Published in the Rains County Leader on January 17, 2017:
Sunday night, after the Dallas Cowboys closed out their 2016 season with a heart-stopping loss to the Green Bay Packers, David switched over to NBC so we could watch the Steelers and the Chiefs fight it out for the privilege of playing the Patriots next week. Along with the football game, we also watched weather reports – a lot of them!
A line of severe thunderstorms, along with threats of some tornadic activity, was moving through the DFW area from west to east which put Emory in its path. I watched with some mild interest, experience having taught me that most of these storms lose strength before they reach us or veer to the north or south, leaving us with little more than some distant thunder and lightning and a little bit of rain.
Even if the severe weather reached us, I’m not sure what we would do about it. The weather gurus advise those in the path of the storm to take cover in an interior room with no windows. We live in a house with windows – lots of them – on all sides and in all rooms, and all rooms have at least one exterior wall. We do have one interior closet, but it is small enough that, even if it wasn’t filled with extra coats, wrapping paper, and boxes of things we can’t bring ourselves to throw away even though we don’t know what is in them, I’m not sure both of us would fit in it at the same time. So we take our chances, and so far, we haven’t needed to decide who goes in and who stays out.
All the weather talk reminded me of an incident that is only a ghost of a memory now, 60+ years after it happened. Emory is not the first small country town I’ve lived in. I was born in Merkel, Texas, one of those small settlements Dad used to call a wet spot in the road. It was so small that the only clinic was on the second floor above the local hardware store. That’s where I was born, and Dad always told me he bought me at the hardware store. We moved from there to Snyder when I was three, so my memories are vague and probably shaped by stories I was told later as much as what I actually remember.
I know we didn’t have a TV then, because I didn’t see my first one until I was six, and I’m not sure if we had a phone. I’m pretty sure we had a radio, but I don’t know what kind of weather reporting was available then. I do remember Dad spending a lot of time on dark, cloudy days, standing outside, looking at the sky. I also remember the cellar.
We lived in a rented house, either next door to or behind our landlady’s house. My impression is that the cellar was separate from both houses, somewhere in her backyard. I remember being lifted out of my bed one night and leaning my head against Dad’s shoulder. We went out into the darkness and down a few steps into a small room lit by a kerosene lamp. There was an old army-style cot and jars lined up on shelves on the walls. That’s all I remember. I was probably put down on the cot where I promptly fell back to sleep, secure in the fact that Dad was watching over me.
I never asked what happened that night. I don’t remember any traumatic damage or any family stories about the big storm of 1950. Probably, like Sunday’s storm, the clouds dropped their rain before they arrived at our house, and nobody really needed to go into the closet after all.
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos