Having a lot of windows is one of the best things about living in an older house. The cross-ventilation makes air-conditioning unnecessary. (Okay, ask me about that in August, and I may say cross-ventilation is not enough.)
The downside to all the windows, of course, is that in the event of a tornado, a windowless room does not exist anywhere in my house. In fact, on the first floor, every room has at least two walls with windows. Perhaps because we have a basement, I never really thought much about that until today.
Ah, today. I had been hearing about a killer storm with hail and strong winds and wide-spread power outages headed our way. Tornados were likely, and with the images from Moore, Oklahoma still so fresh in my mind, I decided that if the National Weather Service advised people living in our area to take cover, our family would go into the basement.
Getting the kids into the basement would be easy. Our basement is the old-fashioned dug-out kind with a dirt floor and brick retaining walls. We use it for storage, and I don’t typically allow the kids to play down there among the tools, furnace, water-heater and snake skins. (Yeah, we find snakeskins all the time. We don’t have a mouse problem. ) To them, it is a magical, mystery land.
My mother-in-law was another story. Right before the warning was issued, she said she had to go to the bathroom. This is the first request she has made for anything in nearly a week. I was shocked that she could still verbalize a need since her vocabulary as of late has been limited to “Okay,” “No,” “Stupid!” and “Shut up!”
So, of course, I took her to the bathroom. No sooner did I have her seated on the toilet when my daughter came to me and said, “There is something wrong with the TV.” I left MIL comfortably seated and clutching the armrests of the potty-seat.
By wrong, my daughter meant that Sesame Street was no longer on. Instead, there was an emergency message stating that a tornado warning had been issued for our county. I sent the children into the basement and told them I would be down in a minute.
Then, I returned to the bathroom to explain to my MIL that she needed to get off the toilet so that we could go into the basement. “No! No! No!” she cried and I tried to lift her. She clutched the potty-seat armrests with her super granny-gripe. “No, mom. This is an emergency. A tornado is coming.” “NO! NO! NO!”
Fine, I thought. “Let me check the children.”
When I got to the basement, my daughter was crying. She told me she was scared. She asked where her grandmother was. When I told her she was still on the toilet, she cried more, “But Mom! A tornado might suck her and the toilet into the air with trees and cows and bicycles! And they will be spinning, spinning, spinning until the house lands on them!” Okay, just imagine that. It’s the scene from The Wizard of Oz and instead of a witch on a broom, you have an old lady on a commode whirling around in the cyclone.
I said, “Let me go get Grandma. I will be right back.”
In the bathroom, I found my mother-in-law right where I left her with a very determined look on her face. She’s been constipated for about the same length of time she has been semi-speechless. “Mom, are you done? We need to get into the basement now.” “No! No! Shut up! Stupid!”
Then, it occurred to me. Am I really going to risk my life for a miserable 89-year-old woman with dementia? This tornado could be the best possible ending for her, and yet, I felt a responsibility to save her. If nothing else, I was thinking “Who wants to be killed in a natural disaster while sitting on the toilet? I’m sure she wouldn’t want to go that way. And is it negligent of me to just leave her here?”
Is it negligent to have my children sitting in the basement without me?
So, I returned to the basement, and my daughter asked, “Where’s Grandma? You didn’t just leave her, did you?”
“No, “I lied. “I put her somewhere safe.”
“Like the closet?”
Oh, that’s a good idea! Don’t you hate it when your five-year-old is smarter than you? “Yes, she is in the closet.”
Maybe that’s what I will do. I’ll put her in the closet. No windows in there, and besides, how was I planning to get her into the basement? She weighs about 90lbs. and I’m puny. The only way into the basement is via rickety, uneven wooden stairs. Really? Was I counting on adrenaline to give me super-human strength and balance as I carry her down the stairs? Bad plan. Bad, bad plan.
“I have to go check on Grandma again.”
“But I’m scared.”
“Let’s pray.” And we did. My children and I held hands and prayed not only for our safety, but for the safety of family and friends. We asked that God grant us calm in the storm and that we would find strength and comfort in the outcome no matter what. (I also asked God to forgive my lying self, but I did that part quietly because my confessions are no one’s business—especially my children’s.)
Then, I went back upstairs and into the bathroom. “Mom, really. This is an emergency. There is a tornado and I want you to be safe so I have to get you off the toilet and into the closet.” Yeah, file that one under Things I Thought I Would Never Say. “No! No! Stupid! Shut up! Shut Up!”
I sighed, and instead of going directly to the basement, I went to my laptop and checked the weather report. The tornado warning had been cancelled. I called for my children to come upstairs. They did. I went to check on my mother-in-law yet again.
Half an hour later, she is still on the toilet. I’m still checking on her periodically. She is still yelling, “No! No! Shut up! Stupid!” whenever I enter the room.
I mixed some Miralax in juice and took it to her a few minutes ago because if I can help it, I will do all I can to avoid giving her an enema. She took a big gulp and then spit it at me intentionally.
From one storm to the next, may God grant me calm.