Truly Important Things

During a recent thunderstorm, we lost power for three days—along with a quarter million other families across the middle of Michigan’s palm. Not having access to many of our modern conveniences and gadgets gave me a rare opportunity to reflect on what is really important in my life.

No television? Not a problem, we don’t have one anyway. No refrigeration? We borrowed a neighbor’s generator and charged the cold every couple hours. No coffee maker? I used our camping stove and percolator in the backyard every morning. Let’s not lose all sense of civilization. As for the rest of our necessities, I wondered which were truly important and which were things I could live without.

Number one on my list of “Really Important Things” is air conditioning. Happily, the storm broke a string of 90o+ days, but the sun came out and dried up all the rain and the itsy bitsy spider still got cooked on the sidewalk. When I was growing up, we didn’t have air conditioning. Eventually, we got a window unit that encouraged family togetherness because we all had to stand directly in front of it to get any relief.

Now, in my own house, we have central air. I have no idea how I survived so long without it. Why isn’t there a puddle of my sweaty remains dripping in front of some box fan somewhere in my past? I must have been tougher back then. Now, having adjusted to the comforts of a/c, I suppose my blood is thinner. Still, I can never go back.

The second “luxury” I sorely missed during our powerless adventure was a bathroom fan. Having city water, the plumbing still worked and using flashlights and a battery operated lantern made using the john simple enough. However, our most heavily used bathroom has no windows. There was no way to vent the small space after it was used except to let the foul air diffuse into the rest of the house, which was closed up in an attempt to keep whatever cool air there was from escaping due to a lack of air conditioning. It wasn’t long before olfactory comfort won out and windows were opened.

And it got hot again.

I didn’t know how important the dishwasher was until I was left without it. (My kids are too young to do them yet—so I don’t have four dishwashers, only one.) I was amazed at how much time it took to do dishes. I was at the sink all day! Luckily, I had the extra time because I couldn’t do any laundry. I would buy new clothes before using a bucket and washboard, thank you very much.

The fourth necessity is last because I am embarrassed it is on the list at all. I hate to admit it, but I sighed each time I passed my lifeless computer. I had stuff to do, things to learn, people to communicate with. I had to write this column in a notebook with a pen, for Pete’s sake! It was barbaric! Talk about connecting with my Inner Caveman. It is always good for me to sit back and consider what is truly important: sure, my kids, my wife, my health, all good blessings, yada yada yada. I see their importance every day. But the storm showed me how lucky I am to live in comfortable, good smelling house with clean dishes and Internet access. Now that my eyes have been opened, I can be truly thankful. Amen.

©2008, Mark Phillips

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 Women, it's true, make human beings, but only men can make men. - Margaret Mead

Mark Phillips is a Stay-At-Home-Dad and freelance writer. Along with raising his four children, he is developing a franchise called “The Vacuum IS a Power Tool.” It is designed to help SAHDs maintain that which makes us men, instead of hairy Mom-substitutes. He earned a B.S. in Communication/Theatre Arts and teaching certificates in English, public speaking, and psychology from Eastern Michigan University. After six years as a high school English teacher and Director of Dramatic Arts at Powers Catholic High School in Flint, Michigan, he changed careers and became a Stay-At-Home-Dad. or E-Mail

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