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From a Distance

Today is day 4 post-Hurricane Michael, and I’m sitting in a friend’s pool house in Auburn, Alabama reflecting on the past two days.  I’ll go ahead and ask for forgiveness ahead of time because there is some rambling as my emotions are all over the place right now.

In some ways, I feel disconnected from the cleanup that is going on at home.  I’m keeping up with it via social media and daily check-ins with my friend, Megan, but it’s hard to sit back while others are living out the hard stuff.

With that said, the Mr. has mandated that I stay away.  He’s working with Emergency Management to coordinate relief efforts and the restoration of necessary services to make life livable again.

Meanwhile, I’m watching from a distance and doing my best to put one foot in front of the other despite wanting to crawl into bed and sleep until it’s over.

Yesterday afternoon, the dogs and I made the short trek from our hotel to this beautiful home after spending that morning in the hotel lobby watching guests come and go.

At one point, the manager came out and chatted with me.  I’m glad he did because it gave me the opportunity to personally thank him for waiving the no-pets rule and allowing us to stay.  If you’re looking for one of the most accommodating hotels in the Auburn-Opelika area, I highly recommend the Fairfield Inn at Tigertown.

My car, at that point, smelled like wet dog.  It had rained for a day and a half thanks to the storm that had traveled northeast.

The dogs have been good sports throughout this ordeal.  Pele has been super-stressed, but he has continued to trust me – even when stuffed in a car with a lot of other things.

Notice how much of that stuff belongs to the dogs and how little belongs to me?  Priorities, people!

The house we’re staying at is the same one the Mr. and I visited last year when we came to an Auburn game.

It is akin to a resort, I kid you not.  The amount of land is breathtaking.  The dogs took to the yard immediately.

I have been filled with an incredible amount of sadness and helplessness, so this time to regroup is appreciated.

I haven’t smiled a lot, but being outside in the beautiful weather helped a little.

The dogs and I are leaning on each other with all of the strange happenings.

We stayed outside, poolside, for a couple of hours.

I can’t lie, though.  I feel as though I’ve aged a few years.  Maybe that sounds bad to say given my surroundings, but it’s about as hard emotionally to be away as it would have been to be in town.

My heart longs to be with my people . . . actually doing something to help.

My hosts are some of the nicest people you will ever meet.  T, the wife, is as laid-back as they come.  She took us for a ride on whatever the vehicle is called (pictured below).

Gambit was pretty scared, at first, but he settled in as we went from one side of the property to the other.

This place could be used as a mental health getaway, I kid you not.  It’s just so peaceful.

After we got done riding around, we returned to the main house.  T encouraged me to take the dogs’ leashes off because she wanted the dogs to be as comfortable as possible (she’s really my kind of person), and boy, you should have seen Gambit.  He was totally in his element.  I think he was meant to be a country dog.

Pele has been cautious.  At twelve years old, he’s not keen on change, so he’s sticking close to me.

T took me with her to a shindig her sister-in-law was hosting.  Y’all, if you think my current surroundings are something else, you should have seen the house we went to.  It was an architectural delight that I wish I could have taken photos of but couldn’t because it would have been rude.  The house belongs in a magazine – French style with a courtyard and everything.

The Mr. called me during the get-together, and I held out hope that I’d be able to go home sooner rather than later.

I went to bed with homesickness in my heart but also gratitude for a comfortable place to stay.  I slept well, but I found myself getting up fairly early.

The dogs and I made our way downstairs into the wonderfully crisp air.  While I chatted with Chicky on the phone, the dogs kept watch on the robot pool cleaner thing.

Pele refused to eat breakfast.  I’m very worried about him, despite the smile on his face.  That’s a stressed-out smile.

Gambit, on the other hand, is embracing this for the adventure that it is.

He’s loving the extra time with me . . . time when I’d normally be working or distracted by other things.

My hosts graciously invited me to attend the Auburn game with them.  They have a block of seats for each game.  Fortunately, I’d thrown an Auburn shirt into my suitcase when I’d packed in a rush, so I was dressed appropriately.

On the way in, we saw the makings of a wedding . . .

A tailgate wedding . . .

A short walk later, we’d found our way to our seats.

Watching the eagle make its way to the field always takes my breath away.

The entrance of the band is always fun to watch . . . so full of pageantry.

I’ve got to tell you, though, that as much as I love these games, and as glad as I was that I was there, my heart was still so very, very heavy.  The band started playing America the Beautiful, and the crowd started singing it, and I started crying quietly, tears running down my face.

I thought of home and the beauty that was stripped away so viciously.

Then, I thought about how resilient my hometown folks are.  Already, debris is being cleaned up, a long process to be sure but one that is proceeding.

I thought about a devotion I’d recently read about God using dust to create beautiful things – how He created mankind from the dust of the earth.

America is beautiful not just because of its landscape but because of the people.

Watching how the people in my city and other cities around the country are coming to one another’s aid is so humbling.

I drew comfort from T, my friend, as she put her arm around me to console me,

I found kind, listening ears in the orthopedic surgeon I met today, a friend of L (T’s husband) as he asked about my home and what everyone is going through.  He was genuinely interested and actually shocked at how dire it is back home.

The game’s preparation continued, and again, I found myself emotional as the flag was unfurled.

I thought of my sweet boy, serving his country and yet still finding the time to text me regularly to check in.

The flyover was breathtaking.

Y’all, I am a hot mess right now and don’t really know when to smile and when to cry.

I did get caught up in the game, the highs and the lows (lots of lows as our season really sucks this year).

The halftime show was sweet and ended with a tribute to those fighting cancer and those who have survived it.

The final score of the game was sad though.

After tailgating with T and L’s family, we headed back to their house and watched more football.

The Mr. called in the middle of one of the games.

His update was filled with bad news.  There’s still no water, and the sewer system isn’t close to being fixed because they haven’t gotten generators yet.  I told him about the sewage backup I’d seen in a photo in our neighborhood group on Facebook.  It’s backing up into numerous streets.

Sounds third-world, eh?

The Mr. doesn’t want me going home until both the water and sewer are restored.  We can deal without electricity, but the other two things are essential for decent living.

He told me that people are trying to leave our town – that’s how bad it is.

I’ve seen the long lines of people waiting for food, water, and other essential items.  The needs are great.

So, although I am desperate to get home and be with those I live next to and work with, I’m not.

I had told the Mr. that I needed him to be in charge – a rare admission for this go-getter, overachieving gal.

He’s doing that and with much gusto too.

He needs me where I can actually help him once he wraps his head around what he, personally, needs.  It’s funny how he can assess needs for the general public, but focusing on stuff in a more narrow scope is mentally draining.

Prayer Requests:

  • Decision making for those in charge – There are so very many small details that must be attended to before the big things can come into play
  • Wisdom – Something of this magnitude hasn’t been seen in our area before
  • Generators for the lifts needs for the sewer system
  • Protection from looters – Because bad people come out of the woodwork
  • Honest repair companies that won’t try to scam people – This is happening to people in my neighborhood!
  • Those who are living out the daily grind of cleanup, finding food and other basic necessities
  • Those of us who left and are watching from afar – It’s hard to be patient and let others do the work
  • Pele – I’m super worried about him.  He’s hardly eating at all, is drinking a lot, and is struggling physically with his back legs.  I took him to the vet the day we evacuated, and although she ran bloodwork and said he’s doing fine, I know that he’s not.  He’s trying to keep up, but he’s slowing down, and I don’t think my heart can take another loss.  I am praying that this is just stress and nothing else.
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