Going to sleep the night before to the gentle sound of rain.
Waking up to the police banging on our door a few hours later.
The sound of a rain that had become anything but gentle.
The water rising as I was informed we needed to evacuate our home.
The sight of a neighbor's car completely submerged in water.
The long, wet ride in the back of a police car with my son, a few bags of clothes, and our terrified dog.
The cold, shaky feeling, once safely ensconced in the home of a friend, that I could not get dry, even after changing into dry clothes.
I know now that feeling is fear, subsiding.
|A neighbor took this photo during the early morning evacuations...|
Coming home was humbling. Seeing the devastation, the damage that forces beyond our control can wreak, makes one want to simply collapse into a heap on the floor and sob. And I thought about it, the first moment I stepped inside my front door after the flood...but I didn't. I didn't because there simply wasn't time. Like everyone else in the neighborhood, I was immediately thrown into the crux of aftermath, an aftermath in which no one knew, really, what to do, except that things needed to be done, and done fast.
And so we learned. We learned that water damage is minimized the faster you can get drywall and insulation out. So we learned to knock out dry wall and rip out soggy insulation. We learned that linoleum flooring comes up ever so easily when it's wet, and that after a few days, the sound of half a dozen drying fans running full speed becomes simple background noise. We learned that living in one room of the house because the others are uninhabitable or crammed full of salvaged furniture and other items is inconvenient, but entirely possible.
We also learned that letting go, a favorite catch phrase of our time, can create a sense of numbness when you are letting go of so much that it's just impossible to process. In the famed words of Scarlett O'Hara, flawed icon of Southern literature, "I can't think about this now. I'll think of it tomorrow."
When the wrecker came for my car, totaled in the flood, I couldn't think about it then. I couldn't think about it the next day, either, because there was too much to do. Later, when the wreckers came back, and took car after car from our parking lot, and then others came, helpers, offering food, clothing, assistance... I still couldn't think about it.
When my birthday came a couple of days later, I couldn't think about that either. As autumn, my favorite season, passed unnoticed in the weeks that followed, I ran on some kind of auto-pilot, because life, while interrupted, still needed to go on.
Being a single parent can be challenging any given day. But being a single parent during and following a natural disaster can demand you pull from reserves within you that you didn't even know you possessed, because no matter what you as a person are going through in those moments, it's up to you as a parent to hold the universe together for the one (or ones) for whom you are the north star, ever present, never faltering, a guiding light, always reassuring.
And that's exactly what keeps you together - that's where the great reserves of strength come from. That's what gets you through it all. If you are like me, you do exactly what Scarlett O'Hara said, you think about it later, 6 weeks later, when there is not so much to do, when the rain has finally stopped and the sun is shining and the reconstruction is almost completed.
And even though it was weeks ago, and you only lost material things, and you know it could have been a lot worse, you still feel like collapsing into a heap on the floor and sobbing.
But you don't. Instead, you take a deep breath, make another cup of coffee and marvel at the sight of the few remaining brilliant autumn leaves on the tree outside your window, how they glitter almost golden against the backdrop of white clouds and blue sky.
(....to be continued)