Saturday, October 4, 2014

Where There's Smoke...

Three weeks ago, my dad called me with questions. By his tone and the less-than-subtle hint of frustration in his voice, these were very pressing questions:

Why do we have so many damn towels? 
Where in the hell did all of these sheets come from? 
What am I supposed to do with all these damn towels?
Who needs this many towels?

Then two weeks ago, on a Thursday morning, it was abundantly clear why we had 

I come by my hesitance to ask for help honestly. It's inherited. Hobbled after a foot surgery, X gave me a bell so I could ring for help when I needed it. Me? Need? Help? True to form, I would wait until he was out of the house, then hop around to get what I needed.

That's not fog in them thar hills, it's smoke. Lots of it.
So when my dad called me on a Wednesday afternoon and asked  for help, there was no question. I picked up @ from school and arranged to have TG take him to to school the next morning. My a-m-a-z-i-n-g neighbors agreed to pick him up in the afternoon. I threw some empty boxes in the truck and drove toward a forest fire.

Started by an arsonist on a Saturday evening, the fire had covered more than 20,000 acres by the time I arrived at my dad's house late Wednesday night. By Thursday morning at 7a, the King Fire had made a massive 15-mile run north and expanded by 40,000 acres -- with zero containment. By 10a, I was running out of towels as I wrapped valuables.

My dad lives in the woods on a private road a mile from the Main Street of an old gold rush town. When we saw this house, I told him he needed to buy it if he wanted me to visit. I'm sure that had little to do with his decision, but it's where he lives. And it's my been my escape from suburban reality for the 15+ years he's been there. (And a lot has happened in those years.)

My dad is quiet, calm, organized, logical. He's used to doing things himself and it's pretty easy to frustrate the heck out of him by trying too hard to help. And, if you're not the one doing the frustrating, it's kind of amusing to watch people try...

I've rarely seen my dad worried. But this fire was too close for comfort. Given the activity on Wednesday night, ten miles wasn't far enough to ignore. Figuring out how to prioritize for the potential arrival of massive fire isn't easy.
  a. Do you make sure your insurance is up-to-date and leave?
  b. Do you start moving valuables out of the house?
  c. Do you increase the defensible space around your house?
  d. Do you thumb your nose at the drought and do a rain dance on the lawn?

We picked the b through d. He already knew his insurance status.

He has always gone beyond the U.S. Forest Service guidelines for defensible space, but he went further -- spending Thursday morning stalking dry branches within chain-saw reach. I dragged slash piles further into clearings to make them "less useful" to the fire should it come up the hill.

He had a friend find storage space for a couple of project cars and we moved one on Friday, a second on Saturday. I wrapped up valuables in damn towels and loaded them in my truck and his car.

The only noticeable cue to his stress was that he was easily distracted. But I could always redirect him. I guess I got to be the organized one for a change. And he mostly maintained the calm part, except perhaps when dealing with the aforementioned help.

And all the while, he maintained a sense of his normal ways. He washed his truck before using it to trailer a car into storage. (While I ranted, amused, by his insistence of having a clean vehicle to cover with ash.) He fed the turtles that live in his pond. He picked up the mail at the post office, dove into political discussions, and all of those good things. By the time I left that Sunday, we had another car set to go into storage and he was more relaxed that he had things in hand.

But the whole experience was different. I know that my dad likes having me visit and I like to help with projects and chores on the property. But this may be the first time he's asked me for help. (OK, other than tech support.) And the first time I felt like he needed my help. Forest fires aside, it was good to know I could.

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