As I’ve mentioned before, Erin and I were in a long distance relationship for quite some time before we got married. As such, you would think we would be accustomed to spending time apart and, when circumstance necessitates we do so now, we wouldn’t have too difficult a time dealing with it. You would be extraordinarily wrong. At least on my part — Erin, of course, is much stronger and better-adjusted than I am. But ever since we’ve gotten married, I hate any time period greater than a standard work shift which we have to spend apart: when she goes out of town, when I go out of town, when traffic is a little congested on I-10. It sucks.
It’s worse when I’m out of town for a teaching workshop and Erin is pregnant.
This June, as she was beginning the heat-soaked sauna of a Louisiana Summer while pregnant, I was shipped out for a four day AP Institute, something we teachers do from time to time. I don’t mind these things. I enjoy working with other teachers and getting a better grasp of my curriculum and my subject. I do not, however, enjoy knowing that my wife and still-incubating son are three and a half hours away from me.
It probably doesn’t help that the school in which this year’s institute was held is — and here I’m going to be charitable — roughly the same distance Sam and Frodo had to walk with that ring away from anything remotely interesting. I’m not going to name this school or town, because the people there were uniformly gracious and pleasant, and the school campus is beautiful. But frankly, I’m convinced that the reason the school is so nice is because you have to drive about 150 miles to find anything else you could conceivably spend tax dollars on.
But I’m a big boy — I sucked it up and pulled up my bootstraps and put some bomp in the bomp-sha-bomp-sha-bomp, and I set off for the great unknown.
When I arrived in the great unknown, I heard that there was a tropical storm warning back in the ol’ familiar.
Being from southern Louisiana, I am a veteran of tropical activity. I’ve ridden out storms and gone to hurricane parties. There are pictures of myself and my family grabbing tree branches and pretending the winds were blowing us away. It’s not that we don’t take tropical weather seriously, it’s just that we’ve been through so much of it we know not to panic.
But that’s me.
Erin moved from Pittsburgh three years ago, and in the ensuing three years, we haven’t had any really significant tropical activity.
Oddly enough, the first time Erin ever came to Louisiana to visit me was for my birthday in late August. 2005. That’s right — the first time she ever met my family she wound up evacuating from Hurricane Katrina. Frankly, the fact that she ever came back again is all the evidence one should need that we were meant to be.
But regardless, now she’s at home by herself and as I write this from my little room in central Louisiana — which may as well be a million miles from south Louisiana — I’m nervous as hell. I know there’s nothing huge to worry about — we live next to my father and sister, so I know that if the power goes off or the windows blow out, she has somewhere to flee. And honestly, from the weather reports I’m hearing as I write this, I don’t think that’s even particularly likely. If I was at home right now, I’d be telling her there’s nothing to worry about beyond making sure we had fresh batteries and maybe a gallon of daiquiris in the fridge.
But there’s something about distance that amplifies danger in our minds. Everybody has this picture in their mind of something terrible going wrong — a lightning strike sets the garage on fire, a tornado rips out the kitchen wall, you run out of daiquiris — and it’s going to be so much worse because you’re not there to do anything about it. This is absurd, of course, because even if you were home, it’s not like you could just hold on to the kitchen wall until the wind died down and snap it back into place. If people took my advice and started building houses out of Lego Bricks it would be entirely possible, but I’ve learned not to plant my flag on that hill.
I’m writing this final paragraph on Thursday morning, the last day of the workshop, after the worst of the weather has passed. And, as expected, reports from home are fairly tame — a lot of rain, some wind, but nothing to be overly concerned about. But if I understand these things properly, at least half of being a parent is being concerned about your family whether there’s any reason to or not. The other half is telling the kid not to put rocks in the dishwasher. I’d like to think I’m prepared for both.