We had fierce thunderstorms here yesterday evening. Lots of wind and thunder and lightning. Storms like these always remind me of my mom, Gladys MARTIN HEISER (1921-1999).
Storm sitting with Mom
My mom was terrified of thunderstorms. When my sister, Joyce, and I were growing up, at the first sign of a thunderstorm, Mom would close all the blinds in the house and insist we go to the basement.
Once she became unable to climb the steps easily because of arthritis, she would have us sit with her in the living room until the storm passed. In either location we had to be quiet, and we weren’t allowed to use the phone or run water.
Dad was different
Our dad, Charles Leroy HEISER (1913-2001), has a different way of handling thunderstorms. He would sit on the front porch and watch them!
For a long time, I never questioned my mom about her way of handling storms. She was MOM, after all, and she knew best. But as I got older, I wanted to go on the porch with my dad during storms. He survived the storms just fine, and seemed to actually enjoy them. Joyce joined him sometimes, and she survived, too.
Why Mom did what she did
Finally, I asked my mom why we had to stay inside, close the blinds, and all the rest.
She told me this story: “When I was a kid, a bad storm came up one day, really quick. Mother sent me and the others out to get the chickens back in the coop before the storm really got bad.” (I guess my grandmother had learned it was easier to gather the chickens before the storm than after.)
“The wind was blowing hard, and the sky was getting dark. The chickens were going in all directions. I was running across the yard, and as I went under a tree I was struck by lightning that had come down through the tree.” (At this point, my eyes were big, and I was speechless.)
“Someone picked me up, carried me in the house, and laid me on the couch. I was unconscious, and when I came around I couldn’t walk. But after a while I was able to walk again.” *
I didn’t know what to say. I clearly understood Mom’s storm precautions now.
As we got older and more responsible, Mom no longer pressured Joyce and me to stay inside during storms if Dad was home and on the porch. It became our choice. Mom still stayed inside, though, whenever a bad storm came up.
A bit of Mom and Dad both
As the storms started yesterday evening, I instinctively reached over and lowered the blinds at the window by my desk. A little while later, though, I went out on the porch to briefly watch the storms.
* Keraunoparalysis is a frightening and distressing complication of lightning strikes. The syndrome consists of limb paralysis, sensory symptoms, pallor, coolness and absent pulses. Release of excessive catecholamines is said to be responsible for these findings. Fortunately, the condition is transient.
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