It took all the way until last night to wonder if we were doing something wrong. Or rather, to wonder why it appeared that we were doing EVERYTHING wrong. It only took until last night to have an existential crisis about how in the whole wide world, we had ended up right here, right at this strange time.
We had already moved to Florida less than two weeks before the biggest hurricane ever seen in the Atlantic. It appeared it wouldn’t hit us, and then it shifted. And then it looked like it would weaken. And then it was going too far east, and then too far west, and then, right in the middle of it’s over-the-land-path, had headed straight for us. I mean, directly, at the very last minute. I didn’t know this because we had lost power long before this, but family members let us know.
Then that night we made the decision that we were more worried about the tree in front falling, because it is raised and not the liveliest looking plant in the world, so we moved us all downstairs to the sturdier looking family room, the one that is half made of concrete blocks.
At around midnight, not even the strongest part of the storm, there was a giant booming, and it turned out that out of all the rooms we have, we had moved everyone to the room that was closest to the tree that actually ended up falling. You know, the biggest one on the property.
We spent the rest of the night unable to see but sure, at least, that we all were alive.
That morning the gawkers started. I’m pretty sure one of the signs that something has gone wrong in your life is when people, EVERYBODY, starts the staring. It turned out we were *that* house, the one where people slow down to get a better look, and go to the corner to turn around and come back past, the one where people slow down and pull out their phones to get pictures. The house where a tree removal guy stopped to give me his card, and for a second just simply stood in the driveway with his mouth open before he recalled himself and introduced himself.
On a bigger scale, we are part of, we have just moved to, *that* town. I don’t know about the damage other places, because I still don’t have internet and haven’t been able to read or see anything, but Lakeland was hit hard.
Just on my road there are mobile homes in lakes, trees weighing down power lines, crews out to move trees from across the road. Most of the north side is still without power, stop lights are still out, signs are missing, groceries stores are empty. Yesterday some gas stations got gas delivered, and at the one I saw, the line of cars went out to the highway and there were cops out of their cars, directing and organizing the lines.
Nothing makes me doubt humanity as much as having a curfew put in place to discourage looting.
And nothing makes me believe in humanity so much as driving eight miles down a four lane highway with all the stop lights out, busy intersections all along, and everyone waiting their turn every time.
Yeah, this week, we’re those people in that town.
And then last night, Joe went in to work for his first night on the job. And ten minutes after he left the boys and I went to clean up some more branches.
Even though the giant tree is the real issue, we have branches all over our yard, and we lost some smaller trees too, so our clean up needs to happen on a grand scale and a small scale.
I grabbed a branch and dropped it with a yell two seconds later. Twenty minutes later, after some one-handed Googling and some tears, I discovered that I had, for the first time in my life, gotten stinging nettle. All because I decided to clean up my yard in this still destroyed town where I moved just in time for a hurricane.
I know many people were hit far harder, but at that moment, in that time, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a bit personal; like Irma had it out for me all along, stringing me along, keeping me guessing, but always aiming for me, right down to the stinging nettles two days after she left.
Some days you go through them and wonder why things have happened exactly the way they have, and you wonder how you have ended up here, of all places, with a carport falling about your head in metal strips, stinging nettle on your hands, a slightly smashed car in the driveway, people driving by taking pictures, and two small boys to look after one handed, by yourself.
I think, at that moment, it’s fair to question every single step that led you to that place.