It was 2012, and broken branches crashed against the windows as the wind howled outside my house.
I lay under the blankets, covering my head with pillows, trying to silence the storm and my fear. I was wishing that Ray, who always held me tightly during storms, had not died the previous month.
Storms had terrified me all of my life. My earliest memory comes from when I was three, shaking and sobbing as a storm raged outside. My mother had wrapped me in her arms and said, “Katerinshin, it’s nothing scary. Do you know why there is lightning? It’s God taking pictures of people below. So, sit up straight and smile, dear.” I sat up, forcing a grin in order that the photo of me would look good to God.
Through every storm during my life, I had had someone to hold me. I had never faced a storm alone. Ever.
Before Hurricane Sandy came to Maryland, I was on my own, and I worried how I would withstand it.
I told myself that I was 74 years old. It was time to grow up. I could do it. I had to do it. I purchase and cooked enough food to last an entire week. The predicted storm day came and I was so stressed that I ate three days’ worth of food in one day. In the evening, around 5:00, I phoned my next-door neighbor and asked the 15-year-old if she were willing to babysit me should I become too frightened.
“Mrs. Haas, would you feel more comfortable if you spent the night at our house?”
“No, thank you, sweetie. I want to grow up. I THINK I can weather this storm. I just wanted to know that if I become too frightened, would you mind canoeing across your yard to my house and keep me company? I’ve never been alone in my life.”
She laughed and agreed. I felt safer already. Actually, several friends had invited me to spend the night at their home, but I was determined to prove to myself that I could conquer this fear.
Because I had stuffed myself all day, I felt sleepy around 7:00 PM, and went to bed. The storm was just beginning to rage. I fell asleep quickly, though. Around 8:30 PM, the phone rang and woke me up.
“Katherine,” said Margaret, my friend in North Dakota, “I was just watching the 5:00 news… are you okay?”
“I’m fine, in bed.”
“Oh, sorry to wake you. Glad you are okay. Love you.”
Attempting to ignore the storm outside, it took me a while to fall back asleep.
Around 10:00, another friend from North Dakota called. Once more around 11:30, another one called. As each friend saw on their local news that a huge storm was headed our way, they called me to make sure I was okay.
After several check-in calls, I was wide awake. Debris pounded my roof, almost as if it were knocking to be let in, and I lay in my bed, trying to muffle the sounds with a mountain of pillows over my head. There, in the dark, I mulled over the numerous concerned phone calls I’d received, and the tender offers to house me during the storm.
I came to realize that Ray was not the only one who provided me with warmth and comfort.
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Katherine Haas taught at Key School in Annapolis for 43 years. She now spends her time enjoying the arts with her husband, teaching Chinese, working part-time at Key as a Storyteller and engaging in progressive activism.