Paradise Has a Price

I’ve been glued to the TV the last few days watching the progression of Hurricane Ivan….er, Igor…..Isaac? Oh, one of those “I” names. I can’t seem to get this one straight. My husband pipes up, “It’s named after an American president.” “Ah, yes,” I retort. “Ike.” (Menopausal minds! Who knows where they go when they’re out to lunch?)

As I was saying, I’ve been watching the news of Hurricane Ike with both fascination and dread. With fascination because something that big is simply awesome to behold, as long as you’re beholding it in a nice, dry and remote location from the action. With dread because this time, it’s gotten personal.

You see, my son Jason and his wife, Laura have been visiting her parents who happen to live just south of Houston, not far from a lovely little tourist attraction located on a bay inlet called Kemah. In fact, when we flew down to the Houston area for Jason’s wedding, we enjoyed several great meals in Kemah, walking off the calories later on the boardwalk where we admired the boats tied up along the piers.

On Thursday, Jason called us to say they’d just finished boarding up the windows of the house and now his in-laws, Laura, and the dog were packing up and getting ready to leave because they had just received an order to evacuate by noon. Wow! Dad B. had decided to head towards Oklahoma where his youngest daughter attends college.

Our family network was up and running by Friday. My brother, John was emailing me and phoning me as we both watched “Ike” take aim on Galveston and the barrier island there. My brother-in-law, John graciously said he could put them all up at his place outside San Antonio if they needed an alternate place to stay. Hubby was flipping back and forth between the Weather Channel and CNN for up-to-the-minute news, and I was doing what I do best… since I’m not allowing myself to eat DONUTS, which is my usual escape valve when I’m stressed.

In January, after the wedding, my brother and sister-in-law and George and I had stayed for a week near the town of Surfside Beach, which is below Galveston on a narrow barrier island. The little resort we stayed at was right on the beach. We amused ourselves by driving into the little town for cheap cappaccinos and then we’d go to the little park and walk along the water and watch the surfers. Other days we drove back into Galveston and on our way back, we’d stop at a restaurant right along the highway with the seawall on the other side of the highway. This restaurant had big helpings, great desserts, and cheap prices. Perfect! Now John and I find ourselves wondering if it is still there. It didn’t look that sturdy when we were there in January. And there was nothing but pavement between it and the seawall. For that matter, what’s left of the resort? Or Kitty’s Purple Cow, the diner we enjoyed in Surfside Beach?

One of the amazing things to us Midwesterners was the variety of houses on stilts that we encountered. We saw your typical modest beach houses on stilts, made out of wood. Basically they looked like typical cottages built on a wooden platform that was supported on skinny little wooden legs. These were usually right out on the beach, surrounded by scrub grass but with a spectacular view. Then you had your very fancy summer homes built on concrete pillars . These homes were also built on the beach but the grounds were landscaped a little better with actual grass and a few palm trees. They, too had a great view and were usually in some type of gated community. We’d drive past slowly and imagine what it must be like living in one of those homes, taking your coffee out on the deck and watching the sun rise over the ocean horizon.

In view of Hurricane Ike, there is one house we saw that we suspect would fare pretty well. This was a beach house built out of a buoy. It certainly looked bizarre but boy, you sure hope a buoy would float if a storm surge swept over it.

Since “Ike” has hit, we’ve seen pictures of debris scattered over highways we traveled on the way to Laura’s parents’ home. We’ve seen footage of Kemah flooded. We’ve heard that most folks are without power and can’t expect to have it restored for weeks. We’ve listened to reporters tell of destruction in Surfside Beach, especially of those homes that were on wooden stilts. We’ve talked to Jason and they don’t know yet what is the state of Dad and Mom B.’s home.

It occurs to me that most places that could be considered a “paradise” always seem to come with a cost. Oh, you might not consider Houston to be a paradise but believe me, if you’d come to Houston from a frozen PA in January and found folks walking around in shorts, it would have seemed like paradise to you. People move to Florida for the wonderful winters in a tropical setting. Cost = Hurricane vulnerability. Southern Texas and Arizona offer freedom from winter. Cost = scorpions and scorching summers. Coastal Texas throws in hurricanes. We lived in South Carolina, a lovely state with mild winters. Cost = summer humidity, bugs galore, and the occasional hurricane. California is a mecca for many. Cost = earthquakes, high ratio of , er, strange people, and “Ah-nold.” Then there’s my own personal favorite paradise, Minnesota. Hey, go ahead and laugh but in my family, we grew up knowing that another name for Minnesota was “God’s Country.” If that isn’t paradise, I don’t know what is. Yet anyone who grows up on the prairie knows that there is a cost that can occur. Goodness, children on the prairie develop their “weather eyes” at the same time they are cutting their “eye teeth.” Blizzards can come up out of nowhere. You could be found frozen to death just a yard or two from your own back door back in the old days when snow would come in so thick that you couldn’t see your own hand in front of your face. Tornadoes materialize out of huge thunderclouds that roll across the horizon in the summer. One of my great-aunts was killed when the barn roof blew off and crushed her as she was running for the farmhouse in such a storm. Yes, we keep a close eye on the weather in Minnesota. But on a nice day, there’s no place finer.

But back to Hurricane Ike and all those who have been in harm’s way. Our heart goes out to them and our prayers are with them. I don’t know yet if David and Joyce’s home has been damaged. I hope it has survived just fine. Regardless, I know it will be challenging for all those in that area who will be without power for the next few weeks. Houston isn’t chilly this time of year. I complain when our lights go out for a few hours in a storm but weeks? Yet, we’re a resilient people. And just as that famous old author, Milton wrote “Paradise Lost”, we can remind ourselves that he also wrote “Paradise Regained.”


One Response

  1. My daughter also was forced to leave her home because of Hurricane Ike. She called to say they are safe, but there are many problems… They aren’t allowed back in yet, the bills are due, they didn’t take enough clothes, they don’t have enough money to stay in a hotel until they are allowed back in and on and on. She lives south of Houston in Webster, TX. I’m sure she will go back to a devastated home. Makes a mother so sad.

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