Cedric uses an oxygen concentrator to help his breathing. It has a 50-foot tube, which means he can move all over the apartment and even sit on the porch. But it’s connected to power, so when the power goes out we have a problem. At 4 this morning, a truck hit a utility pole on the road, knocking out power over a large area. The concentrator shrieks to warn us of a power disconnection. That woke me up. I grabbed a battery-powered lantern that a neighbor kindly bought for me after the last power cut and connected the tube to the oxygen cylinder. Easy peasy – I’ve done that before. But I knew there was not a lot of juice left in that cylinder. I went back to bed for a bit but knew it wouldn’t be long before I had to connect to the next cylinder. I hadn’t done that before – taking the connection piece off one cylinder and connecting it to the next with a series of lug nuts, twisty things and levers. The vendor, when he delivered the spare cylinders said that you simply popped it off and popped it on … uh huh!
I’m not practical in terms of lug nuts and screws – Cedric always teases me that I can never turn the light bulb in the correct direction. I kept saying, Lefty Loosey, Righty Tighty – and when I heard the hiss of oxygen, I was mighty relieved. With all the activity, Savannah decided it was time to get up so I took her out navigating the hall and stairway in the gloom – there is emergency lighting for a few hours but it was pitch dark outside and I’m glad I had grabbed a flashlight. I think we then got another hour of sleep before getting up and dressed as best we could with no power. I called the emergency number to request more oxygen; each cylinder lasts about two hours so I had about three hours of oxygen left. They confirmed the vendor would call me to confirm delivery.
On the neighborhood text chain, everyone was updating the group with news and my neighbor, Kay, called to ask if I needed anything – COFFEE!!! I took Savannah out again timing it to meet Kay driving into the square with my coffee which she handed through her car window with assorted croissants for sustenance – what a friend! I then navigated back into the building holding precious coffee. By this time, it was pitch dark in the hallway. I had to drag Savannah along – she evidently does not like the dark. Halfway along the corridor, my phone rang. I put everything down to answer it thinking it was the oxygen vendor. It was Kay saying she had left me the wrong muffin! I think I said I’ll eat it and we continued our way to the stairwell and I got up to the 4th floor without spilling a drop of coffee! The latest text indicated the power would not be reconnected until the afternoon.
Finally, I sat down with Cedric in his study and then changed his tubing to the final cylinder. He watched in amazement as I connected the correct pieces and turned the knobs the right way. I even told him I was reducing the oxygen to make it last longer … how did I even know what I was talking about? I looked at him and said, “They say that you find an inner strength when you need it.” I had kept myself together since he came home from the hospital but then I broke down – I was sobbing and saying that I couldn’t do this, that I didn’t know what I was doing, that I’m not wired like this and I was worried I was doing it wrong and all I could think of was that I would be harming him by doing the wrong thing. And then, just like that, the lights came on! At that exact moment when, like the Psalmist, I was crying out from the depths of my despair, the Lord answered. I fell to my knees and sobbed in Cedric’s lap. We were both crying by then.
And now the sun is out and all is well. We have some extra cylinders and we know we can do it. We are strong and we are surrounded by love.