In the distance, the thunder rumbles, rolling toward us on the waves of the gathering dark clouds.
A bolt of lightning slices through the sky, helping to open the sky, which pours down rain and wind.
And each visit, in his mind, will most assuredly mean death and destruction. And even if he does survive this storm, it will only mean the next will be even worse.
First you should understand that we were fortunate. We were not part of the areas that were so badly devastated by the tornadoes in Arkansas this past weekend. Those were near the central part of the state. We live in the south.
But you should also understand that for us, my family, that every cloud is a potential storm. And every potential storm can produce a potential tornado.
At least that’s possible in my son’s mind.
You see, my son has somehow developed a phobia about storms.
It’s difficult to see someone you love suffer from so much fear. And needless fear at that. He has never been in a storm worse than one that contains some thunder and lightning. Maybe a little hail.
But every time the slightest of dark clouds appears in the sky, we have an emergency situation on our hands at my house.
In fact, in starts days in advance. If he sees that the 10-day weather forecast calls for even the slightest/slimmest/most remotest of possibility of a storm, he will start to obsess over it until the prescribed day.
My son is smart. Very smart. Much smarter than I am. And I’m sure some day he’ll have a brilliant career that will take advantage of his many talents.
He makes all A’s in school, and he loves to play chess. And he often uses words that I either don’t use, or, even worse, don’t know.
But for all his smarts and brains and logic, he either can’t, or won’t, grasp the fact that all his worries were for nothing.
This past storm brought with it something I hadn’t seen before. He begged me to take him to south Louisiana – a place was well outside the area where storms were predicted to hit.
Begging. On his knees, crying, and pleading with me to take him away. To take him on a trip that was a good six hours away.
This time he knew, HE KNEW, that we were going to be engulfed by the fierce winds of a tornado. And he cried over and over that he didn’t want to die.
As a parent, what can you do? You try talking logically. Calmly. Not so calmly.
You try showing evidence. The weather forecast. The radar that shows there are no storms in your area. Or in any area within 100 miles of your area.
You try hugging him. Holding him. You contemplate strangling him.
It’s my job as a parent to be patient. To continue loving him.
But how do you fight an enemy that isn’t real? How do you convince your child that his fear is based on nothing.
My son’s fears would ebb and flow as storm and tornado watches and warnings were issued throughout the day.
As the day came to an end, my patience long gone, our storms appeared to be over for the day. My son was exhausted from the stress that he had endured throughout the day. I was too.
Again, though, what can you do? Before we went to bed, I pointed out to my son (I’ve lost track how many times I’ve done this) that he could now see that all his worry and fear and hand-wringing had been for nothing.
But instead of strangling him as I put him in bed, I put my arm around him and held him close. Hugged him tight.
Knowing that there were be more storms for my son to face in life. And hoping that I could always be there to help guide him through. Even if I wasn’t sure how to do it myself.