September 14, 2017
They are almost home. I received a text this morning at 4:21am, "Get our way to FL…Nombre De Dios." Mom has arthritis and she uses a stylus to text. I am sure she meant "On our way to FL…Nombre de Dios is Spanish for Name of God. As a child whenever we would take a trip as a family, she would make the sign of the cross and whisper "Nombre De Dios". When we would arrive at our destination, she would make the sign of the cross and whisper Gracias a Dios, Thanks to God. I do the same. My youngest daughter who is active duty and part of H-53 squadron would let me know when she was flying. Early on I would text those words to her at take-off and when she landed. I text the same words to my eldest who lives in California when we travel. A family thing. Tradition.
Watching baseball is a family tradition as well. While my parents were here with us waiting out Irma we watched more baseball in that week than we had all season. It helped give them something to look forward to besides watching the weather channel. I fussed over them, making breakfast on the days I was home or setting out something for them on the days I worked. I brought some savory chicken soup from a nearby Mexican restaurant that I knew they would love and they did.
My heart hurt for them. Irma was their third evacuation in less than twenty years. The Cedar Fire of 2003 drove them from their home in Scripps Ranch near San Diego. It came within a block of the home they had bought when I was a junior in high school. My father had been trying to convince my mom in the months before it was a good time to sell and move closer to us. My brother and his family lived in Virginia and we lived three hours away in North Carolina. Mom, resisted. She just had a kitchen remodeled. Dad was working a low stress job in security for the rich and famous in Rancho Santa Fe and played senior softball every chance he got. Life was easy-peasy. When they were able to return to their home, Mom was so overcome by the devastation within feet from their home, she was finally persuaded to move. Not quite a year later, a family who lost their home in that infamous fire was the first to view it and the one who purchased it.
Two years later, the year of Katrina, my parents were again facing a potential catastrophe. Hurricane Dennis number 1 of the 5 that were to blame for the most destruction that hurricane season was headed their way and there was a mandatory evacuation of the panhandle area. Mom and Dad talked in hush tones of seeing the traffic on Interstate 65 all lanes including south bound had been opened to accommodate northbound traffic. That time they stayed with us for a couple of days only, returning to their home intact. The following week when we spoke, they both talked about driving the rural roads from High 65 to Cantonment in trepidation, seeing blue tarps over the roofs of many of the homes they passed. It wasn’t long after that hurricane season from hell; they bought a home in Orange Park area of Jacksonville.
Last October Hurricane Matthew was headed toward Jacksonville and they made the decision to my brother’s and my dismay, to stay put. Mom told me later of them bunkering in the master bedroom closet with pillows, comforters, flashlight and wine. Dad, a retired Navy Chief and consequently forever the man with more contingency plans than fingers and toes, brought into the bunker his hacksaw, hammer and wine bottle opener. “Just in case”.
When Dad balked about coming north to join us when we saw how monstrous Irma was becoming, I reminded him what he told me after Hurricane Matthew. “Next time, we are not staying. We are too old for this. The stress of the reports and not knowing…” Of course, he doesn’t remember saying those words, but it didn’t matter, because Mom made the executive decision that she wanted to leave.
I cherished the time we had. It certainly wasn’t ideal, with the threat of such a catastrophic storm looming, but we had my brother’s family and our youngest come from Norfolk with her friend to help distract them and reassure ourselves that we were going to survive this, no matter what might happened to their house and belongings. I know, at the time it seemed easy to think that, I had them safe with us. It was all that mattered to me.
After the storm hit Jacksonville and headed north they received a text from a neighbor that the outside of their home looked fine and there was no flooding from the decorative pond that bordered their back yard. They relaxed for about a minute. They were more than over the visit and ready to leave for home.
Will they think about moving closer as we have discussed with them more than a time or two as they march across those 80’s years? God, I hope so. Nombre De Dios.