Tag Archives: storms

Stormy Weather Was My Sister’s Worst Nightmare

3 Jun

Ever since I moved to Kansas over 30 years ago I have been amazed by the storms! Where I grew up in the New Jersey/New York area, you never really saw a storm coming. Yes, the sky turned grey; yes it got windy; yes there was lightening and thunder. But you never actually saw an entire anvil thunderstorm cloud or could see the twirling clouds that at times become tornados.

Over the years I grew used to the sound of the sirens being tested the first Wednesday of every month at 11 am, unless there was bad weather. I learned that a bow hook on a radar echo was a very bad sight to see. The sight of pea size, dime size, nickel size, quarter size and baseball size hail taught us to stay indoors! Oh how I hate to be driving my car when hail starts falling!

I taught my children that when the sirens go off, they go to our basement shelter. No discussion, no arguments, just get the cats and go. And they never argued. Tornados are not something to argue about.

For three years my nephew, my sister’s son, lived in Kansas while he studied at the University of Kansas for his master’s degree. I was not sure how my sister would deal with the stormy weather. You see, my sister is petrified of storms.

It dates back to a storm in the Catskills when she was very young. She insists that I was not there when it happened. But since I remember it just as well, I think she is wrong. And I am 3 ½ years older. So I believe I was there,at least for one storm. The one I remember was frightening enough.

It was in our grandparents’ home in Kauneonga Lake, the big house, which was an all season house, not just a bungalow.   There was a storm going on outside. It might have been the hurricane that came up the coast in the early 1960s. In any case we were watching television and a bolt of lightening hit the house and shot from the television into the refrigerator. It went right past me in the family room. This is what I remember.

My sister has a slightly different memory. But since I am the one blogging, I will go with my memory.

However, being a good sister, I will give her side. She says she was in the kitchen and saw lightening hit the stove as it went past her. “It was right after the kitchen was remodeled, and the lightening broke the clock on the oven.  As you may recall it never worked again.”

“The thing that cemented my terror,” my sister said, “was the power went out (no surprise there) and Grandma took a candle and went all through the house looking for fires from the lightening.” She was “petrified being alone in the dark with just a candle and still seeing the afterimage of the lightening and smelling the burnt insulation from the stove.”

It was absolutely terrifying. To this day, I cannot watch television when there is lightening and thunder. I go around the house turning off computers and televisions. I have a wonderful weather radio I listen to during storms. And with modern technology, I now have a weather ap on my phone to let me know tornado and thunder storm warnings and watches, as well as the radar.

For my sister, who was about four, the memory was paralyzing.   She became absolutely terrified of storms. When thunder and lightening occurred she would cry and need to be held. And since I shared a room, I often shared my bed with her during a nighttime storm.

As we aged, I have to admit, I was not always pleasant about her fears. I remember one storm in particular. She was in middle school, and I was in high school. I woke up during one of the worst thunderstorms I ever heard in the Catskills.. But I kept quiet and did not move. I knew if I said anything, my sister would crawl into bed with me, and I was not in the mood. After a few minutes of listening to the storm, the door opened. My mother was standing there.

“Are you okay?” She asked my sister, who then began to cry. I spoke up. “I knew she would do that,” I whispered.

I got in so much trouble!!! My Mom started yelling at me. “You were awake and you did not help your sister!!!”

Next thing I knew my sister was in my twin bed with me, where she spent the rest of the night. I was doomed from that point on to always share my bed during a storm. I guess it was great practice for years later when I had children.

So flash forward 35 years, and my nephew is now in the land of thunderstorms and tornadoes. My sister was not totally happy about the choice of Kansas as a place to live; although she tried to stay calm about it. She said, “Once my children were born, I made a concerted effort not to show my fear to either of them, and they didn’t know until they were teenagers that I was afraid of storms.”

The only thing that helped my sister at all is that he lived in a basement apartment, so he basically lived in a storm shelter.

I am honestly glad that my sister has never been here for a severe thunderstorm when the rotation starts and we have had to seek shelter. The swirl of the winds, the roar of the thunder, the sudden flashes of lightening make storms furious and intense in Kansas.  Living in Kansas through spring and autumn storms has taught me to be wary and keep aware of changing weather.  I am not sure that my sister would do well living through her worst nightmare.

My Five Levels of “OY”

4 Nov

I recently realized that in my mind there are actually five levels of Oy. These five different levels provide me the ability to express sorrow or sadness with an oy-statement.

The first, of course, is the simple ‘oy.’ This mean ‘oh’ or ‘ouch.’ I use OY when my cat jumps on my stomach or I drop something. Sometimes I use oy when someone is telling about an embarrassing experience they had. A response of “Oy” is always appreciated.

I never use oy when something bad has happened. It is usually used for events that are a little bit funny. I guess someone slipping on a banana peel without getting hurt would be an oy moment.

It sometimes has an “I cannot believe I did that,” feeling. After you do it, you think, “Oy! Why did I do that!”

But when I say “Oy Vey” I have amped up the response. Now I have feelings of woe, which is exactly what “oy vey” means, “oh woe!” I think the following is a good example of an oy vey experience.

The summer of 2013, on Fathers’ Day, my husband and I were at a party. During the party a storm blew in to the area. It was tornado weather in Kansas. We all took shelter in the house. Although the wind blew and the rain came down, it was not too bad where we were.

All those branches on the ground should be in the tree.  Oy Vey

All those branches on the ground should be in the tree.         Oy Vey

However, when we got home, OY VEY!!!   Our beautiful Sugar Maple was destroyed in a microburst of rain and wind. Branches and limbs were all over our front yard. Part of our fence was crushed.   It looked like a disaster zone in our neighborhood. And our house seemed to be the epicenter.

But it was only an Oy Vey, the second level of oy, because no one was hurt. No homes were damaged. Yes, the tree was going to have to be taken down, but in the long run it was just a second level oy experience.  My son and his friends came over and helped my husband collect all the branches and to get the big branch off the fence. Those branches were big and heavy!

The next day I called the tree service we use. Luckily they had trimmed that tree just six months before, which probably lessened the damage. I will admit watching the tree service actually take the tree down was a second oy vey experience. It was a very large tree! But they took care of everything, while I watched and took photos…all the time chanting, “Oy Vey!”

“Oy Vey Iz Mir” is a much stronger, “Woe is ME! “ When I say the entire sentence, then I am really worried. When I say, “Oy Vey IZ Mir,” something horrible has happened.   Someone I know is sick. Or an elderly parent is in hospice or has passed away. Sometimes I say that when someone has lost a job. It is a statement for a calamity, but not for a tragedy. Or maybe something scary has occurred.

When I was a child in the Catskills, the boys who lived in the house next door were shooting BB guns and aiming at a target made of wood. The BBs ricocheted into our yard. All I remember was the leaves rustling and my Dad, who had served in Korea, jumping on us yelling, “Get Down!! Get Down!!!”

One of my grandparents said “Oy Vey iz mir.” I think both because of the guns and because of Dad’s reaction. He stormed over to the house and yelled. After that there were no BBs for a while. Then I think they built a target with straw behind it. But that “Oy Vey iz mir” has stayed with me!

I think the English saying, “Woe is me” is an example of Yiddish phrasing in English. I have woe. I feel woeful. I am sad. Those are all English. But in Yiddish, Oy Vey iz Mir. Oh woe is me!!!

For a tragedy I have my fourth level of Oy. That is seven oys in a row followed by Vey Iz Mir.   “Oy oy oy oy oy oy oy vey iz mir.” That is when I feel absolutely terrible about what I have just heard: when some one has had a true tragedy. What could that be? A young person has passed away.   Someone’s son or daughter has been in a serious car accident. During my children’s teen years, there were unfortunately several times when the fourth level of oy was invoked.   A suicide is a definite fourth level of oy. Where I might forget why I used the first three levels of oy, when I have a fourth level of oy moment, it lives with me forever.

When I reach this level I usually need a piece of chocolate and a glass of tea. When I say this I know that I would love to speak to my Mom or Dad and debrief. The fourth level of oy moments are the times when I end up making phone calls or sending out emails to let others know, so that we can band together and help.

But I said there are five levels of Oy. So what could be worse than level four? Well there is level five, when I say, “Oy, a Bracha.” With this I am saying “woe is me, we need a blessing.” With the fifth level of oy I am calling on God to help.

When war breaks out in Israel, it is an “oy a bracha,” moment. With a daughter living in Tel Aviv and many family members throughout Israel, the threat of weapons, rockets, war, and destruction makes me very anxious.

For me 9/11 was a fifth level oy moment. We needed all the blessings we could get then. And so for me, it was saying “Oy, a Bracha!” Help us, bless us.

My five levels of oy have been part of my life as long as I can remember.   I am glad that most of my oy moments are level one and level two oys. But I am also glad I know a bit of Yiddish so I have a way to express exactly how I feel.