E.T. Phone Home

I have PTSD. This sounds self aggrandizing and presumptuous since I’ve never been in a war. But lately, the crazy weather we’ve had has been getting me down. And Friday night, a week ago, was the worst.

I was sleeping soundly when the loudest thump I’ve ever heard woke me from a dead sleep. It was storming, and the lightning was like nothing I’d ever experienced. The sky was lit up and crackling like a scene from the movie, War of the Worlds. I scrambled out of bed and gazed at the window in awe filled dread, certain that the large maple tree behind my bedroom was falling onto the house. Yet when I threw open the curtains, there it was. Still standing.

I turned on a light, but the power died promptly, so I grabbed a flashlight from my nightstand. Rushing to the living room, the strange thumping sound morphed into something more sinister: like a madman breaking through the back door with a big axe. With the rain slamming against our house like a separate malevolent force, I scurried over to the garden doors leading to our deck. And I couldn’t believe my eyes.

My husband, who passed away in March, had built a canvas topped pergola on top of our raised deck, three years before. It was homely on the outside, but the inside was cozy and completely sheltered from the sun. During mild rainstorms, I could sit outside under the canopy. It was this beloved edifice that was making the noise.

To my horror, the whole thing was jumping up and down, like a ten foot high, ten foot wide and fifteen foot long monster having a temper tantrum. Amidst the terrible noise, sheets of lightning lit the sight of tall 4 x 4 beams leaping high enough to drop over the other side of the deck railing, and 2 x 6 roof slats ripping away from the beams to dance above the two glass tables on the deck. In the meantime, one of my eight foot high metal plant holders left its spot and sailed through the air, scratching the house siding an inch below my bathroom window and landing with a crash in the yard seven feet below the deck.

I backed away from the doors as the breaking pergola continued its insane dance, certain that the whole mess would bust into the house at any moment. As I lowered myself onto the sofa in the middle of the living room and listened to the craziness of the storm and the maniacal behavior of our formerly well adjusted pergola, a feeling of betrayal crept over me.

I sat on the sofa with my small flashlight that barely lit up the wall across from me and said aloud to my dead husband, “How could you leave me to face this by myself?” I really meant it. The fact that he couldn’t help it didn’t factor in. In that moment, I felt as if he’d abandoned me on purpose. Every marriage has a contract, and his part was to make me feel like everything would always be okay. And just when I needed him most, he wasn’t there.

“Where are you?” I asked aloud in a whiny voice, feeling about five years old. It was a futile question, because he didn’t answer. But strangely, I began to feel the presence of my parents who had passed away some years before, and a few others, too. I immediately calmed down and began to pray, because that is what I usually do after having my own version of a temper tantrum. I prayed for peace, and for everyone in my community to be okay. While I prayed, the canopy on the deck continued doing the Armageddon Rumba. My heart was still thumping in time to the beat, but somehow I knew I was going to be all right.

I never went back to bed. Around five in the morning, when the storm was over, I started crawling around under the mess, picking up broken plant pots and busted pieces of wood. I cleaned up the yard below where debris had fallen, and a little after eight, went over to my good friend Rick Hall’s place, to ask for help. Within fifteen minutes, he was at my back deck undoing all the screws and dismantling the whole thing. He offered to try and repair it, but I knew I’d never feel safe again under that green canopy.

I’ve learned a few things about myself from this whole experience. First, I’m pretty sure I still have some anger issues over losing Clarence. Second, I’ve turned into a bit of a nut job. However, as Oprah says, when you know better, you do better. Since I’ve already admitted my kookiness to the world, I’m going to go one step further and confess that I really am waiting for my husband to get in touch. A celestial phone call will do nicely. Or some other kind of sign. I’m certain there’ll be something. Friends in similar situations have assured me of it.

For now, I will get on with things. I’ll woman up, I’ll lean on my family and, as I learned on that terrible Friday night and other times since Clarence died, I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.


Published by Judith Pettersen

Judith Pettersen is an author living in Canada. She blogs about her life in the north and the ups and downs of being a writer.

7 thoughts on “E.T. Phone Home

  1. You felt the presence of your parents? I envy you. I felt my mother’s hand on the back of my neck once, warm and affectionate, and twice the volume of TV and stereo shot up crazy high for no reason. I wish for signs like this more often. Sigh.
    Anger seems a pretty natural response to the loss of a loved one. I was pissed off at “the way things are.” Didn’t matter that death is natural and has to happen sometime, it being just a matter of when and how. I felt betrayed anyway.
    That same Friday night was wild here too. I had opened all the windows at 11 pm when the temperature outside was the same as inside. I assumed the house would cool down overnight as the temperature outdoors lowered overnight. NOT. At 1:30 I was awakened by a loud bang and my own shout as a powerful south wind slammed the office door shut. The temperature outside had shot up four degrees since 11. Weird.


  2. Nice to hear from you. I’m glad I’m not the only one that found the weather startling. And isn’t grief the strangest thing…no straight line, that’s for sure. I never know how I’m going to feel in the next five minutes.


    1. We were at the cabin when that storm hit. I woke up to what I thought was someone knocking at the door. Then for the most amazing light show I have ever seen in my life! Earlier I had seen this big light in the sky that I thought might be a searchlight of some kind. I thought with all the wind and lights there might be an alien spacecraft landing and the end was near. You are not the only crazy one!


      1. Hi Judy, We’ve met through my sister Janice Pawlachuk, but when and where escapes me. I blame everything on bad memory now that I’m 70 years old !
        I can’t help but cry when I read (and re-read) your post. Even now tears fill my eyes so I’ll blame my typos on that too. My husband also died in March, but way back in 1985. How can the years fly by so quickly when grief lingers so slowly ? When you speak of the feeling of betrayal in the storm, it brought back the memory of me vacuuming the much-worn, stained carpet (thanks to 4 children under the age of 9) in our little Winnipeg bungalow and the brush rolled over my bare foot. I screamed at the happy smiling family portrait on the wall and demanded, in the fiercest language, how he could just go ahead and DIE and leave me here alone to raise our children and now I had to take care of EVERYTHING !! I cringe at the memory of my hysteria and the horrified faces of my little children as I railed against his LEAVING ME ALONE!! In my twisted moment, I truly felt abandoned as though his untimely heart-attack death at the age of 35 was something he could have chosen not to do if he wanted to. Back then there were few support groups and going out cost money for a babysitter so I dealt with it and persevered. Thank you for validating my anger at the time (and several episodes since) with your experience. Funny (not) how guilt rides on our shoulders until we realize others have had similar experiences and it really is okay to feel abandoned, alone and angry.
        Your writings are therapy, for yourself but also for others, and I value reading them all. Thank you for sharing.
        Sincerely, Pat Gilbert


      2. Thank you so much, Pat. It’s a relief to know that I’m not the only one who was angry with her dead husband. It’s such a weird thing, this grief journey. Please tell me it gets easier.


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