I can’t tell you how horrifying our drive to the lake was on Saturday afternoon. North Carolina had tornado warnings and severe thunderstorms peppered all over the state, but the sun was shinning at home, so we packed up our caravan and headed out, only to hit the eye of the storm about 20 minutes into our trip. Mike and I lived through five years of hurricanes and daily afternoon end-of-the-world summer storms in Florida, but what we experienced on Saturday was like NOTHING I HAVE EVER SEEN.
It took all my gumption to keep my eyes on the road and my foot on the pedal, in a car packed to the gills with my three kids and father-in-law in tow. In the rear view mirror, Mike battled the same storm, precariously trailing the boat behind him. I couldn’t help but think that we’d all be much safer in the boat.
And with that thought, I flashed back about 15 years, to Tampa Bay and Mike’s Grandfather’s old Albin. Mike’s brother Griff had come down for a visit, so we grabbed our black cocker spaniel, Maggie (not a water dog), boarded the boat and hit the bay. It was a gorgeous late afternoon in Florida, perfect boating weather. Until it wasn’t. It didn’t take long, but vicious black clouds rolled in at high speeds, stealing our ideal day and rocking our boat beyond belief. I was terrified.
Without skipping a beat, Griff went into survival mode. He ordered tasks for Mike and me. He told me to put a life preserver on our shivering Maggie, smart enough to hover near Griff’s feet – he was by far the captain of the ship and she knew it. We battened down hatches and secured things while being thrown all over the boat, and the scene played out just like one in The Perfect Storm.
I can’t tell you how safe I felt and how impressed and grateful I was for my brother-in-law during the 45 minutes that we endured that squall. I’ve never been so scared, but also never so assured in a fearless leader – Griff had total control of that vessel and would get us home safely no matter what. And he did.
Just as the skies cleared and became beautiful again, we rounded the bend to the canal on Alice Jo. Grandfather Anderson paced at the edge of his dock, worried to death. And relieved beyond belief, just like me. I don’t think Maggie stopped shivering until we were back in Tampa; Mike, Maggie and I snuggled together in our bed.
I’m not sure I ever thanked Griff properly for saving us like he did that day. I mean, I know I said, “Thank you,” but when I think about what really happened and how capable, fearless and in control he was, I’m sure my initial gratitude didn’t cut the mustard. I wish I could thank him for that now, but I can’t because he’s moved on to a better place. I hope, somehow, he knows how I feel about what he did for us that night.