My Son: The Upside of “Superstorm Sandy” – By Robin Gorman Newman
We live on Long island in New York, and like many in this state and others, we lost power. We lost power for quite some time in fact. I wrote this article on day #10 with no power, heat, cooking ability, hot water, cable or Internet:
It’s been 10 days since Sandy: Select food is running low at some grocery stores and gas lines are outrageous. On top of all this, today we are having our first Nor’easter (a winter storm with rain, wind and sleet). The temperatures are in the low 30’s.
Nothing quite prepares you for all this.
We suffered some damage to our home but it’s quite minimal in the scheme of things. My family is unharmed. 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.
For the first three nights after 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 – one of the hardest hit areas around Manhattan. 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. Now we are with a mom friend and her 9-year-old boy, who is my son’s friend. They had lost power for a number of days and then regained it. Another family is staying here as well, so it’s a full house.
Early on, we took our pet cockatiel, Smokey, to the vet for boarding so he would be warm and safe. Living out of a suitcase isn’t something that fully suits me, although I’m getting 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 is all very unnerving and disorienting. Living in the gray from day to day… not having any concrete sense of when power will return and life might get back to normal. Having to cancel/reschedule appointments, figure out how to get my son to school, pack and unpack, clinging to the hope that our frigid pipes don’t burst…and so on… As hard as this experience is, 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 has been freaked out by this whole experience. He refuses to set foot in our house, which is like a cold, dark, unwelcoming cave. I don’t blame him. So, when we return home quickly to get things we need for our next stay, he 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 understood, what I saw is my son 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 has 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 Lego models for a friend; chopped up snow and ice; and played with babies and a dog. 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.
In fact, he’s becoming a mensch (decent, responsible person), capable of goodness in a world that desperately needs more of it. Not that it takes a major 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.
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.
Follow up: Seth returned to school on Day #10. The power finally returned on Day #12….so did the heat. The cable and Internet were back on Day #16 allowing me to catch up on my work. The gas lines are almost gone. My neighborhood still looks like a war zone with strewn tree branches piled up and tree stumps that need grinding. This storm is one for the record books – especially for those personally impacted. While I expect things in my world will soon be back to normal, for those more severely impacted, life will never be the same and my heart goes out to them all.
Robin Gorman Newman is Associate Producer, Motherhood Out Loud, a touring show, and Founder, MotherhoodLater.com a leading community/blog/eZine for 35+ mothers. She’s been seen on CNN, The Today Show, Good Day NY. Robin blogs for MotherhoodLater.com and The Huffington Post about parenting topics.