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Lightening Flashes Over the East Bay Hills

It’s unusual to have thunder roll over the East Bay hills from across the choppy waters of San Francisco’s bay, but it did the other night, and when the lightning flashed did Ken notice his darkened room glow for a brief moment? Did he hear the soft rumble as the storm moved on? Did he wonder what it was? Was he frightened? Lost in his dungeon of disease does he understand rain, or is it just wet? Are the elements nothing to him? He knows cold and seeks out warmth from the furnace to escape from the discomfort of feeling cold, but cold and warmth make no noise, and rain is only a whisper.

Ken doesn’t like loud noises. If I make too much clatter with pots and pans while cooking, he calls out asking, “What’s going on?” What’s all that noise? A door slamming, the shattering of a breaking dish causes him instant anger. I’ve wondered if it’s the suddenness that startles him. Perhaps it’s his inability to identify the noise that causes him grief, and thunder coming from nowhere might add another dimension of mystery to his already confused mind.

When he was well Ken would wake me — if the thunder didn’t. “Listen to that,” he would whisper, nudging me until I acknowledged him. “That’s thunder! Did you hear the thunder?” “I do now,” I replied, eyes wide open. The window shades were up in the bedroom so we could just lie there in the comfort of our pillows and blankets watching the sky flash and hear the thunder clap. Listening to the rain on the roof we knew the storm was passing as the sounds diminished and sleep retuned.

Perhaps, it was because we don’t live in mountain country that we have always found the occasional production of electricity by Mother Nature in our geographical area to be so incredibly fascinating, but we did.

Remembering one year when we took our boys backpacking in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, we noticed the quickly gathering clouds and decided it was time to pitch our tents because rain was inevitable. Good thing they were the fast, pop-up tents as we barely got inside with our gear before the downpour began. It was late afternoon so we didn’t always see the lightning, but the thunder was the kind where you wanted to pull your head in, zip up the sleeping bag and repent for surely the wrath of God was at hand. Great deep rumblings and cracking sounds filled the forests around us and the grassy meadow bowed before the driving rain — and then it was over. Summer mountain storms are like that; quickly gathered, quickly gone.

Captivated, we all watched the grand finale through the flaps of our tents, our boys just a stone’s throw away. Wind pushed away the clouds allowing light to fall against the last rain showers and flood the meadow with sunshine so brilliant we squinted to see a rainbow arching across the dazzling-blue sky. Our show continued as billowing clouds edged in gray circled the horizon – a canvas yet to be painted. Director Sun was not finished, but had to move quickly – his light was fading. With a wizard’s brush and pallet he continued splashing shades of pastels against the patchwork vapors of white: orange, yellow, apricot, pink, blue and lavender – hues and tints constantly changing, dimming as the day ebbed and dusk settled ending nature’s remarkable display of talent. The tent critics’ review: Bravo! Outstanding! Extraordinary! Stunning! Magnificent!

Life with Ken has always been an adventure. Even now as we sally forth into the fog of AD, it is still an adventure – not one either of us would have chosen, much less sally forth into – but nonetheless an adventure. If he had reason, if he had knowledge – a memory – we could have shared the recent rain storm and thunder – a privilege not granted. However, in the future when I hear its distant growl, and the rain begins to fall I will be glad, being more grateful, for the good times we have enjoyed.

Someday — somewhere — in our eternal journey, we will meet again, and he can tell me how much he has missed the rain, the lightning, the thunder, and me. And then we will once again sally forth — happily — into our life-after-life adventure.

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