It hit me today. Thursday. September 25, 2008. I went by the now "famous" Culpepper's shop to see what remained. I found a great deal of emotion as I shook Will's hand hello. He had just the day before dug through his own home in order to find remains to salvage. However, he proved high spirits with a home made "I Don't Like Ike" T-shirt he had scribbled with black marker. He never ceases to amaze me. He breathes calmness into a brutal situation. Mikie's brothers Dave and Joe were there also with rewarding grins courtesy of proper southern charm. Soon to be immortal heroes of the day, the brothers were no doubt struggling with the idea of leaving tomorrow, ending a trip they made to help out their brother and sister-in-law. Ending a trip that probably seems all worth while, however, it obviously reeks of bittersweet. Mikie and Adrienne were absent, tending to their home with an insurance adjuster. I've grown forever closer to them since we spent nearly a week together at my parent's house in Victoria. I still can't express my thoughts and feelings for them. Not yet.
So. It was this visit to Nautical Antiques and Décor that got me going. A visit I've made many times in the almost 3 years Lauren and I have lived on the Island. But I know that my visits will never be the same. My visits everywhere on the Island will never be the same. It will all be different. I'm not weepy. I am poised. At the same time. I'm tense. I'm gooey inside. Not solid. (And no Adrienne. I'm not meaning in the bathroom sort of a way.) It pangs me to see so many people I care about lose so much. I know things are only things, but it still hurts. It doesn't make sense yet in my head why some people made out with less disaster and others lost most of their belongings. Then again, it's mother nature, and she rarely makes sense.
I'm remembering the people who stayed behind that I deeply care about. Jeff and Kathy Modzelewski; Richard Abston; Clyde Wood. All worthy of praise for sticking through the night and the fierce howls and shrieks Ike brought with him.
I also want to say something about my parents and my in-laws. They took myself and Lauren in and eventually along with the "famous" Culpeppers. They also welcomed the zoo/wild kingdom that comes along with us. Four dogs and two cats. Not to mention my parents have their own dog and Lauren's parents have two dogs of their own. Neither set of parents thought twice. They were there to establish whatever refugee camp we needed, and for as many people as we brought or were willing to follow us there. They too may call themselves Ike survivors. Weathering a different kind of storm and aftermath. It makes me tingle inside to call them my parents.
And Lauren. Or Mrs. Mondo. She still amazes me. She had her initial breakdowns, as we all did, or should have had. However, she rebounded and took control of IBC central. Her own form of an emergency operation center. It started at her parents' place in Kosse until we lost power. She picked it right up in Victoria, eventually getting everyone who needed information to jump to this website. She is a rock star. She is my best friend. And she is as stand up a person as a human can be. She couldn't stand up better if she had four legs. I love her more than should be allowed by law.
I guess this all sums up the feelings that drip from my mangled heart. I'm scared. I'm happy. I have feelings of guilt. I feel like I really love a lot of different people right now. I know these feelings will wilt away as they come back down to earth and the newness of the situation wears off. But for what it's worth at this moment, they're real.
I don't want to say the cliché thing that the Island will rebuild and it will be better than ever. I just want to say that we will survive. We will exist on this Island until WE choose not to. In truth. We are Islanders By Choice.