Fire, Ice and Sickness

Several weeks ago, my family and I were struck with calamities for which we were entirely unprepared. A dear daughter’s home started on fire and that same daughter had to have surgery during this time of desolation, worry, and chaos. To make everything worse, we were experiencing a severe winter with ice, snow, car wrecks, and everything else that plunges people’s lives into disarray when nature fails us. To say that our lives were turned into a muddle is, of course, an understatement.

Our family approached our calamities in our usual way: find a way to solve the problems and do it now! And many people helped us. Consolatory messages poured into my computer from everywhere, with requests to pass them along to my daughter. From a western state, my son immediately sent a marvelous device overnight to enable the burned-out family to have the Internet. From a northern state, my older daughter offered any kind of help we needed in soothing calls. Friends and acquaintances from the neighborhood and the children’s schools and groups appeared with hot food and promised all kinds of assistance, including transportation. And the neighbor on the next hill over, in a burst of generosity, offered his home for the family to occupy while he and his wife and dog were in Florida. Insurance companies are constantly reviled, but this time, the company acted immediately, breaking down what has to be done into categories and organizing a work schedule.

A wise friend of many years counseled, “It is time for everyone to bite down hard and endure.” And while I knew this, having bitten down in the past until my lip split and bled from stress about other calamities, I was confused this time. How to endure the ravages of fire when I’ve only experienced ice storms, tornadoes, the flooding of last May, and the illness and death of family members? It was hard to keep focused on tasks I had promised my publisher that were becoming more demanding; to find out what practical help I could give besides verbal encouragement; to be careful when the roads finally became passable; to get enough sleep through all of this so that I was able to, yes, endure and be of service too.

Today, my daughter has come through the surgery well. Everyone’s worst fears failed to materialize. Her beautiful log house on the hill is filled with the acrid smell of smoke which stings your eyes if you try to enter the house; dirt tracked in and out, the depressing sight of one window boarded up. The inviting hominess of fireplace, comfortable furniture, and good cooking smells are gone. The good news is no one lost their lives, including the dogs. And important things were saved in the chaos and frenetic activity as the fire burned, including the musical instruments family members play, precious documents, and favorite things everyone snatched and ran outside with. The neighbor’s home is large and comfortable. The two dogs are comfortable too. Luckily the family barn didn’t burn since it has its own electrical supply; the dogs have settled into a warm barn. And the reconstructive work is progressing. In April, the outside will be warm and beautiful, as in the picture above, and hopefully, the house will be habitable again.

Most important to this story, everyone is back to doing their everyday tasks, although in a different setting and a disrupted time pattern: school, Parkour lessons, instrumental instruction, providing for the family’s needs, doctor’s visits, coping with the constant questions workers have about the house and what they propose to do with it–all of these are filling each day. But we are all somewhat clumsily back on track. Including me.

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