Darkest Night

Dearest Rachel –

No light.

No air-conditioning.

No fans.

No Internet.

It’s truly been one of our darkest nights. Literally.

According to Daniel, everything went sideways shortly before I got home from walking with Erin last night a little bit before eight. By the way, that was rather a washout in its own right. Neither of us could decide whether to meet or not, given that she was falling behind on her running assignments in training for the marathon. Since we determined that her social calendar was soon to be limited to herself and her fellow runners for much of the next couple months (although we worked out a few times when she and Ellen will be over during that time), we finally decided to meet and walk this one last time before her calendar would be utterly overwhelmed by training – and got soaked six ways to Sunday for our troubles.

It wasn’t clear to me whether Daniel got soaked himself at the time, but he had just brought Chompers in from the backyard – if I recall correctly, the old boy had done all his business – when he heard a crash, a sizzle… and silence.

And darkness.

As disconcerting as it was (and I was already aware of how bad the storm had been, as I had tried to take a shortcut home, only to find that Yale Street had been completely blocked by a large fallen tree limb), we weren’t exactly worried right away. Located as we are on a relatively major thoroughfare, straddling two separate suburbs, and pockmarked with street lights and what not, we tend to get a certain level of priority in terms of electrical repairs. I can’t remember the last time we had to wait more than two or three hours for the lights to go back on.

You’ll recall one time a few years ago when we had everybody over for hamburger soup (I’m pretty sure this was a time when Kevin was visiting us, hence why we were using one of his sister’s recipes) when something like this happened. I think it was six of us that left the house, walked around a block or two, and came back to find everything back on. Something similar happened just last year, in fact, and we reacted much the same way, to much the same result.

This was not much the same. Fortunately, we have had an early dinner – or was it a late lunch – so we weren’t missing out on a meal, but we were really stuck for anything to do. Since Daniel had just brought Chompers in, and the old boy was more or less asleep, I retired to the bedroom to do the same, figuring on being woken up by the lights coming back on once everything had been resolved.

As it turned out, I wound up being woken up by Chompers, barking in his usual unsatisfied frustration. At this point, the house and everywhere around us was dark. So I went to the kitchen, and clumsily prepared his pill (I always stick it inside one of those little fake hamburger treats, otherwise he’s likely to just spit the pill out, but it’s difficult to carve a hole for the pill in the treat if you can’t see what you’re doing), gave it to him, and hauled him and his wheelchair out the front door, setting him down on the driveway like I usually do.

Oddly enough, he was much more animated than usual, walking all the way down the turnaround to our neighbors’ apron. He was clearly in no hurry to come back inside (although he at least was in enough of a hurry to get everything out of his system – it is becoming a challenge to get him into the harness before he starts wetting himself), so I found myself standing out there, half blind from not wearing glasses, waiting for him to be ready to come back in.

It was at this point that a figure approached, dressed in a hooded long coat and carrying what looked to be a scythe. Was this to be the end for me or Chompers? Nah, it was just Daniel, returning from his usual nightly walkabout. He’d actually been doing reconnaissance, trying to determine the outer limits of the blackout zone. As it turned out, he hadn’t gotten as far as to where the branch had fallen on Yale, since there were lights on north of that point; He would not bother to investigate things past the point where the blackout ended. At this point, he was curious as to how far it extended into the town across the street, and was going to take your car (I guess it’s his car now) to check things out. Well, I’m in no position to stop him – I bid him goodnight, and wish him luck.

As I said, Chompers was in no hurry to call it a night. I was still outside when Daniel returned. but at this point I’d had enough, and brought him inside. I found a couple of flashlights, brought out his other bedtime treats, and tried as best I could to replicate our usual bedtime routine.

But I wasn’t about to leave those flashlights on all night, like the nightlight you had set up for him last winter. That room has not been this dark since before you left. And while I know I’m going to unplug that nightlight for the last time once we send Chompers off to meet you, the room was eerily dark last night. Don’t know how well Chompers took it, but he did settle down faster than I expected him to.

Morning came, and I found myself not quite awakened, but rather strongly encouraged to get up, by the old boy whining. Time to take him out, just like any other morning. Or was it?

No, no it was not. My alarm clock was dark, and there was no sound of computers humming in the bedroom. It had been ten hours, and no power. Sure, you don’t miss it when you’re sleeping – in fact, the silence makes it easier to sleep, to a certain extent – But at this point, it starts to get concerning. If nothing else, there’s a question of refrigeration – how long before the food goes bad, and will the power be on before then? I would have to prepare several MREs for the old boy, and I didn’t want to have to open the refrigerator too many times, letting what little cold was still in there out.

There’s a part of me that tells me not to be concerned overly concerned. Unlike so many things we have lost – and will lose – this year, this can be brought back, and will be, what with so many people out there working to do so. But it is curious that, the longer you don’t have electricity, the more you worry about when you’ll get it back. Nearly everything we do relies on it these days; especially for Daniel and I, who are tethered to the Internet as if it were an umbilical cord.

Speaking of whom, without the Internet, or lights, He actually got a decent night of sleep – in any event, he went to bed at what he might otherwise consider a ridiculously early hour. So he was already up, and wondering what he was going to do with the day. I mentioned my concerns about the refrigerator, and how I didn’t really want to mess with it, and would he be interested if I pick something up? After some hemming and hawing, he finally settled on something, and I headed out to pick it up.

There are a lot of tree limbs down throughout my route, not to mention entire chunks of downed tree here in there. You might well have had me stop to pick up firewood along the way. The radio is talking about how nearly a hundred thousand of us are still without power at the moment. On a slightly smaller scale, they are also talking about a downed helicopter on the corner of Milwaukee and Palatine or thereabouts. Fortunately, it appears the pilot managed to walk away; I guess any landing you can do that from is a good one – unless you’re in traffic dealing with this obstruction.

I get home with the sandwiches and coffee, present Daniel with his share, and offer a blessing. I don’t really know how God answers certain prayers, but I assume He forwards my greetings to you as I ask Him to. I hope I’m not being too presumptuous, asking Him to pass such a trivial message on to you. I figured that, if he’s concerned with keeping every atom from flying apart, such a request isn’t really all that trivial.

Daniel wonders aloud about how he’s going to occupy his time, since I have every intention of going to the ‘office’ today – assuming the folks aren’t suffering from the same blackout that we are. I at least own books that I can flip through if I’m suitably bored; those hold no interest to him. He wonders about going down to the basement to dig out a sketchbook or two, and proceeds to describe certain drawings he’s been working on. Just as he begins to describe a particular character who has a certain level of attention deficit disorder, he points to my head (or rather above it) and goes, “Look!”

For a moment, I think he’s trying to imitate the character he was just describing: ‘Ooh, shiny!’ Then I realize what he’s actually pointing at – the fan above my head is turning.

The power is back on, the air conditioner switches on, and I can leave in good conscience. he responds happily to my farewell, and as I head out, I hear him switching things on. Well, I can’t say I blame him. This is our life, after all.

Anyway, I’ve got to get back to work. This financial data isn’t going to put itself together. I’ll talk to you later.

Love you.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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