Sunday, September 7, 2008

ANOTHER Hurricane ?

Okay, this is ridiculous.  Gwen, my next-door neighbor and very best friend and I,              100_0098along with my brother Wayne and his wife Bridget have a LONG-planned cruise leaving out of Mobile Saturday morning.......maybe.  Seems after my last trip down south a couple of weeks ago and having Hurricane Gustav run me out of town with a mandatory evacuation that I would have paid my dues by now.  But no, here comes Ike full steam ahead.  All we can do is keep an eye on the storm and the other eye on Carnival's website for any changes.


Oh yeah, we've got a big plan!  When we dock at port upon our return, we are going directly to the beach for 3 MORE days.  Dropping the brother and with 2 or 3 more gals joining us, this could be a great time.  Hear that, Ike......GO AWAY!


In line with keeping the faith, I have done laundry all day today and gone through paperwork to get ready to pack.  It will be a seriously busy week.  Work, work, work, take Mom to Wally World, get nails done (a priority!), go to bank, finish packing and load up that car.  On Friday morning, I even get to drive 2 1/2 hours each way to get to attend  a Grandparents Day breakfast at my oldest granddaughter's school in LaRue County, KY .  I think I'll be busy alright.


Keep your fingers crossed for us that Ike dissipates or turns some other way and I may even get the car loaded in time to leave.  Maybe not, too.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Missing Dad

I am missing my Dad today.

My Father died on May 12, 2008. How profound that sentence looks! But even more, how it feels.

2002 christmas dad

My mother and father divorced when I was 7 years old and I never knew him growing up. He never sent Christmas or birthday cards. He never called, he never came. I never had an opportunity to know him.

Don't get me wrong here. I had two, count 'em two GREAT stepfathers. Both of them died at relatively young ages (younger than I am now) and were great Dads to me. But I think I always wondered what it would have been like if I had my real Dad in my life somehow.

I never heard my Mother say one harsh word about him nor did she excuse his behavior, or lack thereof. I know now that she married my stepfathers to help provide security for us, to help give us a stable home life. I think she loved them, in her own way, but I know she never stopped loving my Father.

DSC00470 (Small)

When my second stepfather died, she made a bold move and went back to live her retirement years in the small town in Kentucky where she had made her home as a young woman, with my Dad. Evidently he had spent his life in a rural western Kentucky town with a woman he met after the divorce. To make a long story short, he showed up, they rekindled their relationship and he and my Mom remarried!

Not speaking for my two brothers, I had a lot of bitterness and hostility toward him. Not just for me, but for my Mom and my brothers and all the years without him. We had lived a life without him and it seemed that he just waltzed back in as if he had never left. After the hasty and secretive vows were exchanged, so did my Mother change. She adored him and put every want and whim of his at the forefront of her being. We (their children) all had lives of our own with young adult children and even grandchildren. I should have taken comfort in the knowledge that she would not have to live her senior years alone, but he was just so possessive of her and seemingly jealous of any time at all spent with any of us. He was not at all the man I thought he would be.

He never wanted to be around any of the grandchildren or great-grandchildren. When children were in the house he would turn into a surly, ugly man. Of course, eventually most of them didn't visit anymore, or if they did, it was not often and not pleasant. Upon reflection, it must have been his guilt and insecurity about his "place" in our family.

Twelve years ago or so, my husband left me and our life together. I became very ill and my father showed compassion toward me that I did not believe he possessed. He and Mom drove to Lexington (KY) where I lived at the time and sacrificed a lot to get me emotionally and physically back on my feet. I saw a different side of him and knew there had to be a man in there that I could be proud to call my Dad. My Mom had loved him since she was 16 years old.

Eventually life and a great job opportunity brought me to Hopkinsville, KY to live which is very near the small town my parents lived in. I know there was a divine plan involved in that offer. I had never even visited Hopkinsville and didn't know one person there.

We got to visit a lot more and I began to know him. Just a little. He was such a private man with private thoughts. And very different when we were alone. I found it strange that he couldn't share his deepest thoughts with me UNLESS we were alone. But that was okay. Eventually and over time (without his asking) I began to truly forgive him in my heart for all the hurt I placed on him. Heck, we all turned out okay !

About two years ago, my chain-smoking father was diagnosed with lung cancer. He endured radiation treatments but not chemo. He had no pain, but was thinner and more frail. His mind was as sharp as a razor and never dulled, even to the very end.

Eventually he had to receive nursing home care and was taken to the Western Kentucky Veterans Center in Hanson, Kentucky. What a GREAT place to be cared for! It is the finest facility of its kind that I have ever even visited. My Mother drove the 20 miles each way every day to see him, every day. She was unfailing in her devotion. I went at least once a week, more if I made the time. It was those evening visits alone with him that I came to know the MAN.

He lived long enough to tell me he was proud of me and what I had done with my life. He told me he was sorry for not being a part of it, but that he had lost as much as I had. More than anything else, he came to know Jesus Christ in that nursing home and was baptized a year before he left. I am so thankful for the time I shared with him. Thankful that I am a Christian and we were able to love each other deeply.

He was still a "weird guy" with strange ways. But we settled it all. And for that I am grateful, so grateful. I am so sorry we didn't have time to get there and be with him when he died, I know it would have meant a LOT to my Mom. The nurses assured us that he was not in pain. He just slowly stopped breathing. I like to envision that he just stepped over into the other side and through the gates of heaven.

I am missing my Dad today.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Calm Before The Storm

I remember quite clearly the day I first saw the ocean. I was thirty years old with two children. My husband (at the time) and I had long planned a trip to the beach and saved all year for it. We chose Dauphin Island, Alabama only because I had a friend from my work who went there every year and her suggestions made me feel comfortable going there.

I got out of the car and walked in the direction of the roar of the Gulf and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw it. I was so overwhelmed by the majesty that God that created for all of us to enjoy that I fell to my knees where I was and cried. I will never forget that day nor that feeling.
I have seen the ocean countless times since then, lived very near it several times, but continue to visit Dauphin Island with some regularity ever since then. It has become "where I go" . I am blessed and you will read much more about that island in many future posts.

My schedule at work permitted me to plan a long weekend there for Labor Day this year, regardless of the weather predictions that Hurricane Gustav had formed and was heading with some degree of certainty to the Gulf coast. The thing about hurricanes is that they are often likely to change course, build strength, weaken, or any number of other things that can drastically change predictions when they are made a week or so in advance, so on with my plans. My friend Bev who manages the rentals for Dauphin Island Real Estate called to make sure I was aware of Gustav and to give me the option of not coming with a return of my monies. The deposit on the condo had been paid and I WAS going.

Excitement was high! I drove down Friday morning and it was an uneventful trip, thank goodness. Friday night a friend and I went to a familiar place and had dinner outside on a decking overlooking a small harbor at Fowl River. Tired and full, off to bed.
Saturday morning brought bright sunshine and lots of heat and humidity. I had never felt the humidity so strong and with the air almost still, it hung around. Off to the beach, my blessed beach. Wow, the Gulf was calmer than I have ever seen it. NO waves and the water was as warm as a bath. The calm before the storm. I was able to walk out a very long way. I was so far out I turned around and came back thinking I might walk farther than I could swim back :)

My patio off the condo was on ground floor this time very near the pool. Upon returning from the beach I took a yummy book and cool glass of white zin outside to read for a bit. My senses were pummeled with sound, the sounds of babies crying, children laughing, mothers calling to their children. Oh, life is good.

David Graves, who manages the condo association, came by and asked when I was leaving and said the Island had issued a voluntary evacuation. I know I looked at him like he was crazy. Um, no, I don't plan to leave until Monday.

Saturday night was dress-up night for a new-to-me restaurant in Mobile 30 minutes away, Pillars. Of course I checked it out online before making reservations and the menu was exquisite. Duck, rack of lamb, sushi, etc. I could hardly wait! Upon arrival at Pillars the parking lot was jammed with no option for valet parking. Hmm, this is not good. We created a place to park and made our way to the entrance. This is not good. Turns out they had double-booked a class reunion AND a huge wedding reception! Okay, they find our reservation and take us to a very small private dining area with 3 or 4 other couples in it. We couldn't hear ourselves think. It was almost too dark to read the menu so ordered what our server suggested. Grouper and a filet. Yum, I have never eaten better food ! BUT, the noise level was incredible. Needing to leave the atmosphere we declined a dessert but probably WILL try it again someday. Needless to say, we will ask if there are special events scheduled simultaneously before we do it again!

Back to the condo and off to sleep.

Sunday morning brought with it wind and noise. The sounds of plywood being cut and hurricane shutters going up. I drove around the Island and took pictures. Upon my return Bev called again and said we needed to leave. This time it was a mandatory evacuation. David came by and wanted to get the shutters up. Okay, okay, I will go. But I don't want to.

Packed everything up, started the dishwasher but decided not to start the washer in the event they couldn't get back there for a while to move laundry to the dryer. I took more pictures on the way out. The strangest thing, I think, was that there were NO boats anywhere. They had moved them all during the night. Either out to a safe harbor or out of the water, depending on size, I guess. The travel trailer park was void of trailers. Never seen these things before and it scared me, I think.

I stopped in at the Real Estate office to drop off my keys and found my friend and her husband boarding up the windows at the strip mall where the office is. Working hard and fast, I knew if I didn't go then, I would only be in the way of the islanders who were staying and working feverishly to ready themselves for the storm.
Thirty minutes up the road and onto I-65. Yikes, I didn't know all of Mobile had been ordered to evacuate as well! Bumper to bumper to bumper. An hour and a half more than usual, I finally made it to Montgomery. Whew! Huge signs at every exit offering shelter and fuel. I left with a full tank of gas, but was ready for more by the time I reached Birmingham but could not get over to get off the interstate. When I reached the split that goes to Atlanta, thankfully about half of the traffic veered in that direction and I was able to get off at Prattville for gas.
Traffic was heavy but moved in an orderly fashion the remainder of the way home. Getting home late last night, I was tired but thankful and prayerful for all those I had left in Dauphin Island and of course, all those folks along the Gulf Coast in harms' way.
This morning I see the familiar face of Anderson Cooper and the landfall of Gustav and am so thankful. Thankful that the storm was downgraded to a Category 2, thankful for those who got out and thankful for the path of the storm that spared so many lives.