Birthdays and Hurricanes

A cow that escaped its trailer in my sister’s neighborhood

My birthday was yesterday. It was a little hard to savor the start of another year on planet Earth, due to some personal reasons. All reasons entirely outside my control, and most having to do with said planet and its climate. But having no one person or thing to blame really doesn’t lessen the emotional impact.

Blaming Harvey and what he’s done to Houston won’t accomplish much, because, in the end, he’s just weather. Really horrible, destructive, biblical-type weather, but weather just the same. He might have forced my cousin to evacuate her home south of Houston in an airboat, but it wasn’t weather that came to her rescue. It was the good will and good intentions of human first responders.

My sister, west of downtown Houston, is sheltered in place and waiting to see what effect the release of the Addicks reservoir will have on her home and neighborhood.

And completely separate from the weather and half a world away, there was the loss of a very good chap. On Sunday, Tim and I discovered that one of our good friends had died while on vacation, visiting family in the U.K.

I’m used to forgoing birthday celebrations for things far outside my control. When your birthday falls at the height of the hurricane season, you get used to altering plans.

While watching everything unfold in Texas, it’s hard not to recall what happened in New Orleans, on my birthday, twelve years ago. Tim and I were in Shreveport, Louisiana, with a sizeable chunk of his family at Sam’s Town Casino. (That’s where we had evacuated to.)

Just as we’ve done this week, we watched from afar as the catastrophe unleashed. I distinctly remember watching the news on Monday, August 29, 2005, after Katrina had come ashore, and thinking that New Orleans might have escaped the worst of it. It was either that night or the next morning that we received the news of the levee breaches.

I can’t remember precisely what my immediate plans were supposed to be back then. Tim and I had anticipated being back in New Orleans in about three days time, I remember that much. And returning to the normal routine of our lives. Instead, we made it back very slowly, spending the first week of September in Baton Rouge, then the rest of the month outside New Orleans in Metairie, the suburb where we were both raised.

We were back into our 2nd floor apartment across from City Park in early October, as I recall. (Miraculously, the apartment building was like an island in a vast sea, and never flooded).

I didn’t mean for this post to turn into “Katrina memory time.” And I by no means intend to play compare and contrast. My thoughts and prayers and heart go out to all the people in Houston, my family included, plain and simple. I hope they will accept whatever service I can offer, that would be most useful to them.

The lesson that was so forcefully delivered to me on my birthday twelve years ago was to not take anything in this life for granted. It’s a lesson I hold close, and it’s a lesson that the losses of these past few days have highlighted in garish colors.

4 thoughts on “Birthdays and Hurricanes

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