Thursday, September 22, 2011

The edges of the storm

Up in Northern New York State, where my mother and I were staying at the family summer home, we didn't expect much damage from Hurricane Irene. We were located at the storm's feathery edges, meteorologists said—although to my untrained eye it doesn't look like that in this satellite image. All day the wind pushed whitecaps towards us down the lake and blew a onslaught of water at us, making it difficult to see out through the rain-spotted window screens.

I called Dave back in PA and asked him how bad the flooding was near our home. As we spoke I went from window to window, trying to see if we had any tree damage to report. On the short hill between our camp and the lake, I noticed something skewered into the lawn. It was small, but sticking up straight. Curious. Like an on-the-spot reporter I carried my cell out into the storm so I could tell Dave what it was. I didn't bother with a coat—I'd only be out there a sec—but three strides later I was skidding on the water-sodden hill as fast as if it were wet ice.

It all happened so fast. Between heartbeats. I rolled over the inside of my left foot as I fell and heard a loud snap then more crunching sounds. Even before I saw my foot stuck in a goddawful, unnatural position I knew what had happened.

The cell call was still open, but the phone had slid several feet down the hill.

Powerless to help from Pennsylvania, my husband stayed on the line and heard me screaming, "Oh god I've broken my ankle! Mom! Mom, you've got to hear me! Mo-o-om!"

Inside, my mother did not hear this. She was enjoying the thrumming of the steady rainfall on our tin roof, a sound my whole family finds comforting, blissfully shielded from any intrusive noise by the double-paned windows we installed when we renovated the formerly screened-in porch.

I screamed for a few more minutes, my throat raw, my shirt and hoodie soaking up the groundwater that was the cause of the accident, new rain pelting me from above. I held my left calf so my foot wouldn't touch the ground—dear god, the sight of it, twisted that way—and somehow eased myself downhill a foot or two so I could kick the cell up toward my hand.

"I've broken my ankle and my mom can't hear me," I told Dave. "The phone's all wet. I've got to shut it. I'll call you back when I can." My mother finally peeked out to see what was taking me so long. "Get Charlie," I yelled, referring to my neighbor. I knew she couldn't help me. I was up there caring for her after my dad's memorial service this summer; losing him after almost 60 years of marriage had worsened her dementia. "I've broken my ankle."

As I waited for Charlie, an uncontrollable shivering began.


Well, I've done it. After three weeks I've finally committed the edges of my personal hurricane story to the page. I'll keep writing every day until I'm spent on the issue. I knew that writing about it would help me heal, But I've suffered post-traumatic stress symptoms that gave these images way too much power over me and until an hour ago, when I once again dissolved into tears about it with my sister on the phone, it turned my stomach to blog about it yet. But crying helps relieve pressure, as I hope writing about this will, so I thought I'd give it a go. More tomorrow.

But to end today's post I'd like to skip ahead to my return to the camp after my hospitalization. The storm is now over, Dave is with me, and I am on the couch with my leg propped up on pillows, doped up on pain meds. He is looking out at the lake, and says, "I see it. The thing that's skewered into the lawn. It's a pine cone."

The pine cone had blown from the top of a hemlock standing some sixty feet high above us, and the hurricane winds combined with gravity and the soaked earth created a situation in which the first 3/4 inches or so skewered into the ground and the rest of its length, some seven inches or so, stuck straight up.

Dave says, "You're right. That is weird. It looks like the lawn has an erection."

Granted, I've had to pay dearly for my curiosity. But I ask you: wouldn't you have wanted to check that out?


donna galanti said...

Oh, Kathryn such an ordeal! How awful, and to read in such painful detail. But I just love Dave, to end with him in the post on a humorous point - all because of a darn pinecone!
Glad you're home and hope to see you soon! take (extra) care-Donna

billie bakhshi said...

Curiosity killed the....never mind. ;)
We can play twinsies at the next writers conference and compare scars, and how it seems that surgeons implant weather vanes during corrective surgery. Wishing you speedy healing...

Kate Brandes said...

That does sound awful! I hope that writing about it will heal both inside and out. Wishing you all the best.

Sandra said...

Ha ha, love the last line, Kath!!!

Donna Brennan said...

Wow. Didn't realize it was so bad. As I read what you had written, I was there with you on that hill, out of reach of the phone and out of earshot of the house. Poor thing. I think my heartbeat quickened quite a bit. Need to let it calm down now.

Hope you continue to heal, both physically and emotionally.

Kathryn Craft said...

DonnaG: All because of a darn pinecone indeed. I have paid dearly for my curiosity. ;)

Kathryn Craft said...

With osteoarthritis already settled into my jaw, my spine, and my fingers, I was thrilled to see my x-rays and discover how beautiful my ankles bones were! No visible arthritic changes pre-break. So I may end up with just as much as I originally assumed I had!

Kathryn Craft said...

Thanks, Kate, and for your other FB note. Since I believe "the inside and out" are so linked for healing, I'm trying to get through the day on only extra strength Tylenol today. I think the Percoset was messing with my head.

Kathryn Craft said...

Thanks for reading, Sandy! You can usually count on Dave for such levity, even in the worst of circumstances.

And DonnaB, thanks for reflecting back in such detail. Your sensations help me put my post-traumatic symptoms in perspective.

Anonymous said...

Lovely write! Although I was aware, while reading it, that you didn't actually say if it hurt! Your description of the snapping sound and crunching was enough to make my stomach turn as I have broken parts of myself too!!! Funny how your body remembers...

Kathryn Craft said...

Gaiamethod: It hurt like a sonofabitch!! Once it swelled, over the course of 15 minutes or so, it kind of created a liquid cast from the inside, if that makes sense, and the fear of its horrid position and my discomfort with the damp and cold became more prominent than the pain. But touching it or moving it? Ha! I would rather have killed the person who tried than allow it! It was only my sincere desire to be warm and dry that prevented me from taking the EMT's head off, lol. Thanks for reading!