“Are we going to die, Dad?”

“Yes, my son,” I said. “This is the end.

The sirens were wailing. The sky was dark. The meteorologist was wide-eyed with fear. The end times were upon us. Surrounded by cornfields. Buried deep in the Midwest. Requiem for Iowa. Requiem for the Tanner family.

Tornadoes. Lots of them.


But then, of course, we didn’t die. We hung out in the basement for thirty minutes and the rain stopped. And the meteorologist found a new community to warn.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It was a serious storm front that moved through Iowa City a few weeks ago. All sorts of rain. Thunder and hail. Wind. The power flickered and went out for a few minutes. Tornadoes to the left of us and tornadoes to the right. But we danced like a butterfly and didn’t get stung at all.

“Don’t worry,” I told my worrying boys.

“We should have stayed in Pennsylvania, Dad,” Solomon said.

That’s a whole other conversation.

I remember going down to the basement many times as a kid growing up in Minnesota. My childhood is littered with tornado warnings. Hiding out in windowless rooms. Armed with candles and snacks. Battery operated radios. The works. I’m sure my first few tornado warnings were terrifying. Less so as I got older. I told the boys as much. It didn’t seem to help.

I went upstairs to use the bathroom during our stint in the basement. I was back a few minutes later.

“I saw the tornado upstairs. He was angry.”

“Are you serious?” Samson asked with big wide eyes.

“No,” I assured him. I bet Dad made the same joke to me when I was a kid. Seems like a thing my dad would do.

We survived our first serious tornado warning now that we’re back in the Midwest. The sun came out. Didn’t really get much rain. It was sort of disappointing. But I suppose disappointment is better than carnage or, God forbid, death.


I like a good thunderstorm. Preferably at night. Preferably as I’m tucked under the covers with a view out the window. I find it peaceful.

Lord, but I could use some peace right now. I’m limping over the finish line this semester. Bruised and battered by a year at a new institution. The same job but entirely different. I’m eager for summer break, even if it is filled with tornado warnings. I just want to shut my mind off. See if that helps the blood pressure. See if it helps recharge this 42-year-old body of mine.

The boys were playing screens ten minutes after the sirens stopped. I walked by Samson. He was watching highlights of old Vikings games. That’s what he does now. He’s obsessed with football.

“Are you dead yet, Samson?” I asked.

“No, are you?” he replied.

No, I’m still kicking. Still surviving tornado warnings. Still making my way forward despite the death and decay found in the natural world. Still very much alive.

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