning questions still smolders.

The storm also made wreckage of my relationship with my mother, though I am beginning to see the event through her eyes. My father was a workaholic, and she was alone and raising three children under the age of 11 in a Kansas City suburb, a fourth child on the way. I can imagine how tenuous her world seemed, as if the slightest breeze could send the entire facade crashing, let alone a 200-mile an hour whirling wall of wind and debris. Maybe as terrified as she was that her entire life's investment might literally be blown away, there was also a glimmer of hope - dare I say longing or even joy - that it could be over and, in a matter of moments, she could step through a doorway to a much better world, into the loving arms of her Lord Jesus, never to do a load of laundry or iron another shirt again.

But as a child, I only saw a weak woman and a strong man. I blamed my mother for the fear and suffering I experienced and decided I never wanted to be a mother, lest I do the same to my children. I would be a great business person like my father - travel the world and be respected by my peers. It was likely around that time I decided to go to college and vowed that if I married it would only be for money, not love. I would never marry poor and have to pick up after everyone like some slave.

And, I would never cry in the face of tornadic danger again.

Since then, I married for love, have a daughter and have done 5616 loads of laundry and completed 3456 hours of housecleaning in addition to working 40-50 hours per week in corporate marketing. Given my jobs do not involve world travel nor garner much respect, the only determinations that stuck were to go to college and to overcome my fear of tornadoes. 

To fulfill the latter, I read any story or article I could find about tornadoes, either scientific or experiential, and eagerly watched television accounts and documentaries. As a teenager, I took to hunting tornadoes in my car. When the sirens went off, I went driving, heading away from the suburbs and towards the open farmland, where they preferred to land, intensely searching the skies with the eagerness of a young squire lurking around a dragon’s cave for the opportunity of advancement.

To this day, I have never seen a tornado in person. 

But every year, I have tornado dreams. In them, the sirens go off. I can see the tornado in the distance. I go for shelter. I hear its roar just as it is described by witnesses, the sound of a speeding freight train, all horns blowing. But, I always wake up just before it hits.

Spring 2006