Posts Tagged ‘lightning’

Just in case you missed ’em, we’ve had one or two special posts here since last Monday’s entry. Nice pix and honeyed words. Do check ’em out if you haven’t already.

By some reckonings, lightning strikes the Earth roughly 3.6 trillion times in the average year.

Given that volume, it’s a matter of course that a few of those bolts will make contact with something man-made, whether it be the Pru, Martin Tower or a church steeple.

Or — to the discomfort of residents on a muggy summer afternoon — a utility pole.

July 31, 1971

There’s probably no one alive who remembers this incident — not the firefighters and utility crews who responded to it, nor the guy who owned the Dairy Queen, nor the local residents briefly left without power.

(That’s not to say these people are all dead. What I mean is, given the mundane nature of summer lightning strikes and power outages, there’s nothing out of the ordinary to make this one memorable to the people who lived through it.)

For my grandfather, though, this lightning strike served as an unusual, personal kind of energy charge. And that’s why I’m writing about it this week, remembering it where no one else does.

Here’s the story:

On May 1, 1971, my grandfather suffered a heart attack of moderate severity. Or at least, it might have been moderate in severity, except that my grandpa’s doctor — who examined him while he was having the heart attack — told him to go home and take some Milk of Magnesia. By the time my grandmother grew concerned enough to call an ambulance, my grandfather was scarcely able to move or breathe.

He spent a long time recovering, both in the hospital and back at home, and was more frail and less physically active for the rest of his life. (You should have seen the clown who used to mow his lawn, many years later.)

I’m not sure how much my grandfather was even at home that month of May. The family calendar for the month is sparsely populated with entries. Most are in my grandmother’s hand, and most involve doctor’s appointments and family visits. My aunt graduated from Boston University in mid-month; I think my grandpa was still in the hospital then, and unable to attend her commencement.

My grandfather’s calendars for June and July show a mild uptick in the number of non-medical entries — a weather report here and there, for instance.

Still, entire weeks went by in which my grandfather did not touch his calendar. Faced with mortality, the puckishness and anal-retentiveness of the past seemed to disappear.

June 1971. Mostly my grandmother's handwriting, and not a lot of that. (Click for larger image.)

Things stayed quiet for most of July.

And then, on the last day of the month, a seasonal cataclysm in his neighborhood — right near the Dairy Queen — somehow rekindled my grandpa’s desire to record the details of his life on his calendar.

In August, my grandfather’s once-stilled pencil was again making note of everything from air pollution alerts, to haircuts, to plumber’s visits, to … well, still other random scraps of information I’ll be posting about in a couple of weeks. (Wouldn’t want to spoil the suspense.)

And once he started writing again, he didn’t stop. If anything, he might have become even more garrulous. (You’ll notice that many of the calendar entries I’ve featured on this blog so far were written after July 31, 1971.)

I’m sure my grandpa would eventually have rediscovered his calendar, even if that lightning bolt had landed a couple of feet to the right and torched a newspaper streetbox instead of a power transformer.

Still, I’m glad things worked out the way they did. Forty-five minutes without power, and a couple fewer burgers and shakes sold at Dairy Queen, is a small price to pay in return for a sick man’s renewed creativity.

For my grandpa — an artist, a photographer, a doodler, a tinkerer — creativity was an important part of life.  And on the afternoon of July 31, 1971, a part of my grandfather came back to life.

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