Friday, August 15, 2008


Last night when I walked into the kitchen and flipped on the light something flew past my face. Using my diligently honed command of nuanced vocabulary to express myself, I screamed.

We had a bat in the house.

It had startled me, but even as the bat skimmed the ceiling above me I quickly calmed down and went to work assembling bat-catching items: a strainer with a handle and a cookie sheet.

"Looks like you've done this before," Dave noted. I have—bats have played a recurring role in my 26 years living in the country. We also had several in the camp while growing up. My father would catch them with the antique corn popper, a screen contraption with a sliding lid meant for use in the fireplace (I never saw it used that way, though—in my mind we kept it to catch bats). My grandmother would do her part by shouting for my sisters and me to bend down and cover our heads, since the bats would surely get their toes caught in our hair and then deliver so many bites we'd be dead before we could untangle them. 

While I have grown to feel competent in my own bat-catching ways, that lovely image never really left my mind. Thus, the scream. I did my share of ducking last night before nabbing our furry visitor. While he took a breather on our living room curtains I covered him with the strainer and had Dave slip the cookie sheet beneath. Effectively trapped, he was soon back outside where he no doubt longed to be.

I'm not necessarily a screamer, but that was the second time this week that I was shocked to the point of shrieking. On the earlier occasion I'd been working on my computer when my son told me it had suddenly started raining. We heard a rumble so I took an "Accu-look" out the window—a dark cloud hovered above but I could see blue sky on the horizon in each direction. Although this didn't look too threatening I decided to disconnect my computers just in case. 

I was leaning over my computer shutting it down when I heard what sounded like a rifle shot beside my left ear—a direct lightning hit through the DSL line. I screamed. As soon as I realized I was fine I called up to my son to tell him what had happened—he had felt the concussion through the floor. In that one explosive surge we permanently lost two phones, a modem, a router, the USB connection to my printer, the internal modem on my husband's computer upstairs, and the old computer on which I had just completed a large page layout job. Of more importance to me was what I had lost temporarily: the sense of safety that has grown as each of the ten years passed since my first husband Ron shot and killed himself. The sound of the lightning—that I had immediately thought of as a gunshot—brought it all back into the moment. 

I felt fragile for a couple of days. I wanted to talk to everyone I knew, hold Dave's hand, stay close. The next day was Saturday, so when he drove to town on his errands I tagged along. We took a walk in the warm sunshine, visited the new farmer's market to pick up some fresh tomatoes, and listened to the singer/songwriter performing there. We stopped by the new coffeehouse and had lunch at one of the outdoor tables on their covered porch. Later that night we thoroughly enjoyed seeing the new Batman movie (have you ever noticed that the universe can have a perverse sense of humor?).

I didn't bother grieving for the work I'd lost; with the heavy use of help menus I rebuilt the Quark document from the ground up on my husband's PC in Microsoft Publisher. Within a few days I re-established Internet connections, replaced the phones, and circumvented the connectivity issues with Dave's computer and my printer. My work is now caught up and I am ready to leave for a week at the lake tomorrow as planned. 

But as surely as bats are still nesting in the chimney high above the walk-in fireplace I can see just ten feet beyond my computer monitor, I am more aware than ever that the trauma I sustained at the time of Ron's death still has life within me.

I thought Dave was pretty brave to marry me three years after Ron's death—I mean, a first husband committing suicide after fifteen years of marriage isn't the best advertisement for a woman' s enduring charms. When I asked him what he thought about that, he said, "I think Ron's death is something you're going to carry around with you for the rest of your life."

That Dave. A pretty smart guy.