Tuesday, September 24, 2013


After dinner I called Burt.  He could hear the exhaustion and anxiety in my voice.  We agreed the best thing for me to do was to kick back.  I even considered a Jacuzzi soaker but I was so tired I thought I might melt into the water.

Nothing interesting was on t.v.  I turned on my Ipod.  I had progressed past the rudimentary cell phone and computer.  Cate and Finn had spent a part of their Christmas visit helping me learn this new fangled device. My son-in-law was much more patient with my learning curve than my daughter.  I love my Ipod in the loud environment of the gym and an airplane.  Getting ready to go on this trip, I decided to purchase an Ipod radio.  I don't like to get very far away from my music, especially my Music Man, Dan Fogelberg.  Every night that I had been away, I had covered over any bumps in the night by falling asleep listening to his music.

Hot tea sounded good to me.  Walking back to the sofa, I spied the guest book.  One of the fun parts about staying at a B&B is reading what other guests have written and thinking about how you will sign out.  The book had caught my eye earlier, but I decided to read it later, at my convenience.

Now it was convenient.  Curling up on the sofa with my travel blanket, I put my mug down on the antique chest.  It was great because you didn't have to worry about making a ring.  The music was playing softly.  Finally, after such a crazy day, I felt myself relaxing.  After reading a little bit, I would turn in early.  Tomorrow I would have to pack up before 10 a.m. but then I could relax and enjoy the weekend in the new place.

I took a sip of tea, putting it back down on the box.  The coffee table chest had become my writing spot because of its size and height. It was perfect for the sofa and almost as long.  My laptop and paperwork were stacked about and a couple of new magazines.  I had a cozy little nest even with all the lights on.

The B&B property was close to town and just as old.  The leaves had barely begun to pass their budding out and in the distance, a massive sculpture of Jesus stood on a ridge.  I did not make a pilgrimage and I didn't need a sculpture to buoy my faith, but it was nice to look out and see Jesus standing on the hill, day and night.

Settled in, reading everyone's comments, I grew calmer by the minute.  And then the review, a couple of pages into the book.  "We loved the casket!  That is so cool to have an old casket in the living room as furniture."  Yes, I had to reread what had been written.  And then came the major realization that I had been enjoying the same antique box all week and it was a casket.  Oh, Lord.  And thank you Jesus, for standing on that hill two ridges away, even in the dark.

By this time, I was not still sitting on the sofa.  I was jumping all over the room, calling Burt on the phone who was trying to make sense of all the shouting.  Finally, I was able to relay what was occurring, the current tense of the extremely tense situation of dealing with an antique casket just feet from your bed.  Even thinking about it now makes me throw up my hands.

One person remained calm.  More reading in the diary revealed more references about the old box.  Burt kept saying, "But it's never been used."  Whoa.  Well, duh.  But then he wanted me to lift the top off and look inside for the extra pillows and blankets which had been mentioned.  Maybe if he had been there and I was in the bathroom with all the water running, singing Amazing Grace as loud as I can and holding two Holy Bibles, maybe then the lid could be lifted, to look for the pillows and blankets I thankfully, had never needed.

We would hang up and then I would call him again.  Here was a big old wooden casket in the middle of the room and I was never forewarned there would a coffin in the middle of the room, a lovely bed and breakfast room.  Oh my gosh.  Mr. Logical, who is hours away, said calmly, "Amy, it's been there all along and it hasn't bothered you."  But I didn't know what I didn't know, but now I did.

Of course, I slept with a light on, only sleeping when I fell over onto my pillow.  The sun woke me up, three hours later.  I got around, packed and made coffee.  Three hours is absolutely the bare minimum necessary for me to be able to open my eyes, form words and fall out of bed with hot or cold caffeine waiting on my nightstand. My sleep is precious and well-guarded.  It helps my life run smoothly.  I woke up wild and wired.

Later in the morning, I moved to the new house, a neat old place with plenty of personality.  My favorite room was the old dining room with a baby grand piano.  I was kicking myself for not bringing my sheet music because I did know about the piano.  But I didn't know I would have the house to myself.

House to myself.  Not one of my favorite things, by myself, at night.  In a large house.  The front door would remain locked and my bedroom door had a keyed deadbolt.  But the other rooms upstairs were not yet reserved for the weekend and I was asked to keep the two back doors unlocked for easy access.  Never willingly or knowingly have I lived or slept in an unlocked house.  Growing up in a big city, we locked our doors, coming and going. 

I took a tour of the house to become familiar with my surroundings. Unfortunately, I found the basement door in the hallway near my room, which I thought was a closet.  Others might have ventured down the stairs but I didn't want to know how many vampires slept down there.  I actually scooted a nearby chest against the door.  No one was coming up that way.   

I tried to play the piano.  All I wanted to do was sit in the pretty room and play my D.F. music which I had been playing all my life, but never memorized.  I knew that would make me feel better.  Frustrated at my lackluster ability to remember the notes, I abandoned the idea.

I tried to write but I couldn't concentrate.  Then the weather calls started coming in.  I was wired, wild and now I was worried.  I wanted Burt to leave early and come up this weekend.  He was in an all day meeting and couldn't leave until after 5 p.m. and what about the dog?  I called the manager, asking if dogs were allowed because my dog is wonderful and would be an excellent house guest.  No dogs. Of course, dogs would probably scare whatever was in the basement.  And there was an odd odor in the potting shed.  Nothing got better as the day wore on, not my mental state, not the weather, not the color of the sky, not the possibility of a rescue.  I was in such tunnel vision that I didn't consider family that lived a couple of hours away.  I wanted to go home so badly but I also wanted to stay and finish my trip.   

After hours of back and forth phone calls, about the weather and questions about if I was going to leave or if Burt was coming up, I realized my stomach was caving in from only drinking coffee and water all day.  Everything was still up in the air.  And the air was turning green to the far west as I made a run to a gift shop on my way to an early dinner.  I had a hamburger, guacamole and a frozen margarita.  And the combination did calm me down a notch or two.  But I still had no answers and the weather was marching in.

This system had produced tornadoes in the next state nearby.  Tornadoes are a huge fear of mine but I've never been in one. In six weeks, I would be involved helping family clean up after the Joplin tornado.  After seeing that horrific devastation, my fear would be compounded.  But for now, I felt absolutely frozen in not knowing what I should do.  Burt decided to stay put.   I told him I couldn't decide which way to go but I would call him back.  The clock was ticking.

Fifteen minutes later, my phone rang.  "Amy, did you decide?"

I was pumping gas into my car for the trip home.  The car was full to the brim with everything I had gathered up and tossed into the car, about four trips back and forth into the house.  He was shocked, not believing I could move so fast.  But as anyone who knows me will say, when I make up my mind to do something, look out.  At the station, people said there had been a tornado two counties over.  The sky was darkening and turning green black, always my favorite sky color.  I told him I would call him when I got settled, wherever that would be.

My best plan of action was to head east and hopefully stay ahead of the storm.  At the next town, I would have to decide whether to stop or keep going ahead of the storm, until I got to the next big town over an hour away.  If I kept going, I would be driving through a national forest area, sparsely populated with few places to stop even on a good day.

As I drove the highway I had come across on Monday, the storm was behind me but coming around the sides.  It was as if the night darkened at the same rate that the storm darkened.  With new prosperity in the area, I hoped to find a new motel.  At the farthest edge of town and no new motel in sight, I pulled into a station and went in and asked the clerk.  She told me to turn around and head to the only decent place in town.

I pulled up to the office.  Another first.  I had never gone into a motel and gotten my own room.  I stuffed some twenties into my pocket.  For the last thirty minutes, I had been talking to the storm, looking over my shoulder as I drove, praying out loud.  Now I was facing the coursing clouds, feeling the wind as it pushed into the vicinity and seeing the lightening.  My heart was racing.  I wanted shelter.

Just as I walked in, the wind slammed the door shut and lightening flashed.  The little lobby had a television with a weather alert on the screen.  Windblown and wild-eyed, no doubt I probably looked crazy when I came in talking about the weather.  Seriously, at this point, it all became like a dream sequence to me.  I asked the price.  The manager couldn't have been nicer.  I pulled out my money and took a pen to sign in.  I looked down and saw my hands but couldn't believe those were my hands shaking and wondered if anyone had noticed.  He said he'd put me downstairs in a central room where I would feel safer.  Maybe.  Why don't we name tornadoes or rate them ahead of time?  With hurricanes, there are warnings, and initially days to prepare.  Tornadoes are just there, bam.  Although, the digital radars have helped pinpoint storms, no one has found the ability to predict when they will fall out of the sky.

The rain was beginning to come down.  I opened the back of the car and with all of my adrenalin, grabbed in order of importance, my purse, my unopened can of Coke, my medicine, my computer, my umbrella and my coat.  I practically ran to my room and all the protection a cinder block building can afford.  It was old but it was clean and dry.

The tornado sirens started sounding about thirty minutes later.  I had already talked to Burt and left a message for the B&B.  I called Burt again while he was looking on the radar to check out the storm.  In a waking dream, you lose track of time.  My lack of sleep was serious.  The tornado  warning passed.  I took my medicine with my last sip of Coke, laid my jeans and top out on the other bed and crawled into the cool sheets wearing my underwear and my tennis shoes.  Relief for the first in over twenty-four hours.  And no big old boxes anywhere.

The sirens went off again just as I was dozing.  I got up and put on my rain coat for a house coat and crawled back in bed.  Middle of the night thinking - with my shoes on I could jump up and run into the bathtub and when I was found, at least I would be wearing my raincoat.  Even later into the early morning, I woke up to the sirens, again.  I decided the storm could have me, there was no more fight left.  I had been in flight mode for over twenty-four hours.

The April morning was like gray November.  After eight hours of sleep, the dream was over and life felt more normal again.  On my way out of town, I grabbed breakfast and sat in my car thinking about everything.  My first thought was that my only success was in my failure.  But then I thought about the craziness of being IN three storms, progressively worse each time.  In my favorite town, the people I had visited with, especially running into the bride and groom later that afternoon, taking pictures for them with their camera, and the light in their eyes and the party he was giving his bride and their friends in a month, on an island in a nearby lake.  I remembered what it felt like to be married for one day and walking the sidewalks, buying peppermint fudge.  What it felt like to be on my own and be productive and actually spend six nights all by myself, a first in my lifetime.  And one of those knowing a casket was just feet from the foot of my bed. 

And the hilarity of how I had packed up the car - my purse, my phone, two suitcases, a floor lamp, a computer, a printer, pillows, hanging clothes, a large tote of books and office supplies, a sack of groceries and a coat and umbrella and an unopened can of Coke.  I even remembered to scoot the chest away from the basement door.  And how I drove to the gas station and was pumping gas, all in less than fifteen minutes, all fueled by fear.  I had survived, everything, all by myself, with a little help from the angel in my pocket. 


a photographer who forgot to ask the bride to show her red tennis shoes!

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