I once read, “All human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and hope.’” Okay, ‘once’ is an understatement. I teach English to high school sophomores, and I love The Count of Monte Cristo. These words ring true with each and every read. Human wisdom: wait and hope.
I never thought I would hear myself say, “I’ve spent the last five weeks in a La Quinta.” Not that there’s anything wrong with La Quintas, I would just prefer a house. If anything, I suppose I’m learning more patience. I always thought of myself as an easy-going, patient person, and most who know me would agree. I teach high school sophomores after all. However, my F-bomb tally has increased exponentially in recent times. I suppose that’s my clue, along with me smoking like a chimney and crying like a water fountain, that I still have much to learn about patience.
For three weeks, Team Byers and friends removed all-things-wet except for the wood floors and cabinets, which remained saturated, even with three dehumidifiers in our humble abode. For three weeks, we waited on our last contractor, who finished our kitchen remodel in April and who must be very busy. He scheduled a time to meet with me and then no-showed. I get it—over 185,000 homes were damaged—and I’m sure many people need him. For three weeks, we waited for our insurance adjuster to show up, and now we wait as he submits his paperwork and the insurance company processes our claim.
In Post-Harvey Week Three, we hired a handy man named Arthur. For the past twenty years, Arthur has worked odd jobs for our next-door neighbors CJ and Pat. Arthur started mid-week, showing up after his day job, then working full days on Saturday and Sunday with his friend James. For six days and together Arthur and James ripped up the still sodden hardwood floors, tore out the damaged bathroom fixtures, and peeled the siding off two exterior walls (the remaining walls are brick). They scooped the debris into a wheelbarrow and piled it all on the growing trash heap along the street. After five weeks in the La Quinta, we are almost ready to rebuild.
When it comes to the kitchen, we need professional help. We hate to see our new kitchen go. Maybe the lower kitchen cabinets can be salvaged? Maybe we can replace the doors? Quite possibly mold hides inside walls behind the cabinets. After all, the walls came tumbling down for a reason. Quite possibly we’ll chip the new, quartz countertops when we pull out our new, water-damaged cabinets. We need guidance, and we need to know our budget. We are so close to the answers if we can wait and hope a little longer.
My mother-in-law Dana called me as I stood in what used to be the living room and stared through the open walls of our gutted house into what used to be our bedrooms. My stomach turned. There lay our vintage, refinished oak floors, splintered by crowbars, slanted to peaks in three piles, as if waiting for a torch—a small bonfire for each bedroom. When Arthur and James took crowbars to the new oak floors that matched the old—the ones we had paid for no more than six months before, it was like losing my books (previous post). I don’t know why I loved the floors so much, maybe they reminded me of the hardwood dance studio floors of my youth, and now, no more dancing, at least not on these floors. Now, post-flood, we prepare for the future, a future with another possible flood. No wood. No carpet. Only tile. I’m okay with wood-look tile throughout the house. Really, I am. But I needed a minute to grieve for my beautiful oak, old and new. Dana called me during that moment of grief, together we mourned, and then she started to pray. I suspect when we hung up that day she called some prayer warriors, who interceded on our behalf.
Call it coincidence or call it God. It seems that every time I flip into ‘Poor me, poor me’ mode, supernatural provisions appear. After my conversation with Dana, I scrolled Facebook and found a post from my neighbor Peggy. “If you or anyone you know needs to start their sheetrock job, please let me know. I know a great contracting company that is very reasonable and honest. They are also very efficient and get the job done right. Contact me for more details & info.” Peggy is a realtor. I trust her opinion.
I texted Peggy for more information, and within a couple of days Tu, the contractor, showed up at my house. Within another couple, Tu e-mailed his bid, detailed and thorough. Tu suggests mold testing and using a public adjuster before starting any work, which is how we plan to proceed.
I say ‘how we plan to proceed’ because I’ve learned in life that plans change. Toward the end of Post Harvey Week Four, a real estate investor taped a coral-colored flier to our front door, “Dear Neighbors, I am sorry for your loss and am certain you will OVERCOME these difficult times that have been forced upon your life. For my neighbors who wish to leave these low lands, I am offering you Cash for your home. I pay more than FEMA and Low Ball Investors that are entering our lands. Please call for a quick over the phone quote…”
With coral-colored flier in hand, Kody said, “I’m going to call this guy.”
“What would it take for us to walk away?” I asked.
“Well, whatever he offers plus the insurance money would have to pay off our loan. I have a hard time believing he could pay us enough as is.”
“So even if we could pay off the loan, we would still need enough money for a down payment to buy another house?” I halfway stated, halfway questioned.
Kody stood there nodding his head up and down.
With my brain filled to overflowing with considerations, decisions, negotiations, phone calls to make and things to do concerning the demolition/rebuild site, formerly known as home, not to mention the grading, lesson plans, parent contacts and Open House that week at my new job, I suddenly realized that I had an upcoming Friday-off from school, a three-day weekend for County Fair Day. I also realized that I needed a Post-Harvey Houston hiatus and that I needed to see my sweet mother, now living with the severe decline of Alzheimer’s in an Oklahoma City memory care facility. My mom can still participate in conversation if the other person carries it, but for the past five weeks, I’m ashamed to say, I have been too emotionally spent to pick up my phone and carry on. I’ve been reminding myself to let go and let God. I remind myself of Glennon Doyle Melton’s words from Love Warrior, one of my favorite books of the year, “Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time, and what we don’t know, we’re not supposed to know yet.” I remind myself to “wait and hope.”
It was Wednesday when I called my dad to fill him in on my last-minute plan for Friday. “Well, hey Crystal,” he said on the other end of the line, “I’ll be there this weekend, too. As a matter of fact, there’s a Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraiser on Saturday morning downtown. I thought I would go bust mom out early that morning, and we could walk it together.”
“That sounds like a plan. I’m going to stop in Dallas and drop off my dog with my friend Denise. She has offered to foster Rain for me when our construction starts. Right now Kody takes Rain to the house every morning, and I pick her up after school. Even though the La Quinta is dog friendly, we don’t want to leave her there barking all day, so this weekend will be a trial run for Denise and Rain. Anyway, I will call you when I’m headed out of Dallas to firm up our plans.” My sister Liz was there visiting my dad when I called, so I was on speaker phone.
As if fairy dust had been sprinkled on my family across the state of Oklahoma, the next thing I knew a reunion of five fell into place. I’m not sure who called whom, but my brother Scott wanted to walk and would drive to Oklahoma City from Stillwater on Saturday morning. Liz, who had logged at least twenty hours in the car that week already, would make her third trip from the Panhandle to OKC so that we could walk as a family.
My precious mom’s smile stretched from ear to ear when my dad and I picked her up on Saturday morning. I was the first of many surprises that day. Liz and Scott would be meeting us at the walk. As we parked downtown, my mom, who has difficulty completing her thoughts, pointed into the crowd which grew to 10,000ish and said, “That looks like Liz.”
I looked harder in the direction of my mother’s pointed finger and replied, “That is Liz.”
Over the course of the weekend, we hugged, walked, held hands, dined, imbibed (except for Mom), watched college football, and engaged in meaningful conversation. Our time together was good for all souls involved. During a few moments alone with my sister, I remember her saying, “Sometimes you just have to let go and let God and put one foot in front of the other. You know, Mom was our spiritual leader, and those are lessons I’ve learned over time.”
“That’s so funny that you say that. I’m in the middle of a blog that I don’t know how to end, but I just wrote about letting go and letting God, doing the next right thing, one thing at a time and waiting and hoping. I know that everyone faces their own hurricanes, but I keep believing God is on my side, and he keeps showing up for me, like over and over and over.”