An angry spine of thunderstorms blows onshore in a jagged, bowed line on the radar screen. It spins northwest and knocks out power in Grand Isle, Louisiana, and spawns a tornado that pokes out of a dark, gray cloud and then pops back inside like an unborn child reluctant to leave the womb.I watch the local weather report as the squall line speeds closer to my home in Acadiana. I’m anxious even though I’ve seen this scenario dozens of times. When I finally hear rolling drumbeats of potential disaster, the storm dissipates. Only a gentle whoosh of rain sweeps across the roof of my house.
Of course, I’m not always so lucky. I’ve stirred pots of red beans and rice by candlelight. I’ve witnessed sideways rain and gasped as a massive live oak disappeared from the view of my bedroom window. But I’ve only evacuated once. I packed up my family with leftovers of shot nerves after Katrina and Rita before Gustav arrived.
The only hurricane to come ashore this season swirls inside me. And it’s because my youngest son is moving away. He hasn’t lived at home in years. But he’s been living nearby while attending the local university. Now he’s going to graduate school. I had hopes he’d choose Tulane. Instead, he’ll be carrying a passport, dropping off his cat, and moving to London.
I’ve never been to London. And the unfamiliarity bothers me. So I fly over the city on Google Earth. I find the building where he’ll be staying. I even map out his route to the university and back. Hyde Park is nearby. Trafalgar Square and The National Gallery are within walking distance. It looks lovely from space.
As his departure date nears, a low pressure of heaviness grows in every cell of my body. It expands with each passing day. My cloud tops are exceeding 50,000 feet. But the tornado I am spawning is anything but reluctant. The young twister is an ecstatic whirl of energy. More importantly, the funnel cloud is ready to break away.
The reason I’m able to drag myself from bed every morning is the memory of excitement on my son’s face the day he booked his flight. No matter how much you love your mother—to be free of her meddling invigorates body and soul. I remember the feeling. It’s liberating and necessary and part of the plan. I don’t have to like it. But I need to let go.
I have no idea what will happen once he is gone. I wonder if the levees will break, if the streets of my psyche will be littered with debris.
Perhaps the storm will dissipate and pass in a gentle sweep. So far the Gulf of Mexico has been fairly calm. No evacuations have been issued, no tornado warnings.
And yet—it’s been a turbulent hurricane season.