Saturday, June 5, 2010
Getting to Normalcy
(Our house a few days afer Fran)
(The wooded areas didn't fare so well and were noticably thinned out after the storm.)
On Sunday and Monday, I stayed at my aunt’s house and didn’t go to school. On Sunday, I kept busy by taking care of my aunt’s pool which was in not so great shape. She and her daughters didn’t particularly like cleaning the pool. It is a labor of love and quite time consuming. For some reason, it is a chore that I don’t mind doing and at times like doing it. There was quite a bit of debris in the pool and had to scoop a lot of things out and then do quite a bit of sweeping and vacuuming. It must have taken me over 2 hours to bring the pool to a clean, clear and colorless state. Abby hung out in the backyard with me and watched me while exploring her new surroundings. Abby loved new things and figuring things out, so she was quite entertained that day.
On Monday, my aunt made a request; she wanted me to bake her a chocolate cake, and not some crap in a box from Betty Crocker either. She wanted a particular cake from a recipe I found from a Hershey’s cookbook. I didn’t mind doing it. I know my way around the kitchen and can bake fairly decently, so baking a cake from scratch isn’t such a big chore for me as it may be for others. My biggest hang up was finding the ingredients for the cake. I went to the Winn-Dixie down the street off of US-64, shopping list in hand. Eggs, check; flour, check; butter, sugar, shortening, chocolate; check, check, check and check. However there was no milk—whole, 2%, 1% or skim. Nothing, nada zilch. I was about to panic. I had no idea what to substitute for milk in the event none was to be found. However, an idea popped into my head: powdered milk! Low and behold, a few boxes were there; the baking was about to commence. I baked the cake with no problems. While it was cooling, I made the frosting. After I frosted the cake, I announced to my aunt that it was ready to eat. There were around 10 people at the house, maybe more. I went outside to tend to the pool some more. I was called back in an hour later and was told that if I wanted a slice of cake that I had better come in then because it was almost gone. Those people devoured that like a pack of hyenas! I must say, having a homemade cake after the hurricane was a real treat. I thought about how out of place this was our eating cake while thousands in the Triangle area were suffering without power, water or food. (After a hurricane, city water should not be used for a while since it often becomes contaminated with raw sewage.)And just like that, it was gone. The powdered milk didn’t make a difference. The cake tasted just as good, given the circumstances, even better.
On Tuesday, I returned to school and my old routine but with obvious exceptions. I did stop by my mom’s house to let Father out and fed him. I’d play with him for a half hour, let him back in the house and continue to school. In the evenings, I’d stop by, and repeat the procedure. After a few days without power, the house started to smell a little stale. It wasn’t nasty, but definitely not fresh either. Father was always glad to see me, and unlike Abby, he didn’t give me a guilt trip when I left him. I suspect that Father knew that when I left, I was driving off somewhere and he wanted nothing to do with a car given his proclivity for getting car sick. Abby, on the other hand, probably wanted to go bye-bye with me which factored in her giving me a guilty look whenever I left. That and the fact that she was going to miss me.
In the evenings, I ate dinner with the family, but for the most part, I spent my time downstairs in the basement where I’d watch TV. Abby slept with me at night, but during the day, she would spend her time with my mom or Nikki upstairs or in the backyard where a pool was. Nikki lived next door, so she came over quite a bit, especially to swim. In the mornings, Abby woke up before me because she could hear the people stirring around above. She would walk up the stairs, stand at the door and whine and cry until someone opened it for her.
One morning, I awoke before her. My aunt’s boyfriend was yelling and fussing upstairs because someone beat him up earlier that morning. The guy was loitering at his ex-wife’s trailer park which they used to co-own until their divorce settlement after which the ex-wife retained sole ownership of the property. Why he was there, I don’t know, but his presence there was unwelcome and disruptive, and he was being a nosey-ass trying to irritate his ex. It turns out I’m not the only one who didn’t like the guy. The property manager confronted the boyfriend. Things escalated. The boyfriend got mouthy. Finally, the property manager grabbed the boyfriend’s leg sticking out of the window, banged it against the car and punched the boyfriend in the face, bloodying his lip. The property manager yelled “I broke your leg, didn’t I you son-of-a-bitch! I hope I did!”
My aunt was trying to calm her boyfriend down when he returned to her house. Meanwhile, I had my ears honed in on the conversation above. At the risk of sounding sadistic, I was secretly enjoying hearing this asshole get his comeuppance. I really couldn’t stand this guy. My aunt took her boyfriend to a primary care emergency clinic so I took the opportunity to sneak over to my cousin’s home to share the gossip with her since I knew she despised the guy more than I did. She enjoyed hearing the news and couldn’t get enough of it!
When my aunt returned, the doctor said the boyfriend had ‘contusions’ on his mouth and leg but no broken leg. A follow-up exam a couple of weeks later showed that the leg had indeed been broken. I still don’t know to this day if the boyfriend pressed charges against the property manager. I vaguely remember hearing them talk about filing a report with the sheriff.
Ten days after Fran passed through, our power finally came on. I remember the day and the circumstances that I found out the power had returned. I was stopping by the house to let Father out and saw a crew of men cleaning the branches and fallen trees from our yard. One of the guys walked over to inform me that my mom gave them permission to do the job. He was concerned that I thought they were intermeddlers. There were stories circulating of contractors and or people posing as such swindling and bilking homeowners in vulnerable positions. I didn’t care. We needed the work done. I went inside and greeted Father. My mom had returned to my aunt’s house, so Father was alone. I went to the circuit breaker which was switched to “Off”. The power company recommended that power users keep the main breaker off while the power was down because when the power did return and if too many units were still “On”, the sudden surge could put a serious strain on the system and blow some capacitors.
I pulled the latch, and presto, the lights came on! I immediately called my mom. I turned the AC way down and cut on the TV. I couldn’t believe it, but we had cable! I sat in my Lazy-Boy and didn’t get out for the rest of the night! It felt good to be home again. I don’t know what I would have done if my aunt had not offered shelter to me and my mom. Suffering through almost two weeks without power would have been excruciating.
A day or two later, it was our turn to ‘pay it forward’. One of our relatives who live in east Wake County was still without power herself. My mom invited her cousin to stay with us. I don’t remember how long she did stay. By this time, I was fully back to my old routine which kept me away from home from 8 in the morning till almost 11 at night. There were some people in eastern NC without power for almost a month.
The next weekend while I was preparing the pool in anticipation of a visit from one our ‘Yankee’ relatives, my mom received a call from our relative’s son. My grandmother’s cousin (both my grandmother and her cousin were from Connecticut) was almost like an aunt to me and was closer to me than my ‘real’ aunts. Her son told us that she died of a heart attack in her car as she was about to leave work. Her son called us repeatedly the previous week but for obvious reasons, he was unable to reach us. (He didn’t know my mom’s cell phone number.) The misery of Fran ricocheted and hit us again.
My relative didn’t have a funeral, but a memorial service instead. Her body was cremated, and her ashes were scattered at her favorite beach on the Outer Banks. As much as I hate funerals, they do offer closure.
That pretty much closes the chapter on Fran.