Long Story Short: On Gustav

No one I know wants to say it out loud.

I’m not even sure how many of them think it.

But I’ll admit that there was more than one time in the past week when I thought about it a lot.

Even still, I was hesitant to say it to anyone, including my husband.

I’ve tried to explain the nature of a hurricane to people who don’t live here. They respond with, “That’s ridiculous, Jan. There are natural disasters everywhere. Blizzards. Floods. Tornadoes. The works. Hurricanes aren’t any worse than anything else.”

And I’m not saying they’re wrong. But about the time you’re loading your car up with what it will hold, including enough clothes for any occasion since you don’t know when or if you’ll come back and on the rare chance you have to find work somewhere else. If it comes down to it, you don’t want the lack of appropriate business attire to be your downfall.

You pack your kids’ school backpacks, flute and tennis shoes. You’re not sure how long they’ll be out of school and want to make sure they keep learning regardless of the situation.

You add the birth certificates. The passports. The Social Security cards.

You ask your daughter to walk around the house and take pictures of each room – each thing if possible. You know there’s a real chance you’ll need the photographic evidence to fight with the insurance people.

You add enough food to make it wherever you’re going since you don’t know how long it will take to get there. And then there’s the real possibility you could be stranded in a parking lot on the Interstate.

Add blankets. Pillows. The dog. In the small places in between all that, you cram in whatever items of sentiment you can fit.

Tell me you didn’t think it then.

What about that moment when you were making the last walk-through of your home and in your head you’re hearing all those stories of Katrina evacuees? You know, the ones who just grabbed some shorts and flip-flops and went away for the weekend never to see anything else from their home again. You’re wondering if this could be the last time your home is a home – versus one of those New Orleans/Pompeii-like archaeological relics.

And you tell me you didn’t think it then? Maybe you didn’t. Maybe I just listened to one too many of those stories.

But, what about Monday afternoon when you were sitting in your cousin’s living room and watching angry red circles of clouds bear down on Lafayette and the rest of Acadiana? You tried to call your husband, but the call wouldn’t go through.

Did you think it then?

Or when you sat there watching the weather, feeling like, “Well, at least the kids and I are safe.” Then the weatherman tells you to take cover because there’s a string of tornadoes headed straight for you – and you grab your kids and five pillows and run to a small bathroom and sit there and sing songs to distract your kids.

Or when you finally got the green light to head home and the trip that should take four hours takes nearly 10, and you know your house is OK and with electricity.

Or when your youngest was desperate to go to the bathroom on the way back into town and every place you stopped wouldn’t let you use the bathrooms because the region’s sewage system wasn’t working.

And you didn’t think it then?

Granted, Gustav provided my children what will probably turn out to be one of the great stories of a shared childhood.

But great stories often come with a price.

Without question, I have come to love this place and its people with my heart. My family and I are settled. We love our lives in Acadiana.

Like forgetting the details of childbirth, I know the extent of the pain and turmoil Gustav has caused will soon fade. However, there were moments in the past week when I wondered if I have what it takes to continue paying the price required to live where I live.

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