I was walking out the back door of my mother's house. There sat my mother and stepfather on the deck. I looked up and said, "I don't think I'm doing very good." It was the first moment I realized I was having difficulty following our evacuation from Huricane Katrina.
I don't even know why I said that, it just came out. My mother shook her head and said, "I know."
Truly there wasn't much they could do, except watch us go through it. We had to grieve, and no one can fix grief.
Soon after we moved into the church's parsonage my symptoms became more severe. I heard on the news one day that someone was killing people along the road that we lived a few miles from. However, the killings were happening much further from our part of the city. Nonetheless, I became paranoid.
I heard news reports that said to keep shades pulled in the rooms your children play in. Some children had been abuducted right out of their own home by people who came in through the window of the room the children were in.
The paranoia began to set in more and more every day. Every morning I would put on cartoons for my little ones and keep all the shades closed. The house was dark all day long. I was too afraid of what might happen if I opened a door or window.
Once the boys had breakfast, I went to sleep on the couch where I stayed until lunch time. I managed to get up to make lunch and usually take a shower about that time. Then came the afternoon, the worst time of all. I didn't know what to do, so I sat and cried, and panicked, and worried.
I was afraid to go somewhere. "What if someone was waiting outside for me and killed me and the boys?" I secluded all three of us to the house.
I wanted my mother to come stay with me every day. She tried, but we were now 45 minutes away, and she had a job. She would come take me out to lunch, and I was okay when she was there, but when she left I was not fit to take care of myself, much less two children.
One night I decided to get it together. I took out a whole chicken. Looking at the clock I realized I had only 30 minutes before Jay would be home wanting dinner. "It'll be okay. Thirty minutes is plenty of time for a chicken to cook," I convinced myself.
Thirty minutes later we still had raw chicken, and I couldn't figure out why I had thought such a thing. So we ate out that night and every night after.
The next day, I was trying to decide what to cook. Then I remembered, "That chicken is still in the oven from last night. I'll just turn the oven on and let it finish cooking." The smell that filled the house with the putrid chicken was disgusting. It seemed I had lost all common sense.
Then came the nightmares. I woke one morning to hear Levi crying in his crib. I started to go pick him up, but fear gripped my body. I suddenly saw, in my mind, a deadly snake in the middle of his bedroom floor.
"What if I go in there and he's crying becuase there's a snake in there and I can't get to him becuase the snake is between him and I?" It was crazy, but it took a while to muster the courage to go to his room. There was no snake, but I was still horrified.
One night I was walking down the dark hallway to our room. I suddenl ystopped as my mind imagined a snake in the middle of the hallway, waiting for me to step on it so that it might strike me dead.
Being paranoid was miserable, but the tears soon followed and brought even more misery. I spent most of my time crying.
October brought strange and dificult behavior from all of us, but it also brought many good things for us too. We had finaly been given a day to go back home and get our things. But with the filth and bacteria that was left behind by the flood, I was not allowed to go home becuase I was pregnant. Jay took a group of about 8 men back to New Orleans with him. And I waited patiently hoping I didn't forget to write anything down that I desperately wanted from home.
We rented a little U-haul trailer that he pulled behind the church van. They drove all night, 12 hours to New Orleans. The next day they were allowed into the city for only 8 hours.
Back at our apartment, Jay marked things with tape that he wanted to be packed and brought home so the other men would know what to pack. I had made sure to send Bubble wrap with him so that he might bring my Daddypa's picture safely home to me, and I prayed he remembered to get it.
What Jay found was a mess. Boats were lining the streets, the stench was beyond anything he could describe. The families that lived on the first floor apartments had lost everything and many of them were our friends. Their home was literally turned upside down, and our hearts broke for them.
Our home faired much better. There was no water damage, but mold had already begun to grow in our home in disgusting forms. We chose to leave everything that belonged to the children behind. It was too risky to expose them to the bacteria.
My stepfather chose to leave behind the furniture he had made me years before. Jay brought back our irreplaceable antiques, clothing, and heirlooms. He brought home to me the crystal bowl that had been my grandmothers. He brought me my jewelry he had bought for me. He packed all of our life into a little U-haul trailer within 8 hours, then he and the other men headed back to New Orleans, exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. What they had seen was tragedy at its worse.
I was so excited to see the uhaul trailer pull up to our little parsonage. I couldn't wait to see what was inside, and I prayed that they left nothing behind that I would miss.
The door swung open and the stench that rolled out was unlike anything I had ever smelled before. I imagine it was the smell of death. Boxes began to come one one by one, and then some of my favorite antique furniture. My duncan fife table and chairs, and some of our clothes, most of which did not make it through without mold damage.
I searched longingly to see my picture. Did Jay remember? Did he wrap it in bubble wrap so that it might not break the irreplaceable bubbled glass in the antique frame?
I opened plastic rubbermaid boxes, looking through to find it. Finally, I lifted the lid to the grey smelly box and there on top, smashed down without any kind of wrapping on it whatsoever, was my beloved Daddypa staring up at me with his slight grin, just as he used to smile at me when I was a little girl. He looked so handsome. I have never felt a joy like that, before or since.
The pieces of my life were starting to come back together again. The demolition was over and we could begin rebuilding.