Charles E. Richardson

Hurricane Irma: Not the one you might be thinking about

Last week’s storm brought me, in a weird sort of way, comfort. Before you label me insane, let me explain. My mother’s name was Irma, and on occasion, she could be a hurricane. I didn’t, at the time, appreciate being in the eye of her storms even though she said it was for my own good.

When I first heard of a hurricane churning away in the Atlantic Ocean named “Irma,” the first thing I wondered was whether it was spelled with an “E” or an “I.” With Harvey not yet a memory, I knew it had to be an “I.” My mother was constantly correcting people who wanted to spell her name with an “E,” and that’s not what Minnie Ann and Napoleon Stuckey had named their baby girl back in 1921.

While my mother’s memory is never far away, this hurricane carrying her name was, if nothing else, timely. My mom’s birthday was Tuesday, Sept. 12, so as she passed over, throwing trees around like matchsticks and wreaking everything else in her path, I wished her a happy 96th birthday. It’s hard to believe she will have been gone 15 years on Oct. 28.

Yes, Irma could be a hurricane, but I believe I was the only one “special” enough to see that side of her. There were many times I would have traded being “special.” But if not for her, there’s no telling where I would be today. I’ve come to appreciate being her “special” child. Lord knows I needed a lot of attention, and boy did I ever get it. She believed in Proverbs 13:24: “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”

She loved me a lot, however, she wasn’t always prompt. If I did something really, really bad (translated, really, really stupid), she wouldn’t pull out the rod immediately. But the next time I so much as blinked, the winds would swirl and lash out. My shingles would fly off as my eyes flooded with tears, all to no avail as she attempted to break off my tail rudder.

Everybody else reminds me how friendly and kind my mother was and how much she would help people — and that’s all true. They saw the calm waters but didn’t feel the vicious undertow her “special” child — every now and again — would feel when he jumped into the wrong place and got swept out to sea.

This weather hurricane also got me to thinking about the cycles of life. As Irma barreled toward Florida, my second great grandchild, Sarah, was born. At almost the same time, my wife’s colleague’s husband, Wayne Rogers, just a few floors above the Maternity Ward in the Medical Center, was succumbing to cancer. He was just shy of his 55th birthday.

Hurricanes are part of the cycle of life. They rumble in, uproot trees and devastate homes and schedules. And just like that, they disappear and we get on with life. At least most of us do. Those who take a direct hit may take months, even years to get to a “new normal.” And when hurricanes of life and death strikes a blow, it can take you out — if you let it.

Hurricanes, of the weather and life kind, show us what we’re made of; how far we can bend without breaking. They make us appreciate the important people in our midst and help us understand that its not about the house or cars and trucks that the wind and water so easily flushed or trees crushed. It’s about the people who stood beside us and helped us hold on.

On Tuesday afternoon when the sun broke through the clouds, I walked out of our downtown office where our newsroom had to resettle because our Mercer office lost power and had sprung several leaks. I looked up at the sky and asked, “Mom, are you done yet?” The sky got clearer and somewhere I knew there had to be a rainbow.