We spent most of last week watching Fay’s “cone of uncertainty.” Most of the time we don’t worry much about hurricanes, they tend to hit further south and even when they hit near us, they weaken once they're over land and so Gainesville, snuggled right in the middle of the state, doesn’t get much more than some rain and wind, nothing we’re not accustomed to.
For those of you who are not blessed to live in a state annually pummeled by hurricanes, the cone of uncertainty means that the hurricane, weather’s most fickle force, could turn on a whim. It could come straight through your town, or miss you entirely. You just don’t really know until it happens. The only thing that’s certain is that it’s coming somewhere.
But every once in awhile, the projected path cuts right through our city, and even though the storm was not as strong as we’ve seen, its tentacles spanned almost half the state and it just sat there like the stubborn person waiting for the close parking spot (even though the people leaving said spot still have to load up four kids and a cart full of groceries.)
The cone of uncertainty usually covers the entire state may very well be the meteorologist’s way of covering his ass. But it did occur to me that the cone of uncertainty is a good metaphor for life. We might be on a basic trajectory, but there’s a wide margin to swing in either direction, or we could turn from a set path entirely and go back the other way.
On Saturday I talked to a certain person whom I love very much. I’ve known her since she squeezed out of her mother’s womb. It is quite a special thing to know and love someone for the entirety of their existence on this planet. This certain someone whom I have known and loved for the entirety of her existence, told me about her upcoming life plans.
I was a bit taken aback, and my heart couldn’t help but break at what I thought was surely a huge mistake. I’m scared that the ocean of life will swallow her up and she will never realize the truly beautiful and talented person that she is.
I want to tell her not to take that path, but ultimately, I am powerless. She is an adult and the trajectory of her life is her own. I can only hope and wish and try to gently guide her in (my idea of) the right direction.
After talking to her, I wondered how my mom must have felt watching me and my brother's "cone of uncertainty" as we found our ways in life. How hard was it for her when my brother said he’d joined a gang (in our Norman Rockwell-esque suburban Chicago town mind you, but still).
It must have been horrible for my mom to see me hanging out with the pot smokers every weekend in high school. Wondering if her bright, smart (if I do say so myself) daughter was doomed to a life working at the beach t-shirt shack, getting high every weekend. At 18 that life seemed semi-interesting, cool even. But even then I could see that by the time I hit twenty-five it would be dismal and decidedly lame. My mom must have breathed a sigh of relief when I instead started dating the captain of the math team, traded in my one-hitter for a TI-85 calculator and started applying to colleges.
What do we do when we feel uncertain and scared about the path someone we love is taking? My mom tried to pull me in one direction or another, but in the end the choice was mine. Barring natural disasters, illnesses and circus clowns (long story), I am responsible for the path my own life takes.
The worst of Fay came on Friday, and then again unexpectedly on Sunday when I looked out the back door to see a swamp marsh where my yard should have been and yelled to Danny, “You know how I said I’d be worried if the water rose above the patio slab?”
“Well I’m officially worried.”
The water never quite touched our house though. It stopped raining, Fay moved on, and the water receded. Maybe no damage is irreparable. Even if we did get flooded, we’re related to our insurance agent, so maybe everything will be okay in the end, no matter what path the storm takes.
P.S. In case you were wondering, my brother currently works at a bank, is not in a gang and is an all-around upstanding citizen. And as for myself, well I wouldn't exactly call myself "upstanding"...