Five years ago today, Beve and I were flying across the country from Pennsylvania. We'd dropped J off at the college where he was starting as a freshman, then we spent a couple of nights in Pittsburgh. Our time in Pittsburgh was supposed to be something of a time away for Beve and me, but I spent most of the time crying. Yep, I'd cried so long and hard as we were sitting on a bench beside J, before saying goodbye, that Beve finally said we might as well just leave him. I mean I was a mess. A ridiculous heap of a mess.
Sure, I was sad to leave my son. Sure, it was perfectly natural to feel so, leaving my son all the way across the country at the age of 18, with no easy way to get to him (thirteen hours, including driving and flying, but who was counting besides me!). But it was also natural for Beve to hope that once we left I'd somehow pull myself together. However, he was sadly mistaken. We wandered around Pittsburgh, managed to get ourselves lost, did find the University of Pittsburgh and climbed the only hill I saw in Pittsburgh and walked into their enormous basketball facility (the kind of place Beve likes to visit like some folks visit cathedrals), ate at a lovely Greek restaurant with the personal service of the owners who'd left children at college themselves, and still I kept crying. It really was ridiculous. Finally, Beve left me alone in our hotel room and took himself for a walk--finding the company a little more pleasing, I think. At least a little less emotional. I took a bath, letting my tears drip unbidden into the bathwater, and when I dried off, I turned on the TV to watch CNN's coverage of a hurricane about to touch down in New Orleans. An enormous hurricane, I should say, a world-changing one, perhaps. And that coverage made me cry too...coverage of all those people lining up to get on buses with their small children, or trying to leave the city, or, if they couldn't, moving the Super Dome which would surely stay dry and safe (if only they'd known!), and of people leaving their animals to fend for themselves. Yep, those animals, all those poor helpless animals and their poor helpless people really made me cry.
The next morning, as we flew back across the country, that hurricane hit, and even as far north as Pittsburgh, the rain was torrential. You should have seen it on the runway as we tried to take off. By the time we got to Denver, every TV station in the airport was tuned to the coverage. And by the time we got home, once we'd checked in with our son at his college, we turned on our TV as well, to watch in horror as the water kept rising. And my tears kept flowing at the people walking across bridges, standing on roofs, living at the Super Dome.
It was a weird thing for me to be emotional. It wasn't until I realized I was crying harder about New Orlean's homeless pets than I had when my dad died that something had to be off-kilter with me. And to cry as I had when we said goodbye to J? I mean, I was sad, of course, I was. And worried about him. But to cry like a baby so hard that I couldn't enjoy being with Beve? It wasn't like me.
And then the realization. A couple of months earlier I'd been given a shot to make my cycle stop, in order to see if my migraines could be stopped along with it. And that shot had worked in every way imaginable. But what hadn't been explained to me was that the shot would also push my emotions into the full-bloom of menapause, with erratic emotions, hot flashes and all. Erratic emotions could have been my middle name during those months. Or maybe my full name. With an emphasis on erratic.
When I think of Katrina, that's mostly what I think about, how sad and teary it made me. How many tears I shed over it all. Tears to match the waters rising, it felt then. And none of them where they should have been. None of them organic, if that makes sense. I had no other connection to the hurricane or its victims and I would be presuming too much if I said I did. Except as those tears, generated by humans, caused me to pray for them. And they certainly did that. God uses what He will. And thank God that this is so.
Five years later, I am back to normal. Crying only as my organic self is wont to cry. The water in New Orleans has gone back to the sea, the levees rebuilt. But New Orleans has changed. It will always be measured in 'before' and 'after' Katrina terms. It's not something I can understand from this distance, from the safety of my hurricane-free world. E spent a week that New Years, helping. Other friends went the next spring. Still others we know pulled up stakes and moved down for longer seasons to be of assistance. As for me, I pray. I continue to pray and pay attention. And so I do. With or without tears. As is my way.