Tuesday, August 2, 2016. It’s mid-afternoon, and sunny outside. I am instantly transported back to standing in my driveway, having just hung up the phone with the insurance adjuster on Michel’s pick-up truck, and replaying two things in my mind, “It can’t get much worse,” (don’t ever think that), and the words “total loss.”
“Ma’am, your vehicle is a total loss.”
What does that even mean?
Flood 1.0 as I have affectionately begun to refer to it was as devastating and horrific as the stories, the images, the voices on the 911 phone calls depicted. Our community experienced a death. We grieved for what was built, and then lost.
Then came our extended community. They picked us up like a small child who fell from a bike, and said, “While you are grieving and weary, we will carry you. We believe in you. We will rebuild with you.” Every message of love, hope, and encouragement strengthened us.
And we did rebuild. We never thought about giving up, we never thought we couldn’t, we just did what we do every day: fight like hell for a community we all deeply love. We were not a total loss.
During Flood 1.0 and the duration of time our community was rebuilding, I let so much of the destruction both physical and psychological control every aspect of my life. My family. My schedule. Everything was dictated by permits and payments and paperwork. Everything was controlled by grief, and anger, and bitterness. Mix exhaustion into that toxic cocktail, and you have one dysfunctional lunatic on your hands.
The arrival of Flood 2.0 was like being in the Twilight Zone. I watched the images with horror and fear. I listened and heard my employees’ frustration and helplessness. I fielded phone calls from devastated and heartbroken family and friends. I read text messages of despair. It seemed so easy to return to the darkness I had become so comfortable living in for over a year. Was I becoming the total loss?
On that Sunday afternoon, I spoke to Tammy, owner of Sweet Elizabeth Jane, Beth, Main Street resident, Nick, owner of SuCasa, and Pam, owner of Pam Long Photography. We had quickly mobilized as the outsiders who were watching the devastation from a far. Updating each other on safety and our own mental health. Afterwards, my mom called. She is the pillar of strength in our family, and she did something I had never heard or seen her do in my 38 years, she wept. She was so broken inside for Michel and me, our sons, our restaurant, our beloved community that she could barely get out any words. It was in that moment, a switch inside me flipped. My role became the comforter instead of the one needing comfort.
That was when I reclaimed my strength, and reclaimed my joy. I realized in that moment, I had become stronger than anything these two floods managed to take from my community, and from me.
Over the last two months, I have taken the time to reflect on the joy of each day.
There is no joy in flash flood warnings, but there is that moment of joy when you catch John Shoemaker’s, a long-time owner of Shoemaker Country and Main Street resident, video clips of rushing water in its river beds.
There is no joy in telling your sons the restaurant will be closed again, indefinitely, but there is joy in the moment they both realize their Papa will be home for more dinners, taekwondo, swim meets, and they can watch all the Forged in Fire their hearts can handle.
There is no joy in ripping out walls, dismantling wine bins, throwing away your life’s work for the second time in less than two years, but plenty of joy when you send up the bat signal and 40 family members and friends arrive on a rainy Sunday morning because they love you and just want to help.
There is no joy in having to come together under such challenging circumstances, but there is so much joy in being in the same place with all of you.
This community is the epitome of grit, determination, strength, courage, bravery, love and hope. We are not a total loss.
blog by: achefswife.net