The 2020 Derecho was a life-changing event. In a matter of 45 minutes, we were the proud owners of two totaled cars and rendered homeless. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for the fire our family was about to walk through.
What was supposed to be a lovely day off turned into a day spent trying to unearth at least one driveable vehicle from the 12-foot pile of debris in our front yard so we could get out of our house to get our children. Our immediate focus was on survival.
Where would we live? How would we get there? How do we feed our kids? What about our jobs? Our families?
Every moment became an exercise in doing what we thought was right in that moment and nothing beyond that. Our whole world was reduced to just what we could fit into our totaled van for ourselves and our children. This was our home as we got out to the front yard as the storm passed. Under the debris are two cars and you can barely see the roof of the second floor of our home.
My parents took us in, dog and all, until we could find other placement. That night I laid in the darkness of their basement, crammed into the windowless, hot bedroom, thankful to be together with a roof over our heads. It was the first chance I had to take stock of the day.
What on earth did we just survive? (We wouldn’t know what a derecho was until the next day.) Where do we go from here? Cell towers were still damaged so we couldn’t even call our insurance providers. We felt so stuck. In the coming days, we cut through the thicket of adulting armed only with figurative butter knives, and it hit me: is this how our parents felt when hard things hit?
I remember when I first moved out on my own and realized just how much I didn’t know. My parents seemed to know everything! How did they know who to call, when to move, when to wait, what to do, or why things happened? Were they ever scared? My dad was a giant to me because he just seemed to know all the things. I realized at that moment, lying in the dark, that my parents probably knew as much when they were 35 as I did at that moment.
My parents were clueless, too.
If they had been in our shoes, facing a natural disaster and the destruction of life as they knew it, what would they do? I am seeing through their eyes. I’m feeling what they would have felt: fear, anger, defeat, grief, exhaustion mingled with humility, incredible gratitude, and an appreciation for what really matters. They would have run on pure adrenaline for the sake of their family until they simply couldn’t any longer.
My parents raised us in the desert of Arizona with zero family or natural supports. I think I would die if I had to do that. My family is my lifeline! They had no road map, no magical formula, no resources that helped them make decisions to give us the life they did. They only tried to do what they thought was right, for better or worse.
If anything, this experience has given me a fresh appreciation for them and my husband’s parents, because they didn’t have a clue, either.
They, like us, are trudging through the waters of life with no more idea than the man on the moon how to make life work.
They, like us, are just trying to press on and do the next right thing.
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