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.