We live on Long island in New York, and like many in this state and others, we've lost power. Today is day #10, and we remain without electricity, heat, stove usage, hot water, cable or Internet service. Select food is running low at some grocery stores, and gas lines are outrageous. On top of all this, today we are having a Nor'easter with rain, wind and sleet, and temperatures are in the 30s.
Nothing quite prepares you for all this. We suffered some damage to our home, but it's quite minimal in the scheme of things. For that, I am hugely grateful. There are way worse situations than ours -- totally heartbreaking stories of the loss of people and property. How do you bounce back from that?! I like to believe that people are resilient, but it's a huge load to bear.
I often joked (a sad joke) in the past that when someone sneezes in our town, we lose power. It has become an annual event, if not more frequent. I told my husband that this is now a huge quality of life issue that warrants the exploration of investing in a generator that would hopefully improve things in the future.
Until then, for the first three nights after Storm Sandy, we stayed with one empty nester friend and her husband. We left when her son and his family arrived with their 18-month-old child from Hoboken, New Jersey. Severe flooding coupled with downed power lines contained them in their home for days, and just when the power resumed, they were forced to evacuate due to mold.
Then, we stayed with a mom friend and her husband who have a 7-month-old baby for one night. Fortunately, they lost power for only two days, which for them, was bad enough.
Since then, we've been with a mom friend and her 9-year-old boy, who is my son's friend. They lost power for a number of days and then regained it. Another family is staying here as well, so it is a full house.
Early on, we took our pet cockatiel Smokey to the vet for boarding so he would be warm and safe. I'm glad to not to have to worry about his welfare.
Living out of a suitcase isn't something that fully suits me, though I'm growing more and more used to it. The harder part is playing musical beds. I have a bad back, and sleep best on certain types of mattresses, and being on a foreign bed takes adjustment. But, at least we have beds, and warmth, and nourishment, and the welcome arms of friends.
Psychologically, it's all been unnerving. Living in the gray from day to day... not having any concrete sense of when power, etc. might return. Having to cancel/reschedule appointments, figure out how to get my son to school (it reopened today), pack and unpack, hoping our frigid pipes don't burst... the list goes on.
As hard as it's been, what will remain with me even longer than the memory of all of these hardships is the behavior of my son. Having the care and responsibility of him is not something I take lightly, and he's been freaked out from this whole experience. He refuses to set foot in the house, which is like a cold, dark, unwelcoming cave... I don't blame him. So, when we've returned home quickly to get things we need for our next stay, he's remained perched on our front door stoop, flashlight in hand, ushering us out of the house as quickly as possible.
Other than his discomfort, which I fully understand, he is maturing before my eyes, and I couldn't be prouder.
He is coming into his own, and with every household stay we've had, he's endeared himself to our hosts.
He's not only peacefully and happily entertained himself on his laptop, but has taken initiative to be helpful.
He's taught our hosts things on their computers; assisted in replacing a tile kitchen floor; put together an impressive Legos toy for a friend; played with babies, etc., etc. He's been supportive, caring and there to help and comfort, and I'm little by little seeing the person he is to become. I like what I see. He's becoming a mensch (decent, responsible person), capable of doing good in the world... and much good is needed just to survive in this world.
Not that it takes a Storm like Sandy to bring out his best, since he has always been a kid who takes pride in being there for others, and he is seeing the best in people like those who have taken us (and others) under their roofs, whether convenient or not for them. We, of course, would do the same, if the tables were turned. It was nice not to have to ask. We were just invited with unconditional love and concern. There are many similar stories to ours, and people all over the impacted areas and beyond are pitching in to the best of their abilities, including donating to the Red Cross.
I have no clue when our power will resume, so I'm learning to take things day by day. It's a true life lesson in so many ways, and one that will go down in the record books for all of us --especially those personally impacted.
For my son, all the textbooks and schooling in the world couldn't teach him the strength, patience and empathy he's learned through this experience. These lessons will serve him well as he one day takes on adulthood.