It’s been almost exactly two weeks since Hurricane Irene decided to flush her giant, powerful toilet bowl above my part of the world. It’s been an interesting ride since then.
We were able to score a hotel room that first afternoon after spending the night at our neighbors’ house. It accepted dogs and were willing to take all three of my pups even thought their pet policy clearly said one dog. Being given shelter during and after the storm would be the beginning of a trend of kindness headed for my family.
We are still in that same hotel, though I was able to finagle a room with a little sitting area. Our insurance adjuster did finally make it to our state and he is understandably swamped with claims. I’ve found out since the storm 60 homes in the area were declared uninhabitable, mine included. The adjuster was confident he would be able to handle our claim in a few hours. He was sobered by the wreckage and quickly amended his prediction, saying that the claim was much more complicated than he first thought.
Being inside the house on after the tree was removed and declared safe for my husband and I to walk through (carefully) was amazing. The clean up crew had torn down the ceilings, drywall and exposed the innards of my house. Turns out it was not the brick that saved the roof from collapsing in on us, but a very nice roof. Who knew? I guess I heard the three little pigs story too many times as a kid.
It was tremendous, seeing the damage that huge tree caused. The holes punched through the roof opened up the rooms below to the rain. Water’s a bitch, which unfortunately too many of my friends know about right now with the flooding.
It’s a depressing sort of sight, this house that you clean and spruce and decorate for the holidays just smashed and waterlogged. I had sympathy for the things that had been in our household for so long. Which probably doesn’t make sense. I had two huge wicker baskets full of nonsense, but in that nonsense were pictures drawn for me by my kids when their hands were so much smaller. Again, it doesn’t matter. It’s just things, but seeing those things disintegrate, it’s just a different loss. Not one you cry over. Maybe a passing of an era, but all at once.
Our fat, fuzzy, friendly cat had spent the time since the storm at the angel neighbor’s. Blackberry is the best cat that thinks he’s a dog ever. We are all ridiculously attached to him, singing songs when we see him, etc. But really he was my girl’s gift. When he was a feral-style kitten wandering from where my evil, other neighbors had been irresponsibly breeding cats, he hopped up on our window and meowed until we let him in.
Eventually, after a vet and neuter, he became our indoor cat. Fast forward to two years later where Blackberry was relaxing next door while we were at the hotel. In a mix up with friends, someone accidently let the cat outside. When we stopped by to try and salvage our paperwork, our neighbor dropped by to give us the bad news that the cat had been missing for about 10 hours.
We were doing great. The kids were embracing the change and the loss of the house like champs. But that news? It took the wind right out of our sails. I felt the crack of not being able to fix it.
The kids’ eyes filled up, but then they were helping us canvas the neighborhood and rattle bowls filled with food. Girlchild would stumble a bit and lose herself in worry and then rally, shaking herself to keep walking and calling his name. We live by such a busy 6 lane road, it’s a few blocks away, but a lost cat could easily wind up facing the speeding cars.
After hours, we had to leave. We couldn’t even properly look for our cat, get signs up and such. So much had changed, the thought of not having his familiar face was just overwhelming. Our mantra has been, “We’re all safe, even the animals.”
But now we had to add the worry and concern over the fuzzy guy.
After making calls to vets and leaving messages with Animal Control and the local shelter, I began trying to get pictures on my phone to someone to make signs. The husband decided to go back to the house to get the cat’s records so we could find out if the microchip we have in him had GPS (it doesn’t, that costs so much more) I called my mom in the husband’s absence, as I tend to do when I feel hopeless. I call my mom and dad like a kid. I can’t blame myself, they are really upbeat and have good ideas. They offered only comfort.
The husband beeped through on my cell, I was breathless as I clicked over. He would only call me for one reason.
“I got him! Blackberry is safe in the van.”
Those words were so very important at that moment in time. The kids jumped for joy and I felt my legs give with the relief. I didn’t realize how shallow my breathing had been until I inhaled. The husband was putting food out all over the property and found a can of tuna in the slopped out mess of the pantry. My fat cat loves his wet noms, so when he heard the can opener, he came crawling out from the rubble of the house.
So that’s the drama. Now we are back in the swing of life, because it does go on. I make lunches on the TV cabinet and “cut” the peanut butter sandwiches by ripping them in half. We are waiting on an apartment, soon we should be able to move in. There will be a kitchen! With a sink! And a big fridge! The bad news is that it is on the third floor (boo, my old blind dog will not be pleased) and it has white carpet and white walls. 3 dogs, 2 kids and a cat and white? It’s going to be interesting. But it’s a home.
The thing, besides the cat, that has really just slayed me has been the absolute wave of kindness coming from friends.
It is totally overwhelming. Gift certificates have been pressed into our hands. Anonymous cash stuffed in the mail box at work. My publisher, Omnific sent hundreds of dollars as soon as the power was up that bought my kids fruits, vegetables and some pajamas and paid for nights in the hotel that was our only shelter.
I was only ready for a regular week before the tree dropped. Forced displacement is so damn expensive.
People are so selflessly kind. So giving. My sweet friend, shalu, set up a chipin site for my family and ran an auction on Ravelry. As of right now there is over $5,000 in that account. I don’t feel worthy of it. Not one dime. But my kids? They are. Making things better for them? How can I possibly say thank you enough. Because of this support their experience has been as close to pleasant as possible. This tree falling won’t be more than a blip on their radar when they look back. I made sure that they saw how many prayers, support and money came their way. Because that is what I want them to take with them from this situation.
We have a $2000 deductible and living in the apartment required a commute in the morning that we were not prepared for, so it also bought a nice running truck. (It’s not too pretty, but God it offers such a lovely soluton. Plus, hubby is head over heels in love with it.) Those two expenses I had no idea how I was going to handle. Thanks to the fandom, both have been paid in full.
I wrote this in two parts, by the way. I’m now in the apartment and it is lovely. The insurance has been very nice and fairly prompt, so that’s good. I’ve heard nightmare stories.
The update from here is this: We are safe, happy and loved. I am driven to distraction trying to think of ways to repay the kindness. I’m sure I could never do enough. Just thank you all so very much. I will pass it forward every chance I get.
P.S. The above picture is what my daughter drew on the walls of my destroyed home with a Sharpie marker. I hope it helped her to get it out of her system. We also drew hearts and "Thank you" all over. Sort of a love note to the house that had the courage to hold up that damn tree and keep us all safe.