Whether it was as a kid watching the scarlet blurs flit in and out of the pecan trees of my grandmother’s back yard, my fellow E. D.White High School Cardinal classmates, or the color a former news director’s face would turn when he yelled at me (which was pretty often), cardinals have always made me smile. And with all that’s happened since the Amite River invaded my home five weeks ago, I could use a smile.
Since the muddy waters have receded, my wife and I have heard a constant refrain. “I love your attitude.” “You are so strong.” The truth is, we are not strong. We simply have no choice.
Every day since August 13 has been an emotional roller coaster, unbelievable highs over the simplest good news, followed by unbearable lows when that good news turns out to be false.
The worst is the uncertainty of the recovery process. FEMA seems to be making things up as we go. In the morning we will not have to raise our home. By lunchtime, we will have to raze it.
It’s not that our house is that important. It is where we have raised our family, where we’ve weathered the storms of colic, adolescent angst, and watched our boys leave the nest. It is where we celebrated life through middle school sports, high school wrestling, and rock concerts. Where we have gathered with friends for Super Bowls, game nights, and New Year’s Eve parties in the middle of February. Crawfish boils, pool parties, and hammock time, our house was always alive.
It’s the place we slowly made our own by the sweat of our brow, stripping wallpaper, sanding sheetrock, painting, installing floors and lights and counter tops. But it is still only warehouse where we lived in with our stuff.
Last week, as I wandered inside the empty shell wondering if we would ever celebrate another birthday or choose another wall color here again, I cracked.
It was not the idea of bulldozing the life we had made here that drew the tears to my eyes. It was the thought of losing what little we had left in the world.
I walked into the woods behind our house and cried. We had been faithful. We had not questioned. And I would not do it now.
Through the tears, I prayed for strength. The strength to let go, to trust in someone stronger.
On a sun-dried limb 30 yards away, in the fading light of the day, the brightest cardinal I have ever seen perched. He cocked his head my way as if to make sure I had seen him, then he flew away.
I laughed until I cried. I had been leaning on someone stronger the whole time.