Even a superstorm and its lingering aftermath cannot crush one thing that is so much a part of my family.
When stress barrels in from the horizon, I’ve noticed different families have their own coping styles. Some clans argue, some mope, many pray, some bravely soldier on. Others overeat, overwork or crack open too many beers.
My dearies might dabble in some of the above, but one behavior is guaranteed. During any disaster, the humor will rain down. We self-medicate with quips, one-liners and inside jokes.
Exhibit A: Eight years ago, when my father spent two harrowing months in the hospital after falling from a ladder, the entire extended family referred to him as The Flying Frenchman. An endless string of jokes, most from the patient himself, helped get us through.
I expected nothing less from the hurricane. Though I can’t be more inland than Kansas, my family was near the bull’s-eye. One brother lives just blocks from the water on Long Island. The other brother lives in New York City, near the river. My parents and other relatives are scattered around the New York metro area.
Sandy left behind unforgettable heartache. Yet somehow, my loved ones were lucky. Despite the perilous geography, there were no physical injuries and no significant property damage. Knock wood. The flooding missed each brother’s address by a mere block. My mom and dad dwell far enough away from sea surges.
However, my parents were the longest without power — six shivering days. They became stubborn about staying put. They listened to their battery-powered radio as they fed the fireplace. News reports chattered about looting incidents, so they decided to dig in, along with their neighbors. Although my city brother had to evacuate during the storm, he never lost power. He could not convince my folks to stay at his place the following days.
Along with worry and plunging outdoor temperatures, family goofing via phone calls partnered with the nail-biting. Our parents were Amish! They would soon be churning butter! My dad still had endives in the garden. My mom said they “were living off the fat of the land.” At least she told me that before their skinny landline died on Day 3. Their cell phone still had “bars,” so we resorted to quick updates on the endive and wood supply.
To give you a flavor of the whole event, here are some before/during/after storm tweets I posted in response to family reports:
28 Oct: My NYC brother has been evacuated. Now teasing him about how it finally feels to be in the “A” zone.
28 Oct: City brother ordering room service at Manhattan hotel. Burb brother hunting for generator on LI. The hipster wins.
28 Oct: Storm update: LI brother still awaiting generator in parking lot. City brother checking hotel mini-bar. LI parents eyeing bottle of Vouvray.
28 Oct: Most folks in NY have stocked up on standard bottled water. Apparently my French dad went for the Perrier. #HavingChildhoodFlashbacks.
29 Oct: Me: Is that all you have, Perrier??? Get your empty recycle bottles. Fill ’em with tap water NOW. Mom: Oh! You’re like our personal FEMA!
29 Oct: My brother is hanging around 57th Street. I’m text-yelling at him from Kansas: Don’t walk under that $%&* crane! (Note: He replied with a cell phone picture of the dangling crane.)
2 Nov: “It’s the Twilight Zone.” My mom re: Long Island
2 Nov: So strange. My endive-eating, Perrier-drinking French immigrant father was praising a Burger King Whopper.
3 Nov: My mother, still without power, has been reduced to wearing an Elmer Fudd hat indoors.
3 Nov: My parents’ neighbor, “The F-Bomber,” threw them an extension cord from his generator. The F-Bomber is officially our family hero.
5 Nov: Parents have power! Firewood, extension cord from F-Bomber’s generator, Dad’s Frenchness and Mom’s Fuggedabouditness got ’em through!
Storm lessons learned? 1. Always support the American Red Cross. 2. Keep your sense of humor handy. 3. An Elmer Fudd hat never hurts, either.
Denise Snodell, a 913 freelance columnist, writes every other week.