I write this after driving through some of the thickest fog I have ever seen anywhere, so I'm a little pumped up on caffeine and adrenaline. Today we began work on a Katrina home. Miss Ida did not wait out the storm and surge in her home like other people we have met along the way, but she too has an amazing story of survival to tell. She and her parents, along with her daughter left for Jackson, MS on Sunday. Katrina made landfall on Monday.
Both of Ida's parents have medical problems. Her father has been battling cancer for some time. Her mother has a myriad of health concerns that have her confined to a scooter/wheelchair. It was for those reasons that Ida and her daughter went to Jackson while her husband stayed behind. On Wednesday, Ida's brother managed to get back into Slidell even though people were not being allowed in. Ida's husband was well, but the house was under feet, not inches, of water and debris including mud. Her husband had been injured during that time, but it didn't cause concern for anyone. On Thursday, her husband was found dead a block and a half away from their home. Ida said the coroner told her that her husband most likely knew something wasn't right and went to seek help but wasn't able to make it. Ida takes comfort in knowing that she was able to recover the body for a funeral and that he didn't drown or suffer.
What struck me about her story is that I don't know her husband's name. I know the names of all the other members of her family, and I addressed them by such when we met them. (Her mother is still in the hospital, but she has been removed from the ventilator and is doing well.) Ida never never seemed to show any outward emotion as she told me the story about her husband, but she choked up as she told me about the transitions and life changes her daughter has been through and struggles with today. Her fears with starting a new school and not wanting to leave her mother's sight. It has become better now that she's back in her hometown and among her friends, but she's still missing a part that makes it home - her dad. I wonder if this is how Ida copes with the day to day life that needs to be done now. I think about her as I write this. Did talking with me about this stir things up that will make tonight more difficult, or did it provide a sense of comfort to have a willing ear for her story? I will probably never know because it's not something I can ask her. It seems to personal to ask about that.
I can say that she is grateful to the people who come to volunteer to help those they don't know. She went straight to the store to pick up ice and soda to provide for us. I've learned not to refute those offers. It's more than politeness - it's an opportunity to provide for others when that have not been in a position to do that before. It seems like a feeling of accomplishment, or getting back to normal, when they can provide for someone else. It's deeper, and I don't know how to describe it beyond that without becoming wordy.