Not long ago Ikuni and I drove downtown to pick up Drummer. When we started out, the sky was overcast and a light drizzle was falling.
We hadn’t gone too far when Wordsmith called and told us a tornado warning was in effect for the county below us, but he thought the worst of the storm would stay to the south of where we were.
Almost as soon as I hung up, though, the drizzle turned to rain then a blinding downpour. The sky darkened, gusts of wind blew leaves and plastic bags past our windshield, and vehicles slowed to a crawl.
My cell rang again. By now, I could barely hear Wordsmith on the other end saying a tornado had been spotted in our area, as well. As I struggled to see the road, I told him I couldn’t talk and would have to call him later.
Looking back, it’s hard to know exactly what was going through my mind. But, I remember feeling frightened and also angry. We simply could not get sucked up on the expressway by a tornado. Ikuni had to get to Japan, and I couldn’t let a random, rotating column of air keep her from it.
My heart pounding, I took the next exit and headed to who knew where. I was unfamiliar with that part of the city.
Thankfully, I saw a hotel, swung into the parking lot and found an open spot near the entrance. We dashed inside and got drenched on the way. Later, I couldn’t even remember turning off the car and taking my keys out.
Hotel employees escorted guests and other stranded motorists to a dining hall. They said it was the safest place in the building. After calling Wordsmith, Drummer and my mom, we settled in and waited for the storm to pass.
A young mother and her three children sat at a table next to ours. The kids looked to be between the ages of two and six. As they huddled together, their eyes wide and searching, their mom told them (in a loud voice and a didactic tone) that they shouldn’t be scared. God had sent the tornado, but he would take care of them. She wasn’t scared and they shouldn’t be, either.
But, her voice was too loud, too forced. It seemed she was trying to convince herself as she lectured her children.
Afterwards, Ikuni and I talked about it. What had struck us both was that it seemed so obvious that she was frightened. Why not admit it?
We talked about how parents sometimes try and hide their frailties or failures from their children, and maybe also from themselves. How it seems better to just be honest.
Then I asked Ikuni if she’d felt afraid when she learned there was a tornado near us. She said no. She was at peace with death. And I believed her, because she knew it would’ve been okay to have said otherwise.
She did add, though, that if we had been taken out by a tornado, one regret would have been that she’d left her portable CD player at home. She said she would’ve preferred to have left this world, while listening to L’Arc~en~Ciel.