You sent me a study the other day about how natural disasters bring couples closer together. It was certainly the case for us, when we weathered the Texas freeze and infrastructure collapse of February 2021.
And I was about to tell you this when you gave me a knowing look, and I was sure — beyond sure — that you were thinking the same.
I can still remember the way we shut all the interior doors, moved to one room, hung blankets on every window. Constructed a blanket tent on the living room floor. One we slept under with both of our cats and our birds.
The birds had a special candle under their cage to keep them warm. I had the hardest time sleeping then, because I kept being worried that our cats would knock the candle over and there would be a fire.
But they didn’t. And the six of us creatures huddled in this makeshift greenhouse, keeping as warm as we could while the room dipped into the 40s.
When we lost water for a bit after a city water main broke, there was a moment of despair. Of absolute depression. Because evacuating to Oklahoma City would make sense, a 3-hour drive on normal roads. However, the roads were all iced, and the cities down here don’t have the equipment to properly treat the roads for winter storms. As a result, the roads are extremely perilous — and even though we both grew up North and are great driving on snow and ice, you can nonetheless die easily on untreated icy roads that are full of other people who didn’t grow up with winter driving.
And of course this was during the pandemic, and prior to vaccines being available, so there was yet another layer of danger and logistical difficulty on top of everything else.
So we inventoried what we had for water. I took photographs and sent them to my family back in Maine, where they regularly lose power but have a generator (not feasible for me in densely populated city as an apartment dweller) because they’re good at eyeing water and estimated ounce counts that I text them furiously, saying, “This will last X number of people and animals X days. Right?”
I did that math myself but wasn’t sure my figures were right. They were.
And after I did that, I grabbed the dustpan from my broom set and a large plastic tote. I walked up the roof of my apartment complex and started using the dustpan as a small shovel to collect snow in the bin. It was hard work and strange to be up there so high all by myself – but it was the cleanest snow I was likely to find anywhere around me, the least likely to have dog urine in it.
It probably didn’t matter how clean it was because I was going to use it to flush my toilets anyway. But just in case. Just in case, my mind hedged, the water doesn’t last and we have to eat the snow because the power still won’t come on, and we have no other way to boil it, since we gave away our camping supplies when we moved to Texas since we were moving to a much bigger city than the one we lived in before (Cleveland).
Your coworkers rigged up a work call. You managed to connect via a battery bank and cell phone data (by that point it finally came back because the towers were doing a little better than early on, when we had no cell phone signal or data for large swaths of time).
And as you were on the call, I heard you bragging about your wife to them. How tough and resourceful she is. How she went up on the roof with a dustpan and bin to get snow to flush the toilets. And I cracked a smile. One of your coworkers even further south had to boil his pool water to have anything to drink. And if there isn’t a more stunning reminder that money isn’t everything, I don’t know what is. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been able to afford a fancy enough place to have a pool. But when push came to shove, that guy would rather have the water in it than the luxury.
As I write this almost a year later, I can remember how awful that time was. How harrowing. How scary.
But it also brought us together. And I’m grateful for that.