A Closet Full of Empty
Second Place Winner, 2014 Bethesda Magazine Adult Essay Contest
When the disaster hit, I realized that I had prepared in entirely the wrong way. Diligently, I had listened to what the local government officials told us. Buy batteries and shelf stable food. Stockpile cash and canned goods. Keep fresh water available. Find an alternate source for cooking food. Make an evacuation plan. Keep flashlights working and handy. Think. Prepare. Plan. And so I did. My children memorized important phone numbers. I tucked an envelope of twenties in the sock drawer. Charcoal briquettes in the garage. Peanut butter and beans in the cupboard. Blankets cleaned, folded, and accessible. Both First Aid kits stocked and ready, one for the car and the house. All possible contingencies considered and all potential crises forestalled.
When the disaster struck, I would be ready. Thanks to my careful attention to detail, my family would be safe. We could weather whatever storm, national emergency, or danger could find us. We would be the survivors at the end. Unshaven, a little frightened, and in need of a shower, we would emerge at the end alive and able to move forward, maybe even to assist those who had not prepared as well. I could envision this outcome. Caressing our inventory of supplies in my mind, I had run the scenario and imagined the worst. We would be okay.
Yet, batteries and briquettes couldn’t protect us from what loomed on a Saturday in September.
The sun peaked at the horizon. The sky was Sleeping Beauty turquoise. Few leaves had changed from their bright summer green. Birds sang, and neighbors briskly walked dogs on quiet suburban streets. My children slept peacefully. The house hummed with contentment. I curled my toes against the start of the day and rolled to feel the warmth in the bed.
In the tranquility of this golden, late summer morning, something tiny shifted in Dan’s heart. It lodged and blocked and killed a father of three beautiful children and my husband of 22 years. It erased from our life the core, my best friend, the leader, the mentor, and the teacher. This tiny speck silenced the music, stilled the hands, and eliminated the smile. Acute Myocardial Infarction, said the doctor.
No canned green beans or tuna fish can help us through this disaster. New flashlights cannot light our way. Blankets can’t warm us and there is no evacuation plan to speed us from this crisis. Duct tape won’t mend us. Band-Aids can’t patch us. Now we are the victims sitting the ashes. I had prepared in entirely the wrong way.