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Oh, I’ll take coffee, with a side order of lightning, please.

Well, as I may have mentioned yesterday, I have had the privilege of spending some time with my look-alike Aunt Lois … also known as Little Lo … but more recently known as ALo. I am thinking this is either her homage to JLo, or her Rap Name.

I didn’t ask.

But suffice it to say, I have just spent the better part of two days being regaled with amazing, hysterically funny tales of my Fathers side of the family. More specifically, the many and sundry stories surrounding my Fathers parents and how they and my Aunt Lois ended up spending so much time in Conneaut Lake Park.

And I was allowed to see many, many pictures of long gone relatives … some of whom I never got to meet.

More on all that tomorrow … in Part II. When I go back and review my notes … which will no doubt make me happy tomorrow.

Flash back to today … and I use the word flash lightly. Because this morning, after a wonderfully long nights sleep there, not far from the Lake, I was awakened to the sound of rain on the roof. One of my favorite sounds.

On venturing out into the kitchen, I found ALo up and brewing coffee … and smiling broadly. “It’s raining outside” she said “and I love sitting outside when it rains.”

A woman after my own heart.

So, coffee in hand, we all went to the covered porch to enjoy our morning coffee and share stories of long ago. The more we talked, the more it rained. The louder the rain, the louder our talking. And suddenly the thunder and lightning was incredibly loud …

Between laughter and shrieks of happiness, I mentioned how I totally love thunder … and lightning … and all things related to it. And my mind went to another friend who enjoyed thunder and lightning as much as I do. Someone had called that relationship “Riding Lightning” … and as I thought of that, but before any melancholy thoughts of love lost could take root, the thunder and lightning became even more pronounced … louder than I have probably ever heard it before. Possibly because it was coming in off the Lake, possibly because there were no mountains to muffle the sound … or possibly because it was just the biggest storm to hit for months and months.

How exciting was this?

At this point, both my Aunt and Uncle stood up and went inside. He, to do something other than sit out in the rain. She, to go get and bring out a bath towel for each of us, just in case. And we both sat, laughing and talking until the rain and thunder and lightning abated.

She shared the stories of how, long ago when my Grandmother was little … when there would be a horrific thunderstorm … my Great-Grandmother, in her distinctive Irish brogue, would gather all her young children together for safety. And there, under the protection of her ample apron, they would all bow their heads and pray the Rosary.

This was in direct contrast to later when, as a parent herself, my Grandmother would encourage her children to not be afraid of either thunder or lightning. “Its OK. It’s just God up there bowling.” she would say. “See? He just got a strike.” I am thinking that ALo and I are of the Bowling School of Thought at this point in our lives.

Inside, we completed the discussion of her experiences growing up inside an Amusement Park at a Summer Resort in the 1940’s and 1950’s. To say that hers were one-of-a-kind experiences would be to put it mildly.

As she prepared a meal of Barbecued Ribs, Fresh Corn and Potatoes Baked in garlic, I hastily wrote a few notes. Suddenly, I looked up to see my Aunt at the stove in … um … shall we say … appropriate costume for serving pork?

And yes, those are pig ears, nose and gruesome teeth she is sporting. Taking a picture while laughing uproariously, in walked my Uncle Tuc saying “Gee something really SMELLS good in here.” And no, that is not his real nose he has in the picture.

Not sure if living in the Park affected something there or not.

Leaving in the afternoon for a four-hour trip back to my home base here, I wished them well, thanked them for their hospitality and promised to start the task of writing her memoirs. And off I went to begin my drive.

As I drove down the first long straight stretch of road, the ominous dark skies ahead and quick strike of lightning reminded me that the incredibly strong storm we had earlier experienced was out there somewhere. And there was a fair chance I would be seeing it again before I saw my humble abode.

And I was right.

In less than two hours I not only had lightning striking all around as I had the entire trip, but there were branches and leaves and all kinds of natural clutter on the highway. Seeing the superhighway blocked in the near distance, I decided to take an alternate route through some of the more scenic towns between there and home.

No sooner did I get off the highway, than my stomach reminded me that I was thirsty. So, seeing an Arbys on the left, I turned in hoping for one of their Jamocha Shakes.  Imagine my surprise on finding it closed.

“Well”, I thought “I guess there just wasn’t enough business in this town to keep it going … I’ll just go to Burger King next door” And I journeyed down to get something to drink.

On pulling up to their drive through window, I saw that they too were not open. “Wow”, I thought to myself. “Things must really be bad economically in this town.” And decided to go to the never-fail option in Pennsylvania … Sheetz … figuring I could get both a drink and some gas.

Pulling into their parking lot, I saw many cars … and no lights.

And I realized as I looked there and further down the road to the non-functioning traffic lights, that there was a power outage in town … not a disastrous economic crisis.

Good for them. Bad for me.

Fortunately, having cash in hand, I was able to purchase a bottle of lemonade and use their rest rooms. As people are wont to do, they pulled together and took turns holding the doors open to the rest rooms so small bits of light would show the way to the others who needed to use the facilities.

On paying for the drink, a woman excitedly entered the store yelling “Hey everybody, there are several tornadoes touching down now in ….” well … I didn’t wait around to hear exactly where they were … I decided to get the heck out of dodge.

Leaving town I was directed around the normal route by police as there was a downed live power line across the road. And between there and the next hour and a half of driving … miles and miles of miles and miles …  I saw only one house which had a light on. I am guessing they had a generator.

Add to that no fewer than six downed trees blocking parts of the road. None of which had any emergency personnel to guide folks around them. Plus numerous, numerous downed trees by the side of the road. And lots and lots of branches, leaves and debris all over the road surfaces.

Calling my friend back home to see what the weather was like, she said “Oh the storm is just starting here. Lucky for you that you are not up in the north country. They said there are over fifty thousand homes with no power up there.”

I was. They didn’t.

It wasn’t until I was 25 miles from home that the clutter of the roads diminished and the lights were on in the houses.

But then I noticed a strike of lightning in the general direction of my house.

The more I drove, the heavier the rain became … and the more intense the lightning and thunder were. Not as much as earlier in the day, but enough to make me wonder about the safety of my home.

The bottom line is that … thanks to downed trees, power lines, branches and the threat of hydroplaning … a trip that would normally take around four hours, instead took the better part of five hours.

And other than a few downed branches and a lot of wetness, my house was fine.

Leave it to ALo to order the biggest storm in years … Just for me.

Thanks. Loads.

(Stay tuned tomorrow … same bat time … same bat channel … for Part II)