Thursday, September 01, 2005

Holding it together

Judy (who was wandering through yards) meets everyone. Hears their story. Tells her own. Then suggests we get to Glenda's house before she needs to leave.

Glenda thinks she is ready.

She does a remarkable job of keeping herself collected as we brave the remains of her house. Almost a week since she has been home. Certainly not how she remembers it. Creeping room to room. Talking to the cats. Eyeballing the wreckage. The smell of new mold. Shaking our heads at everything below the flood line. Trying to figure out what was upturned by Katrina vs. what was Dad and I disturbed. Like the table and chairs. I didn't touch them, but the storm did. Swirled the dining set the same rising waters that tipped the 'fridge. Glenda's whole life reduced to a ruined puzzle.

To help, we make soothing small talk. Trying to soften the air. And Glenda keeps it together.

Judy walks around and absorbs what she can, for a while. But she has to leave before dark. There's a curfew and she doesn't want to be caught by it. She leaves all the supplies for Glenda and makes her escape.

I'll have to leave, soon. The curfew also applies to me. But with Judy gone, Glenda has taken to stuffing trash bags with debris and is starting to register the extent of the damage. I stay until dark swallows the house. What is left of her house. She'd do it for me.

I can tell she is thinking about her antiques by the way she avoids them for other obvious wreckage like pillows and bloated magazines. I'm holding the bag, trying to say something encouraging. But I'm only good at fixing computers and lying to myself about my future.

After the second bag, she finds Liam's empty fishbowl. I tell her the story about the 'fridge and we agree to let him know that Jupiter swam away in the falling water, to find a new home in the wild.

After the third bag, Glenda takes a deep breath. Holds it in her chest. She has found her bible. Her old brown family bible. Slick with swamp water. The first page has her family tree on it. Goes back four generations, at least. She closes it before I see any more. Sighs. Looks at me. Sighs, again.

For a moment, I think I'm going to have to say something from an episode of Oprah. I would fail miserably. I would say something terribly inappropriate and likely cause my mother-in-law to have an abrupt stroke and died in my fatigued, sweaty arms.

But Glenda holds it together. Starts breathing regularly. And quietly places her bible on the top of the drying remains of her antique piano.

After three more bulging garbage bags are put to rest in the graveyard of Glenda's front yard, I think we are going to be fine. Until she comes out of her guest room, carrying something in her arms, saying: Oh, Jon. Oh, Jon.

The dripping bundle in her arms is a hand woven blanket.

Oh, Jon. Oh, Jon.

She's shaking her head and dropping large tears onto me as I put my arms around her neck.

My mother made this, Jon. My mother.

I just hold her. I think I manage to say: I'll fix it, Glenda. I can fix it for you.

There's more, but it bleeds together into a balmy memory of her weeping, my whispering that I'd do everything it takes to fix it, and the cold water from the blanket trailing down my legs before I stuff it into a trash bag and drive it home to see if my mother can wash the storm out of it.

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