As we hooked up the heater we went over instructions to refresh our memories (to be clear – you are NOT supposed to use these things inside) including DON’T FORGET TO CRACK A WINDOW. You know, so you don’t die of CO2 poisoning… Yeah, this is how we roll in WV folks…
When we were finished, I walked back down to her SUV with her. (Actually it isn’t even her SUV it is her room-mate’s because her own car is a little front-wheel drive model and she couldn’t even get the door open because the snow was too high). When we got to the “big” hill I looked down to see at least six different neighbors doing various things – trying to shovel their driveways, helping the old woman that lives about ½ way down the hill shovel her driveway, actually bringing bags of cat litter out to put on the hill, which had been plowed early in the day but was now again snow covered and icy. I had this moment of WTF?...
See, I remember stuff like this. It was how I grew up. Despite that life lesson from my parents our neighborhood residents were always helping each other out. The adults would check on each other during storms like this, help clear driveways, share food, people would stay with other families if their water froze… Did I misunderstand the lesson? Were there situations exempt from it?
After meeting a big chunk of my neighbors, who were all quite nice and helped Tara get her vehicle out and headed in the right direction, I walked back to my house to start to deal with the night to come. As I approached my own driveway (I am the last house) my “downstairs” neighbors, whom I had written off based on random observation (LOL) stopped me and tell me they will leave an extra propane tank on their back porch should I need it. They, like the couple next door to them, HAVE A GENERATOR. Smart. Wow. Thanks neighbors. Again, WTF?????
It was a long night. I couldn’t allow myself to sleep because you can’t sleep with one of those heaters on (even with the window cracked) plus I had managed to get a small fire burning with the mostly wet wood, lots of newspaper and cardboard but it had to be almost constantly babied and I couldn’t chance it going out. I would fire up the heater and leave it on till the thermostat read 60, then turn it off. Sixty was a high goal yes, but figuring that was the temp in the living room and the rest of the house would remain lower, I had to try and ensure the pipes wouldn’t freeze so I had to keep the heat flowing. I ran water and opened the doors on all of my sinks. I would nap for 20 minutes or so at a time when the heater wasn’t on, not really ever drifting fully off and setting my travel clock on an alarm in case I did. As it was, when the fire would start to crackle less, I’d jolt back to life and tend to it. The animals gathered around the fireplace with me on blankets, each trying to get as close to it as they could. At one point all three of them were laying on top of me. For the first time in their lives together the cats did not fight.
By dawn I was no longer freaked out by the heater and would actually have it on while I tended to the fire with my back to it. I had thought to myself at dusk that if we could just make it till dawn on the coldest night, we could deal with the rest. When dawn came, I really started to think about some things, including:
Trying to live well in every way...and sometimes laughing about it later.