First and foremost, I hope that folks who were in the path of Hurricane Sandy are safe. We live just outside of the Boston area, and other than the wild winds and a downspout that got ripped off the house, we are fine.
Ironically, I got to experience this storm twice; once in south Florida, where I was helping my father out after a recent hospitalization, and then a second time when I raced Sandy northward, getting home on a very early flight Sunday morning.
Many of our friends and family were far more menaced by the storm system than we were and I spent much of the past day worried about them. My in-laws who live on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay and who lost their home from the storm surge in Isabel. My sister-in-law in Pennsylvania. My dear friends in the metro Manhattan area.
That is the shared crisis. The one nearly everyone commiserated about. The one that felt almost like background noise to the more private crisis of my father's frailty.
During the terrible days following the 9/11 terror, a dear friend was coping with her own personal destruction: her partner had just sustained a massive brain hemorrhage, which left him, in his 30's, mostly paralyzed and with difficulty communicating. While the nation shared the grief of a loss that felt communal, she was locked in her own grief. I remember her talking about her simultaneous guilt, relief, and despair. In a strange way, her private crisis protected her from experiencing the country's crisis, but it also isolated her.
My father will turn 90 this coming April. I have been blessed beyond measure to have him in my life this long. I was my parents' late in life baby and many of my peers have already lost their (younger) parents. Yet, I can't help but keenly feel the loss of the man I have always relied on, always looked up to (and not just because he is over 6 feet tall!) and resent the way life has upended our parent/child relationship.
Our family's own 'perfect storm' is a combination of my father's kidney failure, dialysis, an inoperable aneurism, and the recent loss of my mother, his companion of more than 60 years.
None of this--not the track of terrible storms, not the fact of our mortality, not the fact that we will all experience loss--is under our control.
It does not make any of it easier to face.