It’s staggering, and almost amusing to me now. I said almost. However, I’m still sore about the subject, and I don’t want to talk about it. Yet, I know that if I keep silent about it, the neighbors sure won’t. I think we should move, but even Joanie giggles whenever the weatherman so much as mentions the word, “storm.” I thought I had raised her better. Three days is enough to forget one little incident, but nobody will let it go. The Lowenstein’s are having a dinner party this evening, and I just know that somebody will bring it up. I'm the only person in the apartment building that doesn't take life for granted.
I’ll admit that a pinch of it did give me a chuckle, but only once because the situation had been gravely serious. I don’t like to joke about it, but there I was on the brink of death and I stopped at my mailbox to see if I had any mail! I guess I somehow thought of Gary Holloway at Dominion Electric, thinking about how I had tragically died in the midst of paying my electricity bill. There I’d be, licking the stamp, and a tornado blows me away along with the stamp, and even the payment itself. I wondered whether he’d feel guiltier about the fact that I had been blown away or the payment. This is the damndest thing I could've been thinking about, but you try nearly dying sometime and see what you find yourself contemplating.
I had heard the initial peal of thunder when I was carrying in the groceries. The sky looked very suspicious and bordering on a greenish color, which we all know is a sure sign that a cyclone is coming. During the ride home, I had also heard a snippet on the radio about a tornado. Naturally, I was upset. I had just purchased two weeks worth of food, and now it was going to be blown away! Not only that, but I would probably die too. I felt sick. This was when I checked the mailbox. In the heat of the moment when I had encountered my own mortality, I had forgotten that the electricity bill wasn't due for another two weeks.
I didn’t bother to shut the front door after I ran into the apartment building. In my hurry, I had to leave the groceries in the Taurus. What would it matter? The food and the car were going to be blown away anyways, and I needed every precious second to get my affairs in order. It made me mad to think that the tornado was going to be the one to enjoy the frozen cheesecake I had purchased, and not I.
There was no time to get a lawyer to help me with a will. That was entirely too obvious. He would be blown away and never get here, or he would get here and we’d be blown away together. I didn't want to spend my last few moments with a sleazy lawyer. I managed to come up with a makeshift will in my head that I would email to my cousin, Bernice. She’s only a hairdresser, but I’d trust her with this information more than I would a lawyer. Besides, I intended to give her the pearl earrings that Aunt Carol left for me that she’s been coveting them ever since I got them. That way, I knew she’d make sure my wishes were followed. I knew that the computer had to be disconnected immediately during a storm, but what was the point? It was going to be blown away too, which was a shame because I had just purchased it for Joanie’s amusement. You know kids these days. If it has buttons and a colorful screen, they have to have it. It took me all of two minutes to type the email and send it. That was taken care of.
Another small boom of thunder reminded me that time was of the essence. I knew that I should call my husband, Mark, to say our final goodbyes. Despite the fact that our lives were ending, the bastard hadn’t bothered to come home and hold me so we could be blown away together. I thought about dialing the office to yell at him, but I know that
it's dangerous to talk on the phone when the weather is like this. I also thought with dread that perhaps my soulmate had attempted to come home, but perhaps a premature twister had already blown him away. I clutched the locket he had given me last week for our anniversary, and tried not to get too emotional. There was still so much left to do...
All of the excitement made me have to go to the bathroom, but I immediately decided against it. I just knew that as soon as I sat down, a stray bolt of lightning would zap the toilet, which I’m certain is chock full of metallic mechanisms that probably used to be part of a lightning rod, like the one on top of City Hall. Now, if I was going to die, I didn't want it to happen while I was relieving myself. It was different for Elvis. It’s perfectly okay if you’re the King. I wondered if I would meet Elvis in the afterlife. I knew that I should’ve been wondering if I would run into my Great Aunt Tootie or my old border collie, Rufus the Fourth (and Third and Second and so forth), but since I was already thinking about Elvis...
Then I got embarrassed. My little girl, Joanie, isn’t an Elvis fan. Never has been, never will be. Even when I took her for rides in the Taurus when she was an infant, Joanie would bawl every time she heard “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, cryin’ all the time,” which is very ironic and a cute anecdote for parties. But this was no time to think about ironies, parties, or crying hound dogs.
Joanie would certainly embarrass me if we saw Elvis in the afterlife. She’d make that face she makes when she's especially disgusted with something. It isn’t the adorable puss where a child will stick out her tongue and blow a raspberry. Oh no. Joanie has this way of sneering. Bless my baby’s heart, but she can make the ugliest faces when she wants to. I do not exaggerate when I say that her sneer shoots upwards and doesn’t quit until it reaches the Pearly Gates. Sometimes I worry that she will poke her eye out with that sneer. I certainly don’t enjoy looking at her when she’s like that, and I just knew that Elvis wouldn’t approve of it either. I made a mental note to remind her before we died not to do that if we met the King.
Not only did she need to be on her best behavior for Elvis, but also I was positive that we’d meet other important, historical figures that she wouldn’t approve of. Sometimes children don’t know when to act mature, which breaks my heart. I decided to jot down a key list of people and possible greetings as well as clever one-liners. What if there are banquets in heaven? I would've been so ashamed if I couldn’t snag an invitation! I had just written down the twelfth person on my list when I heard Joanie's school bus pulling away and my drenched baby walking through the front door...
Believe me when I say I nearly burst into tears when I saw my Angel standing there dripping wet and grinning. It's such a tragedy when life is yanked away from the innocent. I couldn’t think of what to say to my precious darling to give her comfort at a time like this. So I kept a cool head as best as I could without allowing so much as a quiver in my voice.
“Sweetie, you’re soaked!” It was all I could bear to say.
“Hiya Ma! Yeah, I was just jumping in these really, really huge puddles in the front courtyard!” Joanie grinned wider, pleased with herself. I nearly lost it, and tried to think of what else to say when another crack of thunder, which was particularly menacing, broke my concentration. I dropped to my knees and clutched Joanie’s shoulders, having lost my cool.
“Joanie, say your prayers! This is the end! It's official! I’m sorry I never got you that pony, but I did get the roller-skates you wanted. I just thought you should know that. I did get the roller-skates. I tried, didn’t I? You love your mom, even when all she can do is try for you, right? I cant believe my baby will never turn nine! You were just shy of a day too! When we meet Elvis, don’t shame me! Be polite, smile, and don’t say a word! Oh, I wish your daddy was here right now! We’ll never get to take you to Disneyworld! I'm so, so sorry Joanie baby! The tickets are in the upstairs bureau, but what good will they be now?”
I hadn't noticed that Joanie wasn’t as upset as I was. I was swaying back and forth with her in my arms, and she was positively limp. I assumed she was in shock and couldn’t react just yet, so my rant continued for a few more minutes. A polite knock on the door interrupted me, and I was flabbergasted. Who would knock that socially when the end was near? I was still crying when I opened the door and spied my next-door neighbor Helen, who had been vacuuming a few minutes earlier. The nerve of that woman. I needed to listen for sirens going off, and she was vacuuming?! I was having a private, final moment with my only child, and then she has the gall to knock as if it was the perfect time for a chat! I was infuriated to say the least.
“Meryl! I’m so glad you’re home! My little Nancy was wondering if Joanie would like to come over and watch a bit of television before dinnertime. I thought while the girls were doing that, we could discuss next week’s fundraiser at the church over a nice, hot cup of Chamomile tea. Sound good to you, M?” She was so calm and collected. I envied her for that, but I told her to cut the act.
“Meryl, what in heaven's name is wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost!”
I thought it was apparent, but I squealed, “Don't you listen to the radio? A tornado is coming!”
Joanie missed this portion of the conversation; she ran next door to tell Nancy she’d be right there after she grabbed her favorite doll. Of course, she came back at the moment of my embarrassment. Helen said without missing a beat, “Meryl honey, the tornado watch is all the way in Fairfax County and it ended ten minutes ago. If you’ll look outside, you’ll see that the sun has come back out already. I think you need that tea now.” Like I said, I don't want to talk about it. The worst part about it is Bernice came by today to snatch the earrings I promised her, and Joanie won’t shut up about how excited she is about going to Disneyworld...
Summer Re-run Series
First posted July 26, 2007