Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Dark and the Light

I'll be honest.

I was going to write whine about Ethan's IEP meeting. I was going to write about yes, the good reports and news on his progress but also my frustrations with the principal, with assumptions made and key staff members being absent, about people insisting they know what is right for my son 10 months from now and wanting to force decisions.

I was going to, but I can't.

I can't watch neighborhoods go up in flames on television, watch houses wash away and the tiniest of newborns be evacuated from a flooded hospital and then gush about injustice here. Not today, when I'm grateful the lights are back on. I wish I could I take on this attitude each and every day, but it's amazing the way human nature creeps in on all of us and life sinks back to ordinary and full of things to complain about once again.

Our storm story is so mundane, here in CT far from the coast and farther from the more devastated areas in New York and New Jersey.

Monday the kids woke up to no school and gray skies. Our flashlights, candles and radio sat waiting on the dining room table. We weren't going to be caught unprepared this time around. Like countless other parents, I tried to think of how to keep the kids occupied. We decided on a tournament of board games: Candy Land, Chutes & Ladder, Go Fish, and so on. This would have worked swimmingly, except for the fact that somehow, I kept winning (I'm one of those types that can't bring myself to cheat and "let" the kids win). This resulted in much weeping and gnashing of teeth from both kiddos...but it did take about three hours. By the end, we were going to play Hi-Ho Cheerio all night if we had to in order for Ethan to win one stinking game (those darned birds and dogs!).

By the afternoon, the wind was picking up and the sleeping bags in the living room were spread out on the floor. Before the wind got too bad, the kids wanted a chance to do this:

For awhile we just lay on sleeping bags, reading books and watching the wind whip the trees.

I would've loved to stay there forever, cuddling, resting, watching. Some day they won't be so little. Some day they won't want to snuggle.

By the time darkness fell I thought we'd missed the worst of the storm. I could hear the wind howling, but apparently Hurricane Sandy had already made landfall. Typical storms usually begin to fall apart at that point...which is why I was surprised when, two hours later, the wind was still roaring and the lights went out.

There we were, exactly one year later, experiencing another freak storm, sitting without power. Was this possible? The sense of deja vu was incredible. There was the lantern and Anna whimpering, afraid of the dark. Branches were whapping around, some hitting the house and roof. The next morning there was the radio and the candles and eating Pop Tarts and driving to get some Dunkin' Donuts coffee. Combine that with checking the power company outage map and getting excited to see power trucks on our street, and I felt as if we'd all be sucked into some kind of time warp.

But here's the thing -- sometimes a situation can look, feel, taste the same but not be the same. Every indication can be that the worst is going to happen, everything can appear as if history is repeating itself, but then something can happen that may delightfully surprise you.

When Ethan got his diagnosis, I could only think of it in relation to my brother. I heard a diagnosis of autism and saw my childhood repeating itself. Everything seemed to be going the very way I had lived it and feared it. To see past that and trust in a future unseen seemed near impossible. Yet here we are, three years later now. The only thing that's really the same is the words on the paper. We are taking a very different path.

Last night by 6 p.m. a man was outside of our window working on the pole. A half-hour later, our lights were back on. We spent less than a day in darkness. Our epic power outage repeat fears were unfounded.

It's hard to be too gleeful when there are many people out there still without lights or heat; many who have experienced loss. But I think I can't turn my back on the message meant for me, this time around. Life is a glorious, heartbreaking, breathtaking, gut-wrenching adventure. What it's not is predictable, or somehow controlled through fears or expectations (fearing the worst doesn't somehow make you immune from the worst...but quite likely may make you miserable).

As I lay in bed last night, content that things were back the way they should be in our little neighborhood, I couldn't help but feel suddenly immensely grateful we had gone through our seven days in the dark last year. I had hated it, but now as I lay there under the blankets appreciating the warmth of shelter and light and prayed for the families to our south, I knew. I knew that I wouldn't have felt it, as I prayed, if I hadn't lived it, or lived something a little bit like it.

And so I thanked God for the light, and I thanked God for the darkness.

Then I slept.

That night the full moon came out and the clouds were racing over it like crazy. Part of our street had power, and the rest did not. Light, and dark.

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