On August 29, 2005, I was living in a suburb of Baton Rouge. Ray and I had prepared as best we could for the approaching storm, Hurricane Katrina. We lost power in the early morning and lost a tree later in the day. We heard from folks with generators that it looked like New Orleans had escaped the worst. Then I remember we began hearing reports that the levees had failed. We gathered at a neighbor's house and watched the news coverage on their TV. To say that it was heartbreaking really doesn't scratch the surface.
In the days that followed the storm, rumors flew through Baton Rouge. They ranged from the mundane - was Wal-Mart open yet - to the frightening - a group of marauders was looting the city. The rumors out of New Orleans were all frightening: bodies piling up, raping and murdering in the Convention Center, the risk of cholera, and on and on.
Life began to move on in Baton Rouge, but we were dealing with an infrastructure that was already strained before the storm and was now to the point of bursting with the evacuees. Commute times doubled. Shelves were often bare or barely stocked. Our stress in the Baton Rouge metro area in no way equaled the heartbreak and hardship of those in New Orleans, but when you're in the thick of it, it's kind of hard to see that.
Little did I know that the Fall of 2005 was about to get a whole lot worse for me.
Hurricane Katrina, a new job, Hurricane Rita...my life was hopping and I was just barely keeping up. Then - to keep with the theme of that time - an emotional flood hit and damn near washed everything I knew and loved away: my parents, married for almost 34 years, revealed that they were separating.
At first I foolishly thought, "Oh, this won't bother me and my own little family. I'm a grown up after all." Um, yeah, right. With every personal (and inappropriate) revelation from my parents, the foundations of my world began to crack and then completely fail. So many things I held true and strong were shown to be rotting facades: my parents didn't love each other and the small town that I had thought almost perfect was actually a hotbed of hypocrisy and infidelity. My emotional life pretty much mirrored the devastated, flood-ravaged streets of the Lower Ninth.
Five years later, I'd like to be able to write that I'm completely healed, but I can't. I'm better, though. Like New Orleans, parts of me are whole even if the whole isn't. My own marriage and my commitment to it are stronger than ever. I can read books again. The nightmares are less. I hope New Orleans and I can both say after the next five years, "Oh that? I'm so over it."
For now, I'll follow Jimmy Buffett's advice: Breathe in, breathe out, move on.