Every Friday night I have a ritual of picking up father and taking him to his men’s group. It is a ritual that I have been doing for several years since he lost his vision and relinquished his driver’s license.
The ride is not all that long, perhaps just 20 minutes on a good night when traffic is light and the roadways are clear. During the ride we often have the opportunity to discuss what is happening with the family, the events of the day and any other topic on my dad’s mind at the moment.
Last night he was interested in what I was writing about on the Internet these days. We talked for awhile about the recent hurricane and I told him that I’d written a piece about the typhoon in Korea. Dad was quiet for a moment and then he recanted the following story.
My parents were living in Newburgh, New York approximately seventy years ago. My father was napping on the sofa in their tiny apartment (working two jobs to support his family at the time) when he awoke to a horrible thumping noise. My mother told him that the wind was picking up outside and he jumped up to look out the window. He told me that he witnessed the neighbor’s roof blow off and smash into their apartment building, pulling down limbs and wires as it went down.
Dad said that he panicked and yelled for mom to grab the kids as they proceeded to evacuate. He chuckled as he said my mother seemed to be taking her time (you have to love this woman, at 89 yrs of age, she still doesn’t panic over things!) and finally they made their way down the staircase. Just as dad opened the tenement door, a huge tree crashed down across the roof of his 1936 Chevy. My father told me, “If your mother had rushed to get the kids going, we’d have been in the car and probably not survived. Just ask her how bad it was.”
I listened as he stepped through the destruction of the neighborhood and how they ended up staying with his mother across town for several weeks as their apartment was repaired.
Then I remembered the car and asked him,
“Dad, what happened to the car?”
He laughed and said, “Oh, I called your uncle and he got a mallet and banged the roof back into shape. They don’t make cars like they used to!”
Imagine that. To date, the Hurricane of 1938 remains the most powerful, costliest and deadliest hurricane in New England history.