The HMS I Panicked
Whoo-boy, I was in exceptional form last night. As far as I know I’m still married, meaning Mac is either a patient or paperwork-averse man. I’m not looking that gift horse in the mouth.
Last night I FINALLY fully understood a lesson my mom gave me when I was 8 or so, during one of the dozens of tornado warnings that come with being a kid in Nebraska. For real, we went through a phase where we kept a blender downstairs and everybody could have fresh, homemade Orange Julius while we waited to see if anything was serious. My grandparents had been caught in the Night of the Twisters (Grand Island, Nebraska, June 1980). We weren’t flippant, just not panicking every siren. We knew about warnings vs. warnings.
A bad storm came through last night. I was awake on Baby duty, it has been 12 days since he had a cold, so he’s been due for another since four days ago. It’s relevant to mention I was on some low-middling level pain meds, because I waaaay overdid it seeing family July 5th. The next two docs I’m seeing this month essentially do this when their office reports I’m on line one:
Last night, at 1:10 in the morning, I heard a horrifying sound: it was an extreme ripping against our back screen door, 12 feet from where I was sitting. We’ve had it fly open, patio furniture blow over, flowerpots break; this was none of these. It was a lot louder, and there was a break between sounds. The first part sounded like somebody trying to punch through the all-glass door, the second sounded like someone trying to rip the door wide open.
I didn’t stick around for the next sound. I ran into our bedroom, turning on the light and forcing Mac’s CPAP off of him. In a loud, clear voice (Mac is very hard of hearing without his aids and seeing your lips) I told him I thought someone was trying to get in. That I was sending him to investigate, and I was going to stand at the baby’s door. To his credit, Mac didn’t even question this. He marched out there like a gladiator in boxer briefs, turning on the floodlights and Being The Protector.
So, Mama Bear here is back in the hallway, standing in front of the baby’s room…doing what, exactly? Well, I had my phone, 3/4 of the way to calling 911. I am not ashamed to admit I have practiced what I’ll say in different scenarios in case I’m scared and the actor trick of calling “line!” isn’t gonna do much for me. But other than that…what the hell was my plan?
No idea. Lizard Brain was driving the train. The ONLY thing in reach would have been something out of the small hallway cabinet that Mac uses to store the few bottles of alcohol we own. So Braintrust over here thinks “I could hit the intruder with a bottle!” Yes, if this person has a knife or a gun, I’ll be locking the baby in and guarding his door by christening the criminal like a new ship.
For .23 of a second it occurred to me that ownership of a handgun would make me feel safer in that moment. In a more reflective moment later I rewound my scenario: a woman on medication, scared out of her wits, using her Lizard Brain to make decisions, shaking like a Jell-O shot in a paint mixer…with a gun. Forget about loading the damn thing, I probably would have bled out there on the floor trying to claw through the fucking safe to reach the gun. My cause of death would have been listed as ripping out of nails, teeth and fingers attempting to open a SAFE. Official verdict, death by irony.
In the end, it turned out the winds had rearranged our supremely heavy deck furniture for us, some things were blowing away, and something probably hit the glass door with great force. Mac, god love him, was back asleep by 1:30. My adrenaline and I were up well past 4:00. It’s 8:30 in the morning and I’ve still got a knot in my stomach. Hm. I should probably ask about bowel obstructions. But my point remains; I was scared as hell, and in that moment the thing that made the most sense in Primal Mommy Mode was to put myself between anything and my son.
So, what does this have to do with tornadoes? When we were very young, during a tornado warning we were in the downstairs bathroom, ready to go right under the stairs, a place I HATED because I once saw a mouse there. But, in my little kid mind, I could still see mice<tornadoes. I asked my mom what she’d do if we heard a twister coming, and she said that my sister Robin and I would crouch on the floor with our hands protecting the vulnerable back of our necks. Then, she would huddle over us wearing a blanket, protecting our bodies with her own. My seven-year-old mind exploded. Mom didn’t act like this was a big whoop. Just, yeah, I’ll cover you guys. With my own body.
I never forgot it because WHOA. That was a lot to take in. Seriously.
Well, it took me about 33 years, but I get it now. Thanks for your Lizard Brain, mom. The next time we have a tornado warning, do the Orange Julius thing. If I were you, I’d incorporate my new Lizard Brain tradition: pick up the big bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey. The bigger, the better.You never know when you might find it useful.