My grandmother lives in Boca Raton, Florida, which is directly in the path of Hurricane Matthew. The category 4 storm devastated Haiti and the northwest Bahamas earlier today, but the damage projected in Florida right now is uncertain.
After seeing the news this afternoon, I called grandma up to tell her I love her and to ask how she was doing. When I called, she'd just woken up from a nap. She lives in a condo compound called Century Village West. Here's how our conversation unfolded:
Hi grandma! Are you in the path of the hurricane?
This hurricane is a very erratic thing, they're saying it veered out way to the east. I have to tell you I was napping when you asked if you could call.
You were napping?
I’m 83 years old. If I’m tired, I’m going to sleep. Sleep at my age can be very elusive.
You know something, have you ever been to Florida? The thing is this. When it rains in Florida it’s like a monsoon sometimes. It rains so hard that you can’t really drive in it. However, I haven’t seen that yet.
But it could still happen. A hurricane is unpredictable. The local news keeps telling us—if it veers to the east that’s where the ocean is. If it goes northwest, then that's us. They have European models and American models and spaghetti strings everywhere—they make you stark raving mad! You’re an addict watching the television because you’re afraid you’ll miss something. But I laid down and took a nap.
Fair. Were you asked to evacuate?
No, I don’t live near the ocean. The people who were asked to evacuate were those who lived on the ocean. My dearest, oldest girlfriend, who comes in once a year—she’s got a timeshare here—she was asked to leave. She left.
Mom called, huh?
Yes. She said "Ma, you must leave immediately!"
I said, where am I going?
She said, "You can come here."
I said, how am I going to get there?
She said, "You can fly!"
And I said, what if the airports are closed?
She said, "Drive!"
I said, I’m not getting in my car. Really? Me and a million other people on the road?
She said, "You’re giving me a heart attack!"
I said, you’re annoying me!
I told her I’m not going any place. If something happens to my place I want to be here to supervise. And the truth of the matter is, I have arthritis in my left hand, so driving for hours is terrible.
You've been through other hurricanes, right?
I did Wilma, I did Frances, I did Jean, I did Charlie.
Wilma was a Category 5 hurricane. What'd you do then?
Wilma hit Boca right smack in the middle. It was devastating here. The electric lines were laying in the middle of the road. It was terrible, you couldn’t move.
But let met tell you something: you can either make things a lot of fun, or you can sit there and cry about it. There are a lot of people who used to live in the Bronx but who moved to Florida. We make a group. We had a lot of fun. We emptied our refrigerators and we had a barbecue.
The Red Cross sends meals, they send ice. I’m not going to a shelter with hundreds of strange people.
Have you made any preparations this time around?
I have a battery operated fan. I have two portable radios. You name the battery, I’ve got it. I have D-cells, and C-cells, and AAs and AAAs. I have all kinds of water. I have a tremendous cooler. I have those little ice packs you get. I threw those in the freezer. And I got my cooler out of the storage room.
I’m all prepared. I’m not a doddering old lady, you know. I have all my faculties about me. Nobody pushes me around—I’ve been around too many years for that.
Oh, and did you see my Facebook post this morning?
Oh, it was about jelly. For sandwiches. I love jelly. I have peanut butter in the house. But I needed jelly. So I went across the street and I got grape jelly.
And I have been looking for this candy forever—it’s called sesame seed honey crunch. I love that candy. Turns out the store had it! So I took it home and I have that. What’s better than a peanut butter and jelly with sesame seed honey candy? Nothing, except Halavah.
So you feel extra prepared.
Yes. And so far I have electricity.
The far right media is saying that the hurricane is a government conspiracy. Are any of your friends talking about that?
No. You know something? That’s balderdash.
Assuming it all goes well, do you have plans tomorrow?
I’m supposed to get my hair touched up, but we'll see.
Alright, grandma. I gotta go. Love, you! Thanks for the update!
You could always call you know, it doesn’t have to be a hurricane.
Straight from grandma's Facebook wall:
I am so happy that the storm has passed. Those of us in south Palm Beach County were so fortunate. I don't fault the authorities for asking people to leave their homes. Better safe than sorry. I've begun to put away the flashlights and other supplies I needed in the event of loss of power. Just have to get the table and chairs back out on the terrace and out of my den.
Let's hope that those north of us have the same fate as we did.
Thanks to all my friends and family for your concern. Much love.