I was on my way out the door but feeling uneasy about leaving Miss Cathy by herself, even thought the earthquake had long since passed. I had my metro card in one hand and the other reaching for the doorknob. I knew I’d heard what I wanted so that I wouldn’t feel guilty but I also knew that my gut was telling me something else and I’ve learned (after so many times of not listening) that “gut” trumps whatever I’m thinking so I said, “You know what, I’m not going to work, I’m going to stay here with you.”
Although she said she’d be “fine”, I could see that Miss Cathy was visibly calmer.
I put my shoulder bag down and went to call my boss only to discover that my cell wouldn’t call out (still not realizing the extent of the damage done by the quake). But I realized that I could still text so I sent him a message, changed clothes and joined Miss Cathy on the sofa to watch the news coverage.
We sat watching the television as the full scope of what occurred unfolded before our eyes; there was no loss of life (yet reported) but the quake was felt from the Carolinas up to New Hampshire with varying degrees of impact depending on where you were. Every federal building in Washington DC (where I was headed) was evacuated and most businesses shut down for the rest of the day. The metro (which I would probably have been riding into the city) was slowed down to 15 miles an hour so they could check all tracks for damage. I listened as the newscasters did there best to report the news “ live” without the teleprompters to give them the cool, impersonal polish they usually have during regular broadcasts.
I text’d family and friends asking how they were (if they were on the East coast) and to let them know that we were okay.
One of the reporters commented that we’re lucky to be living in a time when technology has advanced to a place where even if land lines were down and you couldn’t get a strong enough signal on a cell phone to call, one still has the ability to communicate via text. To illustrate his point the camera pulled back and you could see most people on the streets were busy texting on their cell phones.
The same was not definitely not true of the earthquake in I experienced in Manhattan in the early 1980’s or even ten years ago when I was still living in New York City on 9/11. I don’t think I had the ability to text on my phone that day or if I did it was so new (to me anyway) that I didn’t know ‘how’ to text. No matter, the events of that day are buried deep, no need to dredge them up now, suffice to say, I don’t think texting was as prevalent as it is now.
I sat next to Miss Cathy wondering, “what was I thinking?” to even debate whether or not to leave her alone. I was disappointed in myself that my first (and only) response wasn’t to stay and support her. And (during the quake itself) when my first instinct was to make sure my IMac didn’t topple over (granted I was standing right in front of it) instead of immediately rushing out to take care of Miss Cathy, I had to wonder (again) if I’m seriously cut out for this job.
I’m like that overwhelmed parent that leaves the baby in the car seat “on top” of the car and starts to drive away before realizing that ‘something is missing’ AND then remembering his primary obligation and purpose.
I hope whoever is keeping score won’t deduct too many points from me for that day.
I turned and asked how she was doing and she said, “I was heading into the bedroom to take a nap when it happened but I’m wide awake now.”
“I guess that earthquake fixed you for sleep”, I said smiling.
Miss Cathy said that ‘if’ it happened again she would go downstairs to a neighbors apartment. I told her that the best place to be if an earthquake ever happened again (and I’m not around) is to move away from all windows, especially the sliding glass doors, and stand under a doorframe in the back of the apartment.
I held her hand and made her promise she wouldn’t go outside the apartment and risk falling down the stairs. I told he that her balance isn’t good on her best day and in a panic with the ground moving it was a recipe for disaster.
She promised she would heed my advice (but she also promised to stop talking on the telephone in the living room while she was cooking) so I knew to take any pledge she made with a grain of panic.
The phones were back in service an hour or so later so mom jumped on the horn to call family and friends, expelling some of her nervous energy.
I took the time to go back to my room to do the same. The news reports said that the last earthquake to hit anywhere near Washington, DC was more than 100 years ago-an amazing little factoid.
Less than a week later most of the East coast was battened down bracing for Hurricane Irene. Again, we were spared any major damage by the time it hit our area as Irene had been downgraded to a tropical storm but holy moly-that’s a lot of Mother Nature for one week!
Since there had been so much coverage on the weather channel about the impending hurricane Miss Cathy was mentally fully prepared. She wasn’t nervous at all, just concerned as she watched the coverage.
Hurricanes and earthquakes can be traumatic for the most stalwart of us, making it all the more difficult for anyone with cognitive and/or behavioral issues. Special attention must be paid during and after to keep them calm and to explain the unexpected in a manner that is reassuring to them in a way that they can understand.
The experience taught me that like other aspects of our life living with Alzheimer’s that have had to be adjusted, it’s best to be prepared in the event of a natural disaster and I found some great tips on the Alz.org website at: http://www.alz.org/nca/
So, thanks to what I’ve learned I’m okay. Do yourself a favor, learn what you can do so that you’ll be okay, too.