So this is a few weeks late.
Maybe. Sort of. I don’t know.
The thing is, it’s actually decidedly un-funny, and so, so very not the persona I propagate.
Almost two weeks ago a pain beyond comprehension struck a family I am acquainted with, and there hasn’t been a moment in the weeks since I haven’t felt the weight of what it means to them.
It isn’t my pain to put on paper – it isn’t something I feel I even have a right to speak of. I respect them beyond what my words could express, and I will leave that for them, and those far closer to them than me.
What I know is that, in these past two weeks, I have been more grateful to be home than I knew possible. To be in this town that molded me and cradled me and raised me. This place that released me with good wishes and all the best parts of itself to take with me. That welcomed my selfish, thankless self back to let my kid run in open green spaces and my husband live golf course adjacent while I ridicule and mock.
The familiarity, the dear friends, the safety and connection and strength – I have closed my eyes each night in the past days, holding my son’s sweet, soft head of hair against my face in the glow of his nursery night light – and I have thanked God that I am home right now… and that I am blessed to feel what home is.
It’s not funny. It’s not tough. It is as “un-Keri” as it gets.
When I was 20 I was lamenting my piss poor decision to give up my partial scholarship to an out-of-state University and stay here. I was young and cocky and kicking around culinary school (and dropping out of that too,) and closerthanthis to heading right on off to the school I thought I had pissed away after high school.
In short – screw this state. Buh-bye parents, need you not, says “Adult” Keri.
Within the year I was blind in one eye and walking with a cane. I was also –thanks to the strength and determination of my ridiculously awesome parents – starting a promising treatment for my newly diagnosed Multiple Sclerosis. Because I wasn’t hundreds of miles away.
I was right where I was supposed to be, even if I didn’t like it one tiny bit.
Tonight, and for the past weeks, I’ve known that feeling again. I’ve watched my kid spending time with my afore-mentioned awesome parents (who are now the most stupidly amazing grandparents any kid could EVER have); I’ve sat with my husband, leaning over to rest on his strength, in our comfortable haven of a home; I’ve gone back to places I know are of comfort – both from my past and those that I have found to welcome me in our new life here.
I have found strength in the familiarity of my community. Calm in the knowledge that regardless of if we have talked that day or not, my oldest friend is currently less than a mile away. Comfort in the simple act of packing up Jr and lunch and stopping in to sit and chat and just be at my family’s company with my parents in the surroundings I know so well.
I can (and I will – it’s still me – ) jest frequently about my observations. I can’t be who I am in my core and NOT feel a pull to the city I loved so much.
For goodness sakes that would be the end of Reluctantly Suburban Keri – and that is like an end to the concept of cocktail hour – it fades a bit but it will NEVER truly go.
But still. At this moment I understand, very truly well, why it is that I am here.
I am grateful.
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So this is a few weeks late.
The year I was born the Big Thompson River Valley experienced the deadliest flash flood in my beautiful home state’s recorded history.
Actually, it was during the celebration of Colorado’s bicentennial of statehood, and also the week that my parents brought my sister and I home – their newly adopted 6 week old twin girls.
It was a massive flash flood that sent a 30 ft wall of water through the canyon after 4 hours of heavy rain poured from a stalled out storm system; it decimated everything in its path and took 144 lives, incredibly fast and destructive.
That was “The Big One,” the one everyone in the north part of Colorado always talked about, the one I grew up hearing about as the worst.
The water that came this week was different. Slow, steady, unrelenting rain over days and days. It wasn’t one flash flood, coming down one canyon. It was waves of flash floods coming down a whole system of canyons, again and again and again.
I dropped Jr off for NeNe time at my parents’ house on Thursday morning, after checking to make sure that there was no water in the basement of The Casa so far, (this is the first real test we have had since we bought the place,) just in time to see the first news report of a road a mile away collapsing and the drivers of 3 cars (thankfully) being saved by swift water rescue teams.
The same road we took to swimming lessons when we were very young, out through the endless farmers’ fields and over the rolling hills that flow from where the foothills end to where the prairie begins. The road we all used to avoid the highway between our growing little hometowns and Boulder when we were in highschool. The road where the memorial for two of my highschool classmates sits, marking the spot where their car left the road the night they died. The road I traveled in the back seat of my parents’ Tahoe, for the less-than-five-minute drive from their house, in my last hours as a single girl, to the little farm-house where The Mr. and I were married. The road that leads to our favorite little old town area where you can find us at least once each week now, and still out to the back roads into Boulder that I am teaching The Mr. to know and navigate. Collapsed by the days of rain.
We watched the little reservoir attached to our pocket neighborhood rising, and the drainage creeks starting to rush instead of amble, I checked the basement, checked the windows, checked the roof – watched the TV coverage of Boulder, of the water rising and filling places I’ve loved past and present and worried about friends who’ve made their homes in the canyons, the foothills, and on the plains in the path of the endless, unstoppable water. Into the small, dark, lonely hours of the morning I checked, and I watched.
Jr. had a stomach virus, so I cuddled and rocked and comforted, grateful for the excuse to be that close to my toddler who usually can’t slow down for a squeeze from mom.
The rain fell, Boulder and the towns east of it being washed over by the strength of the flow from the canyons – towns to the west, above Boulder in the hills, cut off completely from anyone, overtaken almost completely by water.
All through Friday and into today, in skies that have a few times turned Colorado blue briefly before clouds built back in, air support flies back and forth overhead providing assistance to areas unreachable by any other means. On the ground skilled personnel work to reach those in need of help. Downstream, the small towns on the Eastern plains brace for the coming and continuing flooding as the rushing water takes its inevitable course.
Everyone watches the skies, listens for the rumble of thunder. Knows the forecast is for more rain.
This will be “The Big One” now. The one Jr will hear about as he grows up here. Mercifully, the loss of lives has been far lower. The destruction more substantial than I can force myself to comprehend.
My mind and my heart and my prayers today are with the people up that little washed out back road I hold so dear. Those affected in towns still underwater, those finding what is left as it begins to recede, and those watching the water still rising now.
My company’s main office is in Boston.
Here in Colorado we spent the afternoon glancing out our office windows at the steady snow , whispering snippets of updates between cubes as we got off calls with our colleagues out East that suddenly became much less about spreadsheets and strategies and much more a chance to reach out and touch base and offer care and concern.
Then we each drifted out into the snow, to dig cars out of a heavier-than-expected spring storm and travel through the whiteout to get ourselves and our families home safely together.
To linger over bedtime stories, smashing faces into tiny heads of hair, grasping and hugging and clinging to the warm, sweet, perfect little pieces of the future we hold dearer than our own souls.
To sit closer to spouses or friends than we usually bother, to reach out on the phone, to text a check-in, or an “I love you.”
Because once again, we know that there are those who cannot tonight.
Who will live with divided hearts, partly now in heaven, lost for a home, hurting and searching and broken.
Words so completely fail.
I need a new one, a stronger one, an angrier one, for “Why?”