Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Beginning of Sorrows, part 2...(A Post-Diluvian Report)

Three days after our 10th wedding anniversary (which found us spending $329 on van repairs), Patty and I found ourselves being forced to evacuate our place of residence due to the worst flooding in a century. Our area experienced nearly 20 inches of rainfall in a 24-hour period – and that's never a good thing.

We didn't expect the floodwaters to reach the house, because they never had before (even in the serious floods of 1994 & 2005).

At 8:00 PM, Patty and I decided to watch Lark Rise To Candleford (on PBS), only to have the cable go out around 8:30. Not long after that, the telephone went out. And when the water started rising high enough to begin putting out the porch lights of our neighbors houses, we new that this wasn't going to be like other floods.

When the waters reached the downstairs rooms, we knew (albeit too late) that we were in serious trouble. So we grabbed what little we could (photographs, back-up disks of computer files, my lyrics, and a few other irreplaceable things) and threw it all in the van.

Since our van is a wheelchair accessible mini-van – which means it sits lower than other mini-vans by about 9 inches – traversing flooded streets could be suicidally foolish. So, at 1:00 AM (with only one open road out of the area remaining), we left in search of a hotel on higher ground (thank Heavens, for the Country Inn & Suites on South Cobb Drive).

It's a helpless feeling: being forced to evacuate by floodwaters that seem intent on taking away everything you own. And it's a guilty feeling: knowing you're leaving your mother and step-father behind in the process (Mama and Buddy chose to stay as long as absolutely possible). Patty and I don't have a lot – but much of what we do have is irreplaceable – so it was pretty upsetting, having to leave, not knowing if there would be anything salvageable when we returned.

I alternated between anger and near despair, mainly because of my feelings of being so helpless. I couldn't help pack up and move things, and it was maddening. I was also angry that some of our neighbor's we're losing everything they had. (I know that “life isn't fair” – but that doesn't mean I don't get pissed about some of the unfairer aspects of it. Sue me!)

It was kind of like being on the Titanic: steadily rising water, various utilities going out one-by-one, watching your neighbor's lights get swallowed up by the water, safe routes away from the danger flooding and becoming impassable, feeling utterly helpless to do anything really useful or constructive.

Thankfully, the floodwaters stopped just a couple of feet short of the main level of the house. Nearly everything downstairs was lost – including two cars, two central AC units (the house is kind of like a duplex), the water heater, the furnace, everything in my stepfather's office and shop. It was an awful stinking mess. Fortunately, some stuff got moved upstairs just in time. All-in-all, we felt blessed – especially considering the damage and loss suffered by so many people around us.

Patty and I spent the week after the flood at the aforementioned hotel (we couldn't have stayed at the house, because the air quality was toxic and there were no utilities). We went to the house everyday to pack up stuff to move into storage. Bob and Mary (Patty's parents) came and helped some. And at the end of the week, we moved in with my sister and brother-in-law, and their family, in Woodstock (we'll be staying there until we can figure out our next move – or until a waiting list for Section 8 housing assistance opens up).

The stress has been incredible (we still don't feel fully recovered, mentally or physically) – but, through it all, Patty has been her usual amazing self.

As I recently told a friend: I've never understood the "times are tough, let's turn on each other" reaction to tragedy or adversity. It seems like emotional cannibalism. Aren't those the times a couple should be turning to each other for support? Maybe we're just screwy, but, Patty and I lean on each other during all this craziness. Our love for each other is the one thing that can't be taken away from us – and it's the most precious thing we have.

Not having flood insurance (nothing like the worst flooding in 100 years to make you realize you needed it) has only added to the hardship. Mama, Buddy, and Beth (and Beth's two year old son) are still at the house, slowly trying to get it back into some kind of decent shape, before deciding their next move. My brother Jamey and his friend Steve have been a great help getting the downstairs torn out and replaced. Steve's wife and daughter helped out, too. There have been others that have helped, but I'm blanking at the moment. Church groups of volunteers helped clear out some stuff, and another church group went around delivering meals to those who were still in their damaged homes (good meals, too).

There are photos here.

But the fun ride still wasn't over...

Goodness, no...

No comments: