Wednesday, November 21, 2012

WILW -- Giving Thanks on a Difficult Thanksgiving

Trying to get back to blogging by linking up for What I'm Loving Wednesday.  This may not be a typical WILW kind of post, but it is what has been on my mind lately.

Recently, MVP and I made the trip up to NJ to help my Pop-Pop after Hurricane Sandy.  My mom had only told me that they didn't think things were too bad, that nothing inside the house had been floating (from the info they could get from neighbors; Pop-Pop had evacuated before Sandy hit), and that others were much worse off.

I wanted to get up there to help.  My mother told me there was no need and that they had things well under control.  But there was just something inside that told me I needed to.  I bailed on an event I was scheduled to be at, and instead MVP and I made our way north.

I was not really prepared for what I saw as we finally drove into his neighborhood.  Houses with boats crashed into the side of them.  Walls of homes caving in, not able to stand after all that water.  Entire contents of homes sitting on the curb, everything ruined.

My mom was correct in that my Pop-Pop's house was not as bad as others....but it was far from just needing a little cleaning up.  You entered the house by climbing up a tiny step-stool.  That's because the front porch and steps had floated away, and were resting in from of another house  farther down the street.  All the floors in the house would need to be ripped up and replaced.  Additionally, contractors would need to cut up and into the walls about 2 feet high, to account for how high the water had risen inside the house.   

It was especially difficult because my parents didn't quite seem to fully grasp how serious the situation was.  They were shuffling around as if they just needed to pack up a few things.  In reality, everything needed to be removed from the house, and about 80% of it was now considered trash.

After that first day, we had made some good progress, but there was still a lot to be done.  My brother and sister-in-law met us there early on Sunday and we continued to clear out the house.  We had finally removed everything that was not able to be saved, and it sat there in front of the house.  Close your eyes for a moment and picture your house...the rooms full of furniture...a kitchen with a fridge and a dishwasher...a laundry room with a washer and dryer...cabinets full of food....shelves of books and family photos....

Now picture it all sitting in the front of your house to be picked up as trash.

We were able to save a few boxes of things, but had run out of room in cars to transport it back to PA.  So on Monday, MVP and I got up early and rented a van.  We drove back to NJ, loaded the last of the boxes, and were set to take them back to PA, to store in my brother's basement.

My Pop-Pop mentioned some boxes of family photos out in one of the storage sheds.  My brother had been out in that shed the day before trying to rescue the doll house my Pop-Pop had built for me when I was a little girl.  The shed was a total wreck, with mud and water everywhere.  He had even come across a few crabs scuttling around in there.  Pop-Pop figured the photos and albums were likely all lost now, and I saw a look on his face....even now just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.

I went back to the shed and called for MVP to help.  We managed to pull out 5 boxes of photos and albums.  Some fairly dry because they had been higher up.  Some waterlogged and damp because they had been closer to the bottom.  But we loaded them all into the van.  I wanted to save any of them if I could.  So much stuff was already sitting out on the curb, waiting to be picked up and disposed of.  These pictures...well, I couldn't bring myself to leave them there as trash.

MVP and I unloaded the van in PA, returned it to the rental place and headed back to VA.  We finally got home at around 8 at night and unloaded everything.  And began to work on the photos.

Stupid Blogger rotated this photo
For days and days, we have had sheets spread out all over our apartment, trying to dry the photos.  There were many we weren't able to save, but saving some was better than losing them all.
That's me in the green striped shirt!
MVP was incredible through all of it, working hard each day to save the photos.  I wasn't as much help, as I found myself often crying as I went through each box.  Pics of my Gram who I miss very much.  Pics of us spending summers at the shore house that I had helped to gut out a few days before.  It was just all too emotional for me.

But there were so many photos I had never seen.  Pics of my Pop Pop when he was in the Navy.  Snapshots of my Gram and Pop-Pop as a newly married couple and my mom as a little girl.  Photos of my brother and I as babies.  Cards we had sent my Gram when we were little that she saved.  Pictures of great-grandparents and relatives I had never met.

That's my Mom and Santa in 1955!

A whole family's history was laid out in photos and mementos on my floor.  My family.

And while I cried and felt sad, I also felt thankful.  Thankful that I was blessed with such loving and generous grandparents.  Grateful that they gave our family a little house in New Jersey to spend our summers at.  Happy that there were so many pictures of all those happy times.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving spending time with the people in your life that are important to you.  While I won't be able to be with my family up in PA, there will sure be a lot of pictures of them in my apartment to keep me company!

And if you think of it during this holiday season, go through some of the old photo albums and boxes of mementos you haven't looked at in awhile.   You never know what memories you might uncover.