Monday, December 29, 2008

Our power went out Saturday night and came back on this morning. The cold was awful, the lack of warm food terrible, concern about keeping my mother warm was very worrisome - but having no internet connection topped it all off and made a miserable time.

We had a shower to go to on Saturday - not having a hot shower beforehand was met by a milk bottle of cold water (I've been storing gallons of water for just such emergencies). We drove the fifty miles to the party-site and discovered that the restaurant was also without power, but they had moved the party to another restaurant in their chain two suburbs away. We had a lovely time at the party, even though it sounded like the wind was going to tear off the roof tiles. The evergreen trees surrounding the restaurant were blown into horizontal positions, but they would pop up straight whenever the wind let up. When the party was over, I knew I couldn't take Mother home to a cold house, so I stopped and bought a generator - knowing full well I wouldn't be able to cope with it. A generator is one of those things, like a chain saw, that my father and brothers drilled into me was too dangerous for me to attempt to use. I've had several chain saws since my father has been gone, but have never felt comfortable with them. Funny how my father seems to be looking over my shoulder whenever I touch one. I bought the generator anyway, stopped at the farm, saw Gibby and determined that heat and light were on in his house (but I couldn't imagine taking Mother into the mud and toy/trash littered house) and picked up two electric heaters. I drove home through the little village where my closed-up antique shop dominates the landscape. I thought I could ask a friend who lives there to help me, but found all the lights on in the village - so I was hopeful our power was on, too.

No such luck. I got Mother into the house and under several blankets, then went outside to see if I could lift the huge generator box that two men had lifted into the car. It really irritated me that I could hear a generator running next door at my brother's house - that was my mother's generator that my brother took. At first I couldn't budge the huge box, then I took a deep breath, and pulled with every bit of strength I could gather - it moved. Once I moved it the first inch, I knew I could get it out somehow. I found a ramp board and placed it on the car bumper, then surprised myself by lifting that box over the edge and onto the ramp - I was cheering in my head as the box started down the ramp, then it somehow twisted and fell the rest of the distance to the driveway. At least it was down. I cut the box open and went inside to read the directions by flashlight. It was at this point that my father started reading over my shoulder and I knew I was in trouble.

My cell phone hadn't worked all day and the house phone required electricity (I totally forgot I had installed a different kind of phone upstairs, but I remembered later so I could report that our power was out.) I had tried the cell phone a couple dozen times, always hoping that AT&T would solve their problem and start working again. I went back outside, stripped off my heavy jacket to get to work, and tried the cell phone again - this time I got through to my friend's house in the village! Alas, he'd already gone to bed, it was only 8:00, but he had to be up at 2AM for his job - I thanked his wife, told her not to disturb him, and went back to pondering the generator. The problem now was I couldn't get it out of the box. I decided try to cut the box with a steak knife, then I was going to load Mother back into the car (which was going to be about as hard as taking the generator out of the car because she was exhausted and sound asleep) and go find a motel. I had decided to deal with the generator tomorrow when a car suddenly came up the driveway, and there was my dear village friend! He had climbed out of bed to help me! In about half an hour the generator was running, the heater with the fireplace fake flames was on, and so was the little tv that didn't need cable to run.

My friend advised me to get some more gas in case the generator ran out, so I drove into town and got the gas and stopped at a party store to see if I could find something for our dinner. I asked if they had any pizza slices left, and the clerk said, "Not for sale" and then handed me a box filled with half a large pizza. He wouldn't let me buy it, just gave it to me. I wonder if I looked as frazzled as I felt.

After we ate a few bites of pizza, I sat down in the recliner, pulled my jacket hood over my face, had two dogs in my lap, and was quickly asleep. I woke up when the silence hit me. The TV, lamp, and heater were off. I thought the generator must have run out of gas, so I went outside, used the key to turn the machine off, and filled the gas tank. I was surprised that it filled to the top before I had emptied both gas cans, but I still thought I had everything under control - right up until I couldn't get the d--n thing started again. I tried and tried the electric start, then the pull start, and no luck. I got the directions out, traced out the starter and choke, thought I worked both of them, and still couldn't get it started. I checked the outside thermometer and the temperature had dropped from over 50 to barely 20 degrees - and now I again had the dilemma of trying to load Mother into the car to find a motel at 1AM. I knew that wasn't going to work, so I called 911 and explained the situation. Within about ten minutes I had two vehicles with flashing lights and three firemen in the driveway. Ten minutes later, I learned that the choke was in a different place than I thought, and the generator was started.

The men wanted to be sure everything was working, so they came inside and we found only cold and darkness. Luckily, one of their flashlights briefly struck the power connector I had used at the end of the extension cord - it had a rocker-style on-off switch. I switched it on and there was light - and heat - and tv. The men were pleased with their help, gave me a lecture on getting a different power cord, running it through a window instead of the door, said, "After all, she's not so young (pointing to the blanket pile where my mother was) and you're no young stud yourself." That stopped me. I wanted to say, I'm not a young stud or an old stud, but then I remembered how helpful they'd been and remembered that all that was showing through my black clothing was my glasses and my nose, so I let that comment go and thanked them profusely. I never told them that I had figured out that one of the dogs must have stepped on that power strip switch when they were stealing the rest of the pizza off of the coffee table and caused all that trouble. I just went back to sleep and didn't wake up again until this morning when it seemed much warmer and something told me the power was back on. Halleluiah!

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