You never realize how wonderful dry shoes are until Hurricane Harvey leaves you stuck wearing wet ones.
In case you missed earlier installments:
Somehow, I had hoped that dry shoes and clothes would change things more than they did. I was already tired of being wet, and according to the latest weather forecasts, Hurricane Harvey was promising that wet was the way things would be for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, the task at hand was no different than a few minutes earlier–get what was important to higher ground. I could do this though. I had just done this very same thing at the neighbors’ house. It could not be so very different here, now, could it? I just had to find the clinical detachment I channeled there and apply it here. Just pick a room and start.
Now was not the time for reflection; that would come later.
Lesson 7: Too many really important things are stored too near the floor.
My son and our neighbor were quick on my heels as I headed for the sitting room, hoping for something, or really anything to do, extra bonus points if it was something useful. I was supposed to start at ground level and move up from there, but finding them something to do first seemed a little more important. They needed the distraction.
The file cabinet drawer with all the kids’ school pictures and memorabilia—the ones I had always intended to scan but hadn’t gotten around to yet– was an obvious choice. The wooden trunks with holiday décor needed to go upstairs too. So I set my extra hands on those and grabbed a laundry basket for my own efforts
The curio cabinet was the first thing I encountered in the room—the one my hubby got me last Christmas because the cats had shattered every shelf in my old one in an event known as the a ‘cat’-astrophe. No, stop, don’t think about that right now. It would all be there to consider when the current job was done. For now, just pack: our wedding album and my bouquet, the vase my grandfather brought my grandmother filled with wildflowers when my father was born, my great grandmother’s tea cup and missal. It is so hard not to think about each one of these things–they have little monetary value, but they are irreplaceable.
A quick glance outside reminds me I don’t have the luxury to dwell on anything but the here and now. The water is still higher, encroaching on yet another house—the third on the street ready to succumb.
Ready hands take the basket and hand me a box as I take on the bookcase. Yearbooks and old family books take up the bottom shelves and make it into the box. The rest could be replaced, just like the rest of the furniture left in the room. Except for the antique dressing table–that would be hard to replace. But there really was no room left upstairs for such things. One more thing not to think about right now.
Stay detached, must stay one step removed if I’m going to keep going.
A trip to the study turns up a box of my earliest writing–must save that–story notes and the scrapbooking armoire—so very many pictures. Another task to set my extra hands to. Who knew I had so many pictures in there–and more in an adjacent closet–boxes and boxes of them. More that I should have already had scanned and saved.
Hopefully I would have the opportunity someday.
Between each room, I ran outside, braving the pouring rain to hear from the neighbors. With the cable and internet out and phone coverage spotty, everyone was hungry for news. Fresh information was worth its weight in dry shoes. Talk of evacuations–who was leaving now and how–sets my mind and heart racing. Could it really come to that?
It already had. That’s why I had my neighbor and six extra animals upstairs.
Can’t think about that quite yet. First, finish the house, then deal with that. Somewhere in the midst of it all, numbness sets in, the questions, the decisions become more academic than heart rending. I know there will be a price to be paid for it later, but for now, I will take anything to make this easier.
Lesson 8: The power of connection
Countless trips upstairs dwindle to a trickle. There’s not much else to haul upstairs. On one hand, downstairs seems very empty, but on the other, it feels like there’s so much still there—yet there really is that there is no choice but to leave behind. We can’t move everything upstairs.
Focus on that. But there is no choice.
Time for another break to check on the neighbors. A third house has taken on water, but it’s a two story and she’s not ready to leave. The next one in danger has an elderly couple living there and they’re only one story. I remind them they are welcome to stay with us, if their house starts taking water, and it looks like it will. Will check on them again soon.
I’m not sure I’ve talked to the neighbors so much in the last year—and I’m not proud of it. What a way to meet the neighbors.
Back at the house, the only place I can get cell reception is the front porch. At least the wind isn’t driving the unceasing rain under the porch as I set up my old wicker chair and start to dial. My eldest has made it to Dallas with wife and baby and is safely set up at her uncle’s house. That’s one thing off my mind, though I’d have given anything for them to be able to shelter with us.
Son number two tells me the profs are being really understanding about the storm—he should have stayed home to be able to help move things. I try to assure him it’s better this way—we needed his room to hold furniture, but I’m not sure he’s convinced. My father, who only lives ten minutes away, but far enough from the waterways that they’re not in danger, doesn’t seem to comprehend the seriousness of our situation, but all told, it’s probably better than way.
My sister, on the other hand, is just this side of frantic. As I talk to her, I’m watching boats—canoes and kayaks go past—one more surreal image I’ll never shake from my head. She wants us to leave now, but it’s really not an option at the moment. The water is too deep to wade through, the boats that have offered help are too small to manage the critters safely, and it’s close to nightfall, when things get dramatically more dangerous. It really makes more sense to shelter in place.
Undaunted, she is determined to find us a way out and tells me to keep the phone close.
In the meantime, I go back in the house and try to feed people, but no one is really hungry except the animals. So, they get their dinner and the dogs get a quick trip outside. After that, we decided to see if we could introduce the dogs so that they didn’t have to be confined quite so much. In the middle of the living room devoid of most of its furniture, we put everyone on leashes and start the process.
I kind of think they knew what was up. My dog, who is more of a four footed speed-bump than anything else took one look at the other two and rolled over belly up. I swear I could hear here say, ‘it’s not the time to worry about who’s in charge here. I’m a beta and I know it, are we all good now?’ Apparently they were and we had a nice little dog pack ready to share the upstairs couch and watch movies with our youngest son and neighbor to pass some of the dark evening hours.
We were finally able to tune in news radio. Even with the crackly AM band reception, hearing a voice that brought news of the outside world was a relief, even if it was news we didn’t really want. The rain was not going to let up anytime soon. More of the city was underwater and high-water rescues were happening everywhere—many of them were by civilian volunteers moved to help their neighbors. The truly sobering news was that there was a fair chance the storm would head back out to sea, strengthen, and return with another several feet of rain. Would there be anything left of the city if that happened?
As 10PM approached, the water was licking the next door neighbor’s driveway. If the rain continued all night, there was little doubt it would be getting to ours soon. Later, I discovered we had another 5 inches of rain on Monday, for a total of 32.5 inches of rain since Friday.
My sister’s ringtone sent me scurrying to the front porch. She’d been making calls since we’d hung up. She’d located two possible friends of friends with boats that might be able to help, and through a ‘seven degrees of Kevin Bacon’ sort of maneuver had called an old acquaintance with a cousin who worked at the Parks Service and knew who to call to get on the evacuation list, so we were now on that list.
Sometime after dawn tomorrow, we had a way out. My knees went a little weak as I managed to go back inside and share the news.