It was 8 AM on a Sunday morning, a reasonable time for any responsible adult hardwired to a working schedule to awake from their slumber. This time, the person was me, doing my best impression as a responsible adult, tasked with a maintenance job for the ages.
You see, the most devastating storm of all time was barreling up the east coast and headed almost directly at my house. I know there will be a lot of people out there who said that the later-downgraded Hurricane Irene had it out for them, but it clearly had me in its crosshairs. At first I didn't take it seriously; who would? Hurricane's don't hit New York City. Add it to the myriad reasons why it's the greatest and truly only place to live on this earth (just ask any New Yorker).
Then I got an email from my old roommate who works in emergency management with the American Red Cross. So someone who's clearly out of his depth whenever he talks about this sort of situation, especially after I took to facebook to talk shit about the incoming piddle of water. He then went out of his way to explain the gravity of the situation to me:
Yes, take it serious. Prepare for at least 1-3 days no electricity. Think about what that means in a city that eats out 7 nights a week. Prepare for significantly reduced public transit for up to ten days. Think about what that means in a city that relies upon the subway. Prepare for lots of stuff to get blown around. Think about how much shit is on the roofs of NYC buildings. An unsecured grill becomes a missile when it's moving at 74 mph.
My tune changes quickly and I'm headed back home to New Jersey. It is not always my favorite destination in the world. Sucked from the anonymity of giant New York, I'm thrust back into a small petrie dish of a town where everyone takes turns looking out their windows and calling their neighbors. It's the kind of place where "no WAY!" is uttered far more regularly than "I'm sorry." Any store is a game of minesweeper: either you get your shit and get out or you're locked into a five minute conversation with someone who probably is just as disinterested in talking to you. But we're *polite* here. We all suffer together.
This extends naturally into my house. She used to say that her greatest job was "being a mommy." It's something she was good at. It's something that she's great at upholding.
It started when I was a child, running into her room at three and waking her up from her nap because I couldn't bare to stand another minute without her. It moved into my sheer dependence on her to get me anywhere, be it the doctor or tennis practice. Without her, I was nothing. By middle school, her presence became grating (as contractually obligated upon leaving the womb) but was still the point woman throughout my life. She picked me up from school, she dropped me off at the mall, she gave me money to do, well, everything. Her influence was total in my life and she was well aware of it. By the time high school and college came around, her position as care giver had moved from care taker and finally into advice giver, a position where it will stay for the rest of our relationship (or until I get hit by a falling piano).
She chose a job that, if not for the eternal link through birth, would probably have a high turnover rate. Think about the amount of change that comes from her refrain of "gimme a kiss!" It began as a show of pride and affection, gaining in some way acceptance by being close to my mommy. By middle school, it was a fleeting attempt to keep things the same when they're bound to change, like the partner about to get dumped who decides "if I cling to them like they're a flotation device, THEN they will realize how badly I'm needed!" without taking notice that they're both standing in a kiddie pool. By the time your mid-20s roll around, it sounds like an instruction, a rote physical motion that you do because it's expected of you. You do it because you don't want to fight about it. You do it because it's easier than yelling, "THIS IS NOT THE BASIS OF THE RELATIONSHIP I WOULD LIKE TO CONTINUE TO HAVE WITH YOU FOR ITS DURATION."
People don't like change. I could tell you from experience. I don't like waking up on three hours sleep on a Sunday morning, severely cutting down from the ten self-indulgent hours I get every weekend. I don't like making my basement into a series of stilted homes, each object rising just above a predetermined "meh" height you can stare at for a second, head cocked, trying to estimate just how much water you think could possibly exist in this space, then dial it back a bit because you don't want to seem foolish. I don't like walking to the bathroom and feeling the dampness in my feet change from "none" to "a shitload." And I most certainly don't like skipping breakfast to wheel a shop-vac around four different disparate spots in my basement to stave off everything getting flooded.
In that moment, however, comes opportunity. Not just for buying new rugs. With my father out of the house (suffering recently from an acute case of divorce) this becomes my battle to wage, my operation to run. The entire basement and all its contents are hanging in the balance. More importantly, it's now my mom's basement, in my mom's house. Here she is, helpless to lift the contents of the shop-vac into the shower stall to get re-filled yet again, grimacing in pain because her sciatica is acting up, clueless as to how one takes a part that mythical beast called a "com-pu-ter" as I bark at her, claiming, "it's too close to the ground (6"), it has to go NOW!"
But this doesn't last long, thankfully. For the great denominator in this is respect. After a few very obvert looks, I realize that I'm overstepping my bounds. I'm telling her to "give me a kiss" a few too many times. Soon we are able to get a routine own: she sits and vacuums the burgeoning puddles while I wheel back and forth dumping out the water.
As our tides shift, I harken back to when the water became overwhelming. Trying to keep mom out of the picture (for both our sakes), I work overtime to plug the holes, all of these new pieces that are slowly leaking in to the area. After a few minutes of being perturbed, I realize that there is no possible way that this can be stopped. The only recourse is to just try to keep it contained, not make it any worse. And for a second, I panic, not knowing how it's all going to go. But deep down, I know it will be alright.
You just need time.