Storm Clouds and Stoner Eyes

S Ralph

By: Shannon Ralph

I live in the upper Midwest. We have our fair share of thunderstorms and tornadoes this time of year. I am not a person who is typically afraid of storms. Yes, tornado sirens are mildly disconcerting. But in all honesty, I am usually the idiot standing in the doorway chuckling madly and yelling, “Woo-wee! That sure is a nasty storm!” I think this response to inclement weather is genetic. Sophie and Nicholas are usually right beside me craning their necks to get a good look at the golf ball-sized hail, while Ruanita and Lucas are cowering in the corner frantically checking and rechecking the batteries in our flashlights like some sort of rabid Rainman impersonators.

Though I typically enjoy a good storm, I actually found myself scared rather shitless last night. After spending the afternoon at our local public pool for Sophie’s and Nicky’s birthday, Lucas developed a raging case of pink eye. Within hours of coming home from the pool, both of Lucas’s eyes were blood red and oozing nasty yellow goop. He complained that they hurt and couldn’t even keep one of his eyes open. It was the quickest onset of pink eye I had ever seen. One would think that the chlorine in the pool would have killed any floating conjunctivitis germs. But I think this was some sort of super bug. Some mighty eye-attacking chlorine-loving pestilence that had been set free to ravage south Minneapolis.

By 8:00pm last night, Lucas was miserable and we decided a trip to urgent care was in order. I, being the “doctor’s office mom,” was nominated to be the one to take him. We knew a storm was rolling in, but we hoped to beat it to urgent care. We got underway under clear skies. However, by the time we were finished at the urgent care center, the storm was rolling in. As we were walking to our car, the tornado sirens began blaring loudly. The sky still looked fairly clear, so we hopped in the car to quickly head home. Lucas was in tears because the doctor had tried to put numbing drops in his eyes and Lucas has an incredible amount of terror built up around eye drops (yea, it really makes pink eye treatment an adventure). It stems from getting his eyes dilated with drops as a small child—he’s worn glasses since he was two and his anxiety has a long, long memory. So Lucas was in tears and begging to “just go home.” Since the sky still looked relatively clear, we piled into the car and headed out.

As soon as we turned left out of the urgent care parking lot, I discovered the reason for the blaring sirens. Covering the entire western skyline was the largest, blackest, most ominous-looking cloud I had ever seen in my life. It contrasted starkly with the blue sky below the cloud, giving it an even more sinister look. I decided to go ahead and just get home as quickly as I could.

Several times on the way home, the wind gusted wildly enough to blow me out of my lane on the highway. I wrestled the steering wheel and held on tightly to keep us on the road. The wind was unbelievable. I drove quickly, never taking my eyes off the black cloud above me. In several places, the cloud appeared to have funnel-shaped (or perhaps it was my imagination?) protuberances sticking down from the main cloud. I could not take my eyes off that cloud.

I imagined what I would do if a funnel cloud suddenly appeared before me. What would I do with Lucas? He doesn’t function well in a crisis. He tends to freeze like a deer in headlights. Would I be able to drag his 75-pound body (all lanky legs and gigantic head) off the road? It’s been quite a long time since I’ve been to the gym, and 75 pounds is a lot to bench press. And where would we go anyway? There was no shortage of ditches on both sides of the highway, but is the whole “head for a ditch in a tornado” thing just a myth? It doesn’t sound like incredibly prudent advice to me.

As lightning flashed and thunder boomed, I watched the cloud. Ever on the lookout for tornadoes. It was one of those instances where I don’t even remember driving home. I don’t think I looked at the road once. My eyes were fixated on that cloud. We made it home safely, and actually missed the bulk of the storm altogether. But I was a nervous wreck. I still like storms. They are nice and soothing and they smell good. But only from the safety of my own house. Behind my own front door. With a basement within easy access. I don’t need to be out in the open communing with the clouds.

On a somewhat related note, my eyes itch this morning and my nine-year-old son looks stoned. Nice!

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