With the onset of hurricane Sandy my life has been thrown into complete chaos. I have so many worries and questions.. For example:
How exactly does one get ready to lose electricity; and to lose it, potentially, for an extended period of time? How do I prepare my autistic daughter, Mia, for the changes that will ensue with something as life altering as losing power for days on end? What do I do with Mia when she can’t go outside to play and all of her electronic devices are out of power? How do I keep her (and myself) clean if the hot water is shut off? And how do I force my dog, Henry VIII, to go to the bathroom outside when he hates the rain with such a passion that he will throw all his training to the wind and just pee (and poop!) on my kitchen floor? How do I keep myself sane when Roger is climbing up the walls from boredom because he can’t access his computer and work on his many websites? What about all that food in the refrigerator and freezer? The list of questions is endless, going on and on and…
This happened to us twice last year. So, you’d think I’d know. My experience last year during hurricane Irene and winter storm Alfred (which was more of a fall storm) was a disaster. Both times my household lost power for a number of days – six days and eight days, respectively. It. Was.Torture.
We lived out of the trunk of our car going to different family member’s houses and stealing a warm shower while charging up all of our devices. We would then head home with hope in our hearts that the electricity would be restored. It wouldn’t be. The first time around, during Irene, we slept a night at Roger’s mother’s house. It was like something out of a bad comedy. We kicked his younger sister out of her bed (forcing her to share a bed with her mother). Then the three of us attempted to fit in a double bed for the night. It hardly worked. I didn’t sleep a wink partly because only half my body was on the bed and partly because I found out I am deathly allergic to their dog. We left at “first light.” During Alfred, thankfully, my parents had power and we finally gave up on the “charge-and-run” approach and moved in with them indefinitely; bringing my daughter’s guinea pig Mimo with us so he wouldn’t freeze to death in our house because it was officially colder than my “unplugged” freezer. That experience wasn’t so great either. (No offense, Mom.) Mia wanted to leave after the second day and we still ended up going home continually. I guess there really is no place like home.
And I haven’t even mentioned the worst part yet. My daughter is very much a creature of habit. She likes to have things the same. She likes to follow a schedule. She likes her house. She LOVES her devices. She hates change and worst of all she gets extremely moody when things do not go her way. She lashes out. She gets confused. She gets upset. She cries, sometimes out of anger and sometimes out of despair. It’s horrible. And it makes me SO sad because I know that she is so uncomfortable outside of the usual that she doesn’t know what to do. And, worse still, she doesn’t know how to express herself properly. She only knows that we are not fixing the problem and it hurts me having her think that I am not understanding, or that I just don’t want, or care, to help. Numerous times last year she tried turning on the TV or starting up the computer when the battery had died. I’d tell her it was broken. She would repeat me and then happily say “hammer, nails, wrench, and screwdriver” her very own idea of a “fix it machine.” She was quite dismayed to learn that those tools can’t fix every problem.
But, alas, as Mia has taught me numerous times I cannot compare one day to the next, let alone last year to this year. Mia has grown a lot. She is better able to communicate her needs. She likes doing more “hands on” things. She likes interacting with us more. She now will answer “yes” or “no” questions pretty easily and tell me when she is sad. I am confident (to an extent) that we can make this year work better than last. And, even if, I still don’t have all the answers to those nagging questions and my family will never be fully prepared to lose power this year, I know that if we do, we will be better equipped to handle it. (I hope.) We bought a lot of tools. They come not in the form of a hammer and nails, or a screwdriver and wrench. They come in the form of a small generator; just large enough to charge devices and keep a light or two on. We got Henry lots of treats and a pig’s ear (gross!) to coax him outside. We got the usual things like flashlights, batteries, and lots of snacks. Roger personally picked out a 36 color play-dough set, coloring books, and other crafty things to keep Mia busy IF (or when) we lose power. We bought a game for her Nintendo DS that hopefully will keep her happy for a moment. We also have a few tricks up our sleeves – like flashlight hand puppets and glow sticks for fun. I’m still hoping and praying that we will be spared the agony of a prolonged power outage. But if not, we’ve created our very own “fix it machine.”