Surviving a summer of storms
September 7, 2011 in: Reflections on the River
Straight up noon on Friday in an all-American town, somewhere between the end of summer and the start of school. Dad and I were eating lunch at the pizza buffet. The food was good, the conversation comfortable and we were in no hurry.
In these waning days of August, moments of calm seemed like rare gifts. It had been a week since “the storm” had struck and the way this summer had been going, I was a little gun shy.
The flood took the life of a state trooper. St. Joseph lost three crew members on an emergency medical flight. It seems especially cruel for those who are helping others to lose their lives.
The flood was accompanied by record heat that way over stayed its welcome. The nation had already racked up $35 billion in losses from natural disasters in 2011. That was before the Hurricane named Irene and an unnamed storm that beat the life out of Northwest Missouri.
Dad’s house took a broadside blow from the hail, wind and water and is a little worse for the wear. It was one thing to go to Joplin and help people whose homes had been destroyed. It is quite another to haul debris out of the home you grew up in.
I’m ready for the world to be as it should – where the Bearcats win, the government doesn’t inflict disaster on its own citizens, you can take Interstate 29 to Omaha and right is right side up. This is the season of returning – returning to school, to routine and hopefully to something bit more normal.
In the booth behind us at the pizza parlor, another family seemed also to be in no hurry. The young lady said she’d picked up her text books and was ready for class. She was beautiful and confident and a little bit scared. Her dad reminded her what to do if her car acted up again, but just to call if she had any trouble. Little brother acted embarrassed, though pleased, when sister put her arm around him.
I remembered that taste the mixture of fear and excitement on the day I started college. Even though I’d grown up around Maryville, the campus felt like a foreign place reserved for the cool and worldly. I was just a farm kid with frizzy hair and a generous scholarship.
Walking across campus, beneath the Bell Tower and past the marigolds into the stately Administration Building, I could hardly believe I’d really achieved the dream of attending college. Welcome to adulthood, freshmen orientation peers told us. We were no longer guys and girls, but men and women.
Now, nearly 20 years later, I realize freshmen year marked not the beginning of the big world of adulthood, but of one of the most carefree times of life. If only I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have worried so much and enjoyed it more.
Straight up noon on Friday, it’s good to share a meal, savor little moments as though they will have to last a long while and look forward where the promise of new beginnings beckons.