Pool Covers and My Hurricane Husband

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by RI Editors

Please welcome Emily Christensen who is guest posting with us.

I got off work very late and needed to do treatment plans.

Who wants to do treatment plans?

Especially when I am here, missing my brand new husband, who is stuck in New York with a hurricane over his head.

So instead, I began to obsess about the pool.  I love the little pool I won, and worked hard to take care of it all summer.  But I hadn’t closed it yet for winter because I was busy getting married.  This weekend I finally got it cleaned up (again) and the chemicals balanced right so that I could winterize it.

Winterizing, as it turns out, means adding more chemicals.

It’s like making a really good stew, except of chemicals.

Chemicals you swim in?

Anyway, all that was done, so tonight I added the winter floaty thingy, and blew up the funky pillow that keeps the cover from sinking heavy under rain or snow.

That’s when I drug out the pool cover, which somehow had ended up at my mother’s, and unfolded it.

It reminded me of playing “parachute” in gym class, remember that?

I spread it out, and began to pull it up over the side of the pool.

I soon learned what most of you could have told me: this is not something I can do by myself.

And as usually happens, the more I realized that the more I took it as a double dog dare and kept trying.

I even tied one end of it to the side of the pool and worked from the opposite side.

I almost got it!  So close, and then could have screamed in frustration as it slipped off the other side again, and just sat there in the water, mocking me.

I wanted to cry.

There is no one here to help me, and I need to get it done.

And I don’t understand how there are some things I just cannot do by myself.

I thought about the day I put the pool together all by myself, albeit foolishly, and how hard that was.

How much harder can it be to just cover it up?

Except I just couldn’t get it, and my pride had to accept defeat.

I collapsed right there next to my garden in a pile of girl-tears.

That’s when it all came pouring out of me, how I am not as independent as I pretend to be, how being really strong isn’t always strong enough, and how I can’t make myself busy enough not to miss Nathan or exhausted enough to sleep well without him.

Nathan!

I gulped for air in between sobs as I remembered Nathan, and that I had come home from work in a rush to talk to him while he still had power.  Because of the service available there, he has to have wireless to use Skype or FaceTime.

When you get done fighting off this hurricane, you have to come home and help me with the pool cover.

That’s what I thought I might say.

I moved mom, moved three pianos, moved all the furniture, scrubbed the house top to bottom, cleaned the carpets, put the furniture back, and moved more than 450 books.  You have to help me with the pool cover.

That’s what I thought I might say.

Except when my iPad begins to ring, what comes out is, “I’m sorry! I haven’t been able to mow yet!”

Stuff and nonsense.

Nathan!

My heart leaps the moment I see him on screen, and tears well up in my eyes as soon as I see that he is okay.

It’s moments like this when you are supposed to be a good wife, full of strength and courage.

When your husband is stranded in a hurricane with water rushing up the stairs, that is not the time for crybaby wives and garden tears.

So instead of crying, I do my best to just be with him in that waiting space.  There is only so much preparation you can do for a hurricane.  He has flashlights, and safe shoes, and water, and food. Everything is charged.

The storm moves slowly, and the whole city is stir crazy waiting for a storm none of them believe will actually arrive.

Except then it did.

We watch the news together, checking Twitter and Instagram for good pictures.

It’s almost as if we are cuddled up in a storm together, cozy and safe.

Except I am cold.

Because I am here.

And he is there.

And the space is empty without him, and my skin is cold when he is away.

So it’s not the same.

But I smile, and we watch, and he waits.

Sometimes we even laugh, because humor is a coping skill we share.

We see the pictures from earlier in the day, and he talks about what he can see and feel right now.  He is still dry because his apartment is on higher ground than some, and he is protected from the direct hit of the wind and rain because his apartment is on the north side of the building (with the storm coming from the south).  The streets are empty, and all the people are waiting, and it’s eerie.

But still I smile, and we chat, and we listen to the news.

We are together,
except not,
so everything is okay.

Until the moment when the lights flicker.
Until the moment when his internet connection blinks.
Until the moment when we are disconnected.
Until the moment my digital ears go silent.

And I can only hear the ticking of the moon clock,
the one that glows in the dark,
the one that is too loud for my hearing husband,
the one I will hang in the guest room
as I prepare my house -
our house -
for my new husband,
the one who is coming home,
the one who is coming home.

That’s what I tell myself when I go hang the clock.

I should hang all the pictures.

This is new, the having of a husband.

If we had normal vows at some random church, I would have gotten to have and to hold.

But for now,
I pretend I have not seen the things I have seen.

I know, in my head, that Nathan’s apartment is not Joplin.

I fasted for his safety yesterday.

I don’t know what else to do to help from so far away.

Now I unpack his things and put them away because it is my only act of faith that he is coming home – soon.

And maybe because I cannot sleep if he cannot sleep, as if this is the only way to wait out the storm together.

So I do what I do best, and get really busy, and spin myself in circles until I am exhausted and hungry with tears rolling down my cheeks.

That’s when my phone lights up,
after hours
that were only minutes.

I’m okay, he says.

I’m safe, he says.

It turns out, his neighborhood is on a hill.

I remember this, vaguely, from my trip there, and walking for days,
though it seems like a million years ago.

Even though the river beside him flooded the subways and poured over walls and buildings fell apart, he is like an island in the sea.

It turns out, his neighborhood is one of the few that has power lines underground.

I remember this, vaguely, from my trip there when he showed me.

He says they won’t lose power unless it gets knocked out from underneath, but there is a good space between the subway and the Earth his home is built upon.

It seems foreign, like one of those science fiction novels I was never smart enough to understand.

It turns out, as it happened, that the storm and water surges all happened right around his neighborhood,
almost as if he were invisible,
as if he were surrounded
by love.

It’s from me!

That’s what I tell him.

The next water surges won’t come until high tide early in the morning, so he might sleep a few hours.

You should sleep, too, he says.

Maybe I will hang pictures a little while, I say.

Don’t forget to eat, he says.

I have been sick all day, I say.

I am talking to him in my head, pretending we are here, pretending he is here.

We do not get to pray again, and I think that unfair
and dangerous
and bad-timing.

So I pray,
here,
and he prays,
there.

And I send him Helaman 5:12, in case he can’t hear me muttering the only mantra that calms me:

For now, my sons, remember,
remember,
that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer,
who is Christ,
the Son of God,
that ye must build your foundation;
that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds,
yea, his shafts in the whirlwind,
yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you,
it shall have no power over you
to drag you down
to the gulf of misery and endless wo,
because of the rock upon which ye are built,
which is a sure foundation,
a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

And there is silence
because he is sleeping
safe and sound
but too far away.

I would cry if I were not so hungry,
but food has not been my friend,
and so I type
because words always are.

This article was originally published on Housewife Class, 10/30/12.

image: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center via Compfight

2 Responses to Pool Covers and My Hurricane Husband

  1. Paul says:

    Emily, thanks for sharing your view of the recent storm — it’s helpful to put it in a personal perspective. My daughter is in NYC as a missionary and we’ve thought a lot about her (and are reassured by her mission president she is fine).

  2. jendoop says:

    Thank you for sharing this experience. I think it’s wonderful because it shows the process of trying to be married, to be strong, and then finally to rely on the Lord throughout a tumultuous experience. It’s interesting how often we are handed difficult things (like learning to be married) while simultaneously thrown another big event (a monumental hurricane). It seems to be the Lords way of encouraging us to rely on him and to show us how much we can truly handle.

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