The Luck of the Storm
A few days ago, during the afternoon rush hour, a tornado touched down a few miles from my home turning 100 homes into shreds. I was working at my computer when I heard startling cracking sounds around me. The sky was dark, in the distance thunder rumbled and lighting splashed outside my office windows. It wasn’t so close that I shut down and unplugged my computer, a lesson learned after loosing two computers to lightening strikes regardless of my surge protector. This time it sounded like my windows were splintering. Upstairs, they revealed a clear view of balls of ice crashing into them, my siding, my deck, the ground. But the glass was intact.
I returned to my work, answering emails, tweets, and posting on FB. The suspicious sounds continued, I went outside amazed at the size of the hail, the harshness of its pounding, and snapped a photo of one in my hand.
A while later, I turned on my TV, but alas, my satellite service was interrupted and I was unable to get the news. When it finally came on, I saw a picture of a home a few miles from my house that had been torn to splinters by a tornado. The park where I walk (and which has appeared in several of my novels) had been damaged. I received a tweet from a business acquaintance, Hey Dude, You ok? I’m trapped in the mall. They won’t let us out. I tweeted back that I was fine; the hail was hitting my house. He tweeted: They have us locked in a shelter in the mall. I tweeted back, Amazing. There was a tornado in Saline and Dexter. Last one hit Ellsworth and State an intersection close to the mall. A new person tweeted asking if it was a tornado touched down or if it was the storm moving over. The TV announcer complied by reporting that a tornado hit State at 6:29. It was now 6:48. For a short while, I relayed the information from the TV to the shelter in the mall.
The blistery cracking of my house stopped. On TV, I witnessed the devastation of homes a mile or so from mine. A phone captured the tornado itself as the owner drove for safety, the funnel whirling up the earth, the trees, a community.
The next morning, it was as if nothing happened. The sky clear, birds singing in the unseasonal warmth. The hail melted. My crocus that bloomed way before their season, now frayed purple scraps battered to the soil. My life uninterrupted. Other lives, at least for some months to come, totally altered. 100 homes had been smashed by the storm.
I was so lucky. So lucky.
The cashier at grocery store asked if I would round up my bill to the nearest dollar so the money could help the people whose homes were damaged. Over $20,000 had already been donated. I know no one whose house was seriously damaged, but friends do. One friend’s next door neighbor lost pieces of her garage.
And my house? A few days latter, I noticed strange pebbles littering my deck, my driveway, the ground. The first day, I paid no attention, assuming them beads of rain. But when I looked closer and picked some up, they were the size of a fingernail, black on one side and speckled with fleck of gray on the other. Pieces of my roof. The cracking I heard was the hail splintering my roof, parts of it lay all around my house, like a bad case of weird dandruff.
My life goes on almost without a hiccup. Other lives are permanently changed. Having witnessed people lose their houses by storm or fire, they will rebuild and go on, learning hard lessons. The sky has seamlessly healed itself as though nothing happened.
Luck: one house torn to splinters. Another (mostly) untouched. One life changed forever. Another altered slightly by a few hour loss of TV, a roof that needs repaired.
Turns out that the roof needs more than a little repair. When the insurance adjuster came, he reported that the hail had gauged away 2 1/2 inch chunks all over my entire roof. The great majority of shingles were compromised. I need to have an entire new roof. Right now, it doesn’t seem like much of an annoyance compared to an entire house. I still consider myself lucky.
Luck is one of the main themes of my about-to-launch novel, A Gift for My Sister in which eccentric luck throws one sister vicious wrenches and another bouquets of great flowers, complicating their difficult relationship. It’s one of the possibilities that adds exhilaration and a dread in how we manage our lives. Just so we never forget serendipity, we get the astonishment of witnessing the border where our control ends and luck arrives and vanishes.