Sunday, August 29, 2010

Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans

In fact, I do. I know what it means to miss what was New Orleans. It hurts my heart and makes me melancholy. I left that 'Garden of Eden' long before Katrina. But I also left a large piece of my heart smack dab in the silt left by the Mighty Mississippi River! My sister Lee and my Mother are standing in front of the riverboat The President, long before Katrina left her mark, back when the Mighty Mississippi was a joy to travel.
I remember sitting at my desk at work on September 29 and telling friends that since the eye didn't hit the city it would make it ok. New Orleans had weathered many a hurricane, and I was sure we had scraped by with Katrina. Then all of a sudden I am getting reports from people watching the news telling me about water in the city. Hmmm, well New Orleans floods in heavy rain all the time so I am figuring it's like that. Heck, we went swimming in the street in front our my parents house after Betsy. We'll be okay. 

No, No, Nooooo....I go home and watch the national news showing over and over and over the video of Southern Yacht Club burning. I had my thirteenth birthday party there. I had my wedding reception there. I had my water break as I went into labor with my first child there. And it was floating in a sea of fire, belching dark black smoke.
My sisters started calling...'did you see? I can't believe it can you? 

Has anyone reached Mom and Dad?'

Mom and Dad had moved to an Assisted Living facility on Bayou St John, in New Orleans. Blessedly the management had the foresight to evacuate the residents to north Louisiana. It was a horrific ride by bus. Painfully slow, in buses that had little or no air conditioning. My parents were placed on separate buses for most of the trip. This added to their unease and worry for one another. Over fifty years of marriage can do that to a couple when separated.
Sally, Mom, Dad, Bill

Once they reached their destination, a golf resort of sorts, they were put in a motel room with very little amenities for handicapped guests. Not good for my Mom who had a disabling stroke a few years prior.  The people in charge of the Assisted Living facility were not letting calls go through to their 'residents'. We spent three days trying to get a chance to speak to our parents, not just hear from a desk clerk or the 'Director on Duty', that yes your parents are here and they are doing okay. After the third day, I called mustered up all my Mother's steel magnolia via Grosse Pointe tone of voice and said, 'Yes, I understand you know they are there and they are doing fine, however, I am going to sit on this line and not hang up until someone puts this call through to my Mother and Father's room, and I speak to them personally. Umm, yes I understand you don't have a master list of where each person is and in what room, so I will patiently stay on the line while you go knock on each and every door in your motel if necessary, thank you very I need a lawyer? It's amazing how all of a sudden they were able to locate my parents and transfer me to their room. Finally! Oh I am weeping right now remembering the relief to finally be able to hear their voices. 
(And what would I give to be able to hear them again...)

To make a long story longer after many discussions with the 'Director on Duty', they had no idea when they would be able to return our parents to New Orleans but did know they would have to leave the facility they were now in and head off to places unknown, again. (The facility they were living in still stands empty and the first floor where my parents lived is ruined by flood waters).

That was NOT acceptable to anyone in our family. My siblings and I discussed and agreed that the best solution at the time was to get them to where I was living and into a 'sister' branch of the same assisted living facility. I was fortunate to know the director of the  facility and she even had an apartment available. One sibling drove to where they were in northern La and flew with them to where I live. It was a very sad sight to behold. Both my parents were worn out, Dad in pain...due to the slow, and awful evacuation trip, room without equipment for elderly and the fact he had advanced prostate cancer. Mother worn out due to same circumstances and no handicapped facility and care. 

The new 'sister facility', was an answer to all of our prayers as far as care and a safe and loving place for them to be. But it was pitiful watching them look at the news from New Orleans over and over and over again on tv. The same video of the Southern Yacht Club burning being played over and over while they sat and watched it. My Dad telling me, 'I will never see New Orleans again, while I am alive'. 

And, oh so sadly, he was right. Katrina took my parents lives not on the day it struck New Orleans. No, it stole them from us in painful, achingly slow increments. Daddy didn't survive longer than two months. My mother died five months after my Daddy, from heartache, loneliness and despair. Katrina will forever be a sad and wretched storm in my memory and my heart and soul.

I am glad my 'city' is will never be the city it was, but it deserves to have its chance at rebirth, in what ever shape and form it can. So, sadly, yes I do know what it means to miss New Orleans...and in more ways than I would ever have wanted. Going home is bittersweet. The home I grew up in was filled with ten feet of water from the broken levee. It has now been rebuilt. Southern Yacht club is rebuilt...never the same but a new generation will hopefully celebrate happy memories there. Parts of the city are gone forever, parts are coming back, but different. Life goes on. 

I have a good and happy life where I live now with my family. It will never be New Orleans, it doesn't have my childhood memories or the piece of my heart that is still in the Mississippi silt. It does have my heart that is here and now and  in my future. It has memories of raising a family of children I love and I am so very proud to call mine. My adopted city has my grandchildren I cherish. Life goes on...and the city that care forgot will too!

*All For The Love Of Sam


Anonymous said...

Big Teardrops, bad feeling, thinking of all that will never be the same - yes we know what it means to miss New Orleans! But we still have each other to share memories with and jump right back there in an instant, especially with all photos, THANK GOODNESS! Yours in Fleur de Lis and Pelican time... xoxo Lee

Shelly said...

Oh my goodness- this brought tears to my eyes. We have frequent hurricanes and tropical storms here, so I understand, although the scale of Katrina's destruction has been unmatched in my lifetime.

lyndylou said...

You made me cry! (((hugs))) and I know what it is like to miss a parent. Time marches on despite the fact that you want it to stop, just for a moment, while you get a handle on things.

Kathi said...

This is beautifully written Sush. Hugs to you as my heart breaks with yours. Memories are real and sometimes raw even though life goes on... Bittersweet.

Donna said...

Oh my....I am about to relive the 50th anniversary of a hurricane of my never, ever goes away. The feeling of loss. I still wonder, why was the evacuation handled so very badly? No one has given me an adequate answer. I am so glad your parents were moved, although badly, But why was it so badly handled? If you want you can email me