When I was a boy, I spent my summers in Missouri at my mother’s residential care facility. At least that is what it was called by the time she sold it. Back in the early days we called it a boarding home or an old folks’ home. I mostly spent my time hanging out with my sister and my cousins, but I was always running through and around the place.
The summer in Missouri is hot. The kind of heat that you try not to stand too still in because when you do you can feel the sweat bead up on and drip down every part of you. The kind of heat that brings on lightning storms in the rare times when the sky can build up enough moisture to gush it all over the place.
I was never afraid of the lightning but some of the ladies at Mom’s home were. The most afraid of all was Gladys. She was a nice grandmotherly woman who seemed perfectly happy to while away her time watching soap operas. But when the thunder and lightning started crackling off in the distance she would get real antsy and you could hear the fear in her voice.
The first time I noticed it, I didn’t know what to do. Gladys was scared and I wanted to do what I could to try and relieve that fear. But nothing I said made a difference. In the end all I found that worked was just sitting with her and holding her hand and waiting patiently for the storm to move on. And many times over the years, whenever a storm came, I would find her and we would go sit close together out of its reach and wait for the worst to blow on by.
As I look back now, though, I think that maybe she wasn’t as afraid of the storms as I thought at the time. In hindsight, I think that she grew to like the storms. She spent most of her life watching TV and waiting for nothing to happen—alone in a room full of the lonely. But when the storms came she had someone to hold her hand and tell her everything was going to be alright. For a brief moment she had the care of someone’s full attention.
Written by Brad on June 22, 2012. This was originally written to promote my sister’s website, but didn’t get published until now.