Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Non-Dramatic Drama of Post-Hurricane Life

. . . walking through a supermarket when there's no dairy or meat and few fresh vegetables but being ever so grateful that they have bread and power so that you can use your debit card and get cash . . .

. . . realizing your neighbors have all heeded the request to bag and secure debris by the curb (the request you've been typing and sending out all day) but YOU haven't and so you pile all the fallen shingles and limbs you carefully collected on Sunday into a garbage can at 9 p.m. . . .

. . . seeing the man you feared was going to renege on his promise to roof your house on the roof as you come home for lunch and smiling at his broken English explanation that until he has shingles he can't do the work, so yes there is a tarp in case it rains . . .

. . . coming home to the smell of slow cooked chicken and vegetables simmering in the kitchen before the smell of wet carpet pads hits your nostrils as you enter the bedroom and master bath . . .

. . . being grateful for rabbit ears with which to get a local channel, watching more post-hurricane reports than you care to, and then discovering your cable was restored in the wee morning hours . . .

. . . wishing that you got at least one day off to realize what you'd been through . . . like a dummy, I worked on a mailing the days after the storm and then had to be back at work on Monday so reflection moments have been rather limited . . . I want to go to Austin with my buddy or sit by the pool with my teacher friend . . .

. . . feeling guilty about in any way pouting about the above . . .

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Hurricane Ike came on like a (insert metaphor of your choice here):
a) A much anticipated date with a football star who turns out to be cruel and sadistic and leaves the girl in tears and chaos
b) A bloody corporate takeover where no one gets out fairly and the payout has no rhyme or reason
c) A sloppy, drunken blowhard who demands service and attention and then proceeds to trash the place

Frankly, “figurative” has never been my strong suit so I’m going to stop trying to describe what happened and simply report the facts.

Friday night was eerie in its normalcy. We ate. We drank. We told stories. We wondered if what the news was telling us would happen or would be another Rita.
In the early morning hours of Saturday, we knew normal was gone and that the media had it right. Winds, rain, objects rolling over the roof . . . and it went on for hours.

When the sun came up, I had five holes in my roof and water was seeping through the cracks in the foundation in my bedroom.

And I was one of the lucky ones. My friend had power and access to a truck and came to get me. He and his other two house guests/evacuees and I watched the relentless reporting of what little the media knew for hours. We cooked what we collectively had and ate well. We fed those my friend kept inviting into his home.

Sunday we discovered the rains weren’t over and for the first time, tears welled in my eyes. I envisioned the holes in the roof allowing in a deluge of water and the buckets I had placed in the attic filled and overflowing. I saw the ceiling crashing down on my clothes and I conjured up a scenario of my new place (that already felt so much like home) being condemned and me abode-less once again.

My old friend and my new (the ones with the truck) saw the anxiety on my face. They went with me to check the townhome. All was well. We moved clothes out of closets potentially at risk. We cleaned out the rest of the groceries and went home to recuperate before doing the same kinds of things at the couple’s house.

Prior to the hurricane, I did everything officials told me to do except get a full tank of gas. Soon I added to all of my Ike experiences with time spent in a gas line. Houston being the multi cultural city that it is, I found myself the only one with freckles as I compared the musical blasts coming out of the cars inching their way toward the Holy Grail –the pump. Indian, rap, and something-to-salsa-by filled the air. And though I overheard a few off color comments from one skin tone about another, the crowd followed the makeshift rules of the lot and seemed to take well the instructions from the various “traffic cops” clad in jeans and shorts and eating pizza and Cheetos as they waved us on.

I’m one of the few of my friends who have been back at work. I’ve combed through the news alerts and governmental press releases and compiled resources for our district for an email blitz and ready access on the web. We’ve opened the doors to our air conditioned office and invited our constituents in for a bottle of water and few moments of comfort. Few have taken us up on the offer but they have expressed appreciation.

After I read a note from one of our volunteers about how some of her hospice patients probably left this life earlier than they would have and how her patients with dementia are even more disoriented as they are housed on cots in the hallways of unfamiliar hospitals, I decided that a few holes in the roof and a disruption of schedule was nothing to complain about.

It’s simply reality. And there’s no metaphor that sufficiently describes post-Ike reality. Perhaps time and distance will allow me to capture it, until then . . .

Ike came. Ike bruised. But we were not shattered.