Just another Southeast Texas summer, and boy am I tired of this.
The past few years, we have been overwhelmed, nearly every year it seems, with some type of disaster, and it’s been so much that I have a hard time remembering all of it. I can go online and read the headlines about it, of course (which is what I had to do in order to write this blog, because I’ve lost track of hurricanes and tropical storms and floods and devastations), so I know it happened, but it’s just so much that I have trouble remembering, unless I sit down and really force myself to think.
Even without a dissociative disorder, I think I’d be the same way, so I don’t imagine this is a problem for just me….
Most notable perhaps, there was Hurricane Rita in 2005, of course, what I sometimes refer to as “the forgotten hurricane,” because to this day, the devastating effects of that powerful storm usually get swallowed up and virtually overlooked or downplayed by the news of Hurricane Katrina that had made landfall in our neighboring state of Louisiana, just days before Rita pounded down our door without so much as a “howdy do”.
(for those not familiar with Texas/southern vernacular, that’s Texan for “how do you do”)
But even though Rita devastated our area in 2005, and even though not all of the summers between then and now have been marked with one disaster or another, in my mind Rita started a timeline of destruction that still continues, which is why it is most notable to me.
Two years later, we were surprised by Humberto, who wasn’t supposed to be a Cat 1, but who intensified right before he made landfall in the middle of the night, frightening all of us, especially our youngest son, who was seven at the time.
(is it just me, or does it seem that all bad storms happen in the dark of night…?)
So Humberto did damage to our area, too, including our town.
Then the following year, in 2008, we braced ourselves for Tropical Storm Eduardo, followed by Hurricane Gustav a month later, and although I don’t remember them making a significant impact on our immediate area, just the stress of knowing what damage they had already done to others, and trying to prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally for evacuation and for the possibility of dealing with our own damaged community, was difficult.
Less than two weeks later, we evacuated to escape the wrath of Hurricane Ike, a record-breaking storm that did an incredible amount of damage to our community and the surrounding areas. Our house flooded and we were “displaced” until the summer of next year, when we were finally able to move back in.
We had a reprieve for a few years (to my recollection, anyway, although right now, I have a hard time remembering those years) until 2016, when record rainfall prompted the Sabine River Authority (the “SRA”) to open the floodgates way up north of us — a move that many residents, including myself and my husband, believe was horribly mismanaged and unnecessarily ill-timed — and the communities along the Sabine River, including our town, flooded. Our family was lucky enough to escape our home flooding, but many in our community and the surrounding areas lost everything.
The next summer, in 2017, the infamous Hurricane Harvey meandered all around the Gulf coast for several days, like a drunken tourist from hell, and although he was “only” a tropical storm by the time he finally decided to visit our backyard, he was unable to quickly move through because two ridges of high pressure right above Southeast Texas were hemming him in. So he hung out for a while, and by the time he finally moved on, we were left with a massive amount of rainfall that had been dumped on us, up to 60 inches in nearby areas, and people’s homes and businesses were once again flooded.
If that weren’t enough of a kick in the teeth, the SRA authorized the flood gates to be opened … again … so many of those who weren’t flooded by the rain waters that had been streaming up from the Gulf for days, got flooded by the Sabine waters rushing down from the north.
Again, we were lucky enough to escape flooding (barely… by just a few inches), but many in our community lost everything they had just rebuilt from the year before.
Last year, in September of 2019, the floodwaters of Tropical Storm Imelda swept through our community, and our relatively small town was like a tale of two cities: the parts of town that were completely devastated by flooding, and the parts of town that remained completely untouched, as if Imelda had never happened. It was bewildering driving through town because I kept forgetting we had just had another flood until I would drive through a part of town where people’s drenched belongings were stacked haphazardly beside sheets of sodden drywall, ruined appliances, and crushed spirits.
It was heartbreaking to see such devastation again.
And now, last week, we evacuated again to avoid Hurricane Laura who, like a middle-of-the-year reminder lest we all forget what a brick upside the head this year has been, came roaring through our community, devastating the area once again.
It’s said that “we dodged a bullet,” and in a way, that’s true, although I take offensive at the cavalier way this phrase is being tossed about by those who have no idea what we, the communities in Southeast Texas, have had to deal with over the past several years…. But it is true that if Laura hadn’t decided to meander a few miles to the east of us right before she made landfall in the darkness of night, it could have been much worse for Southeast Texas, so we were spared the 150 MPH sustained winds that blasted into our neighbors just a few miles away on the other side of the Sabine River. But it’s still bad. It’s just as devastating for us, too, as a community. It looks like a bomb exploded in the middle of Orange County.
And I’m stressed.
And I’m hurting for our community.
And I’m tired of worrying about my husband, because as “essential personnel” for the city, he has to stay behind in the damage and the dangerous roads and the no electricity and the heat and the humidity and the gross water and the MRE’s to help put our town back together for a group of people who, even on their best day, for the most part, don’t show appreciation for the job he and his crew do to keep the town running, but would rather gripe and moan and bitch (although, there are some refreshing exceptions, of course).
And I’m tired of evacuating and rebuilding… or worrying about rebuilding, because only God knows what the next hurricane/tropical storm will bring. We can only be so lucky for so long, and I expect that eventually, one of these summers, we will lose our house and everything in it. Maybe even later on this summer, God forbid, but it rains on the just and the unjust, as His Word reminds us, so who am I to think I can escape trials and sorrows in this life?
Even still, I’m tired of the upheaval.
I’m tired of being “displaced.”
And I’m tired of feeling angry at the subtle suggestion by others (and sometimes the outright statements) that because I “don’t have it as bad as someone else,” that I don’t have a right to express my feelings of stress and hurt. That I don’t have a “right” to feel tired of all this crap, too.
So all I can do is basically go on “automatic”: put one foot in front of the other and keep walking, one step at a time, one day at a time, one moment at a time.
There is no yesterday, because it hurts my head to keep track of what happened yesterday.
There is no tomorrow, because it’s not here yet.
All that exists is this moment, and that’s where I live.
But I’m tired of living here.
So am I complaining?
Why, yes. Yes I am.
But complaining about the bad doesn’t mean I have forgotten the good.
There was a terrifying afternoon last week when I didn’t know if my husband was going to be able to make it out of town before the storm hit. The city leaders had decided at the last minute to tell the some of the essential workers to leave, because word had come down from the weather authorities several hours before, that we were right in the path of the eye of the storm and to expect to get the worst of it. And although I was very glad that my husband wasn’t going to be on the welcoming committee to meet with Ms. Laura as she roared through town, I sure was furious (and frightened) about the timing of that last-minute decision! But by the grace of God, he made it out safely, so I’m thankful to God for that! He had to go back the next day, after most of Laura had left the area, but I’m still thankful and praise God that he got out safely. For several terrifying hours, I wasn’t sure he was going to be able to evacuate….
And my children are safe. Bored, but safe.
My pets are safe. Waking everyone up in the middle of the night because they are little stinkers, and we haven’t had very good rest this week. But they are safe. Even the crotchety recluse of the bunch, Mouse, is getting along with everyone else, wonders of wonders! In some ways, this evacuation has been a reset for the cat dynamic in the house, so that’s a nice thing. I just hope it lasts once we go back home.
Our home does not appear to be damaged (or, damaged very minimally, but we’ll see), so I’m thankful for that.
And thanks to the generosity of my husband’s lifelong friend, Neal, and to Neal’s wife, we have a house to stay in (“camp out,” as Neal had described, and he wasn’t wrong about that… it has been a little bit like a camp out), so a huge thanks to Neal and his wife! 🙂
Even though the home is old (Neal’s great-grandfather built it many years ago), I don’t mind old houses. They have a certain charm that I appreciate. In fact, my own house celebrated her 100th birthday this year.
Neal’s old family farmhouse does have an infestation of giant ants from hell, however, also known as carpenter ants, which is one reason why sleeping is difficult because I’m scared that those things are going to crawl on me… and sometimes they do!
But they aren’t aggressive …
(so says Wikipedia, but my brain has a hard time remembering that interesting little factoid at 2:30 in the morning when I wake up eyeball-to-eyeballs with a giant wood munching ant who is surveying me with quivering antennae, and I imagine him wondering in that little ant brain of his, “is this a new species of wood?” right before I scream and he gets slung through the air with a vigorous shake of my hand)
But no bites so far, thank God.
There’s no working stove, but there’s a microwave, so making dinners here hasn’t been impossible, and I’m thankful for that.
There’s no washer or dryer, but I learned from my laundry mistakes last time and rigged up a great solution to that little problem, so no worries over that. And doing laundry by hand keeps me busy, so that’s a good thing, too.
The electric keeps going out, which is annoying, but it comes back on again, so that’s just a minor issue, I guess.
There’s only a very tiny compact refrigerator here, but at least we don’t have to completely rely on ice chests, so I’m thankful for this small refrigerator, too.
And sometimes I can hear the cars approaching from way down the highway, and it reminds me of the sound of jets as they are about to pass overhead, and I start to feel panic. But then I remind myself, “It’s just a car. It’s not a plane. You are safe,” and I take a look around at the 30 plus acres of beautiful land around me, fill my lungs with clean country air that isn’t polluted by chemicals, and smile.
We are safe, which is what matters most right now. Safe and together. And no matter what happens in this life — storms, floods, hurricanes, and more — we are blessed.
And I’m very thankful.