Friday, September 19, 2008

Surviving the Storm

As I mentioned before, we were very fortunate during the passage of Hurricane Ike. Although we lost utility services, we did not suffer any serious damage and were never forced to leave our house.

I can't express how proud I am of Cat and Cowboy, although I have done my best to tell them several times over the past week. They were patient, helpful, well-behaved and extremely accommodating as we all tried to cope with both the lack of utilities and our house guests. As Mom reminded me numerous times over the weekend, "They're good kids!"

The kids shared Cowboy's room while Mom and her feline companion took over Cat's. Both kids came and piled in bed with us during the worst of the storm, which made for a crowded bunk, but we weren't sleeping much that night anyways. Other than that, they did extraordinarily well sharing a room — they treated it more like an extended slumber party than a major annoyance.

While the power was off and the rain continued, we played countless rounds of Scrabble Junior, Boggle and "Gold Fish" (Cowboy's name for Go Fish, the only card game they will both agree upon). We all took turns working on a massive jigsaw puzzle that took three days to finally complete. And I got both kids hooked on what were my very favorite books as a kid: The Three Investigators series of juvenile detective novels. Cat finished the first book in a little over 24 hours, and Cowboy then picked it up and started with an intensity I have never seen in him toward reading. He's already almost halfway through it, even though the distractions of cartoons and video games have resurfaced with the electricity. Cat is almost finished with book number two and has already staked her claim on the next one in the series.

Mom did surprisingly well, cooped up in a strange environment with four extra people (including two energetic kids) and no power or running water. She is used to being on her own most of the time, and spending an hour or two with the kids is often enough to wear her down. I was amazed at how well she coped, and how much she seemed to enjoy most of the time spent together. The kids were patient, eager to help, and yet subdued when necessary, and they spent quite a bit of time with their "Nana." They took her for walks around the neighborhood after the storms left the area; she spent time with them at the piano, offering helpful suggestions as they practiced; and they took several opportunities to talk to her about school and life in general.

One of the things Mom did when she needed to get away from the hubbub of "family time" was to sneak down the darkened hallway and sit down at the piano. The kids were amazed that she could sit there in the dark and play without looking at any music. It was nice to see how relaxed she became as she sat there playing — a sense of peace and calmness washed over her face as she played, a peace that doesn't often break through the confusion and tension that is such a part of her life now.

One evening after dinner, we all crowded around the piano with our flashlights and sang from an hold hymnal for an hour or more. (I'm sure the neighbors were loving it!) It reminded me of times we did that around the family piano when I was young. The kids had a ball and kept begging for more. It was a little strange to listen to Mom singing for memory three and four verses of hymns I haven't heard in years, when just hours earlier she couldn't remember whose house we were in.

I must admit, in a way the effect of the Alzheimer's was a blessing to Mom during this stressful week. We all took turns showing her repeatedly where the bathroom was, which room she was staying in, and where her cat was. But time was basically non-existent to her during her stay. By the time I took her home and got her settled back into familiar surroundings, she had already forgotten most of the time we spent together. In her mind, the hurricane had bypassed us altogether, there had been no power outage or other inconveniences, and we had simply enjoyed a nice couple of days' visit together while waiting to take her back home.

Looking back, I must admit that we survived the storm quite nicely. Now if we can just get the kids back to school next week, life will be back to the moderate level of insanity that we call "normal."

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