I live just outside Houston. I moved here eight months ago and fell in love with my neighborhood in Katy, and with the big city itself. Houston is where sophistication wears cowboy boots, and food snobs drive around in big trucks. And now Houston is the focus of national attention for all the wrong reasons. Hurricane Harvey left his water calling card, and now thousands are homeless.
My home is untouched. A little water down the fireplace and a lot of tree branches is the extent of our damage. One mile away, across the swollen creek, homes are standing in three feet of water, and neighbors gather to watch the rescues from the bridge.
An odd camaraderie exists as everyone commiserates, offers help, and sorts out the evacuees.
I feel numb. Not because of the dramatic television coverage. So many of the talking heads irritate with their hyperbolic prattle. I heard one woman announce with a bit of glee and a bit of awe, that Houston had the rest of the continental United States beat with its 49.32 inches of rain and counting. If only we got a couple more we would have Hawaii beat as well. Apparently, in 1960 or maybe 1950, they had 52.3 inches.
That makes Texans the current champions of devastation.
My husband and I walked along Mason Creek to see how it had risen. The sun was actually out, though the wind was fierce enough to stir up sand ghosts from the sidewalk. One of the reservoirs was having what they termed an “uncontrolled release” and a mile down the path from our nearest bridge, the water was rising steadily. Trucks and boats were on their way. People driving back from the grocery store were stopped on the bridge to find the home they had left safe and dry now several feet under water.
There was no warning. The water rose within an hour.
I am numb because I know what it is like to lose everything. Seeing people hold their little suitcases over their heads along with a couple of shopping bags initiates a dissociative response in me. I thought at first it was just seeing the stress on their faces. After all, who knows what lies in store for them? Homes will be unlivable for weeks.
Besides, everyone is stressed. Controlled lines wrap around the grocery stores. This is Texas so all the carbs and red meat are gone. Want fresh veggies? There are plenty. Want chips and soda? The aisle is bare. I imagine everyone in their homes, sitting in front of their televisions eating chips and dip. After all, that is what I am doing. Though to be fair, all the churches and high schools are piled to the ceiling with towels, clothes, bedding, and animal kennels brought from every corner of Katy. Took us a couple stops to figure out who would take our little offering of sundries.
I am numb because of the collective loss.
My ex-husband piled us up in a car one day and drove us to Kentucky from California. I left everything behind. Every childhood memento and family heirloom left behind so he could find somewhere to hide. He chose Kentucky randomly. I told myself for years that it was just stuff. It didn’t matter. But it was my stuff; my collection of memories from a pretty good childhood. The little Swiss music box, the doll collection, the amber necklace from Israel; these were identifiers of good times in my life.
I won them in the divorce, but they stayed at my in-laws’ cabin. Once when I asked about them, they denied all knowledge. All evidence of my childhood erased. Stolen, really. I think of the dirty flood waters reaching into all those beautiful and even not so beautiful dwellings. Flood waters with diluted sewage, mud, and all manner of filth smearing the antique furniture, the carefully chosen wallpaper, and paint. Scenes from a nightmare, I can’t help but think.
I am trying to find a way to help. I can’t get into Houston yet and Katy, filled to the brim as it is with big churches, has almost as many volunteers as evacuees.
Ways to help generally present themselves.
After all, I have rescued over thirty animals at this point in my life. I have housed several lost souls for a time. But for now, I am just sad. I think of Noah, stumbling off the ark, trying to get used to walking on land again. He builds a vineyard right away, which makes me realize he harbored more than pairs of animals on that boat. As soon as he can, he makes wine and gets drunk. He witnessed one of the more horrific spectacles in the Bible. I can’t help but think he had PTSD. And so will some of the survivors from this week.
So I tune out while pundits argue about Melania Trump’s shoes and newscasters search for hyperbole, and still others will post endless religious critiques of the responses of big evangelists. In my worst moments, I think there is no arrogance like religious arrogance. Instead, while rescues continue and the National Guard helicopters power overhead, I am still. I try to be with the victims in spirit. I have no explanations as to why devastating events occur. I am no longer sure that why is the right question.
If you knew why this hurricane hit, do you think you would have been able to stop it?
If you could blame someone, would that mitigate something for you? Really?
Instead, I wait and ask my Father what He is doing. Mr. Rogers’ mother told him to always look for the helpers. God always sends helpers, she said. And He has sent helpers. And this helper is willing, too. So here is a hope for restoration for all the loss. May all the children get new toys, and all the mamas’ get new couches and clothing. May all the papas’ be able to protect their little families. May all the insurance companies be honest and swift. And may this flood prove only to be a thief of things, leaving hearts and spirits intact, with
And may this flood prove only to be a thief of things, leaving hearts and spirits intact, with the courage to greet the new day.