Friday was my father’s birthday, a day whose impact on me has lessened over the eight years since his death, but this last one, this hurricane, hit me hard. Two days earlier, on Wednesday, we sold my parent’s Florida home, ending fifteen years of my life along the the southwest Florida coast, starting when I moved there after college in 1989, continuing for a few years in exile, then leaving when circumstance flung me back to Pennsylvania in 1992. After that, I returned to Bonita at least once or twice a year to visit my folks. The southwest Florida coast become less an exile and more a home away from home.
When I first moved there, I heard a lot about hurricanes. Being friends with builders and carpenters, there was occassional talk of being up to code. Watching the impressive Florida summerstorms from Doc’s Beach House, it wasn’t hard to wonder, looking at the beachfront homes, “What if this were the big one?” Soon after I moved away, Hurricane Andrew hit the other coast, which caused more talk than damage on the west side. In all the years our family lived there, there was never a storm of consquence until the VERY NEXT DAY after selling. Tropical Storm Bonnie hit on Thursday, followed immediately by Hurricane Charley on Friday (the 13th).
My first reaction when I heard about these “his and her” storms was relief and amazement. “What are the odds? Fifteen years of nothing, then two big storms the two days after we close on the house.” There was also the feeling that my mother and father were somehow involved, that the two storms were their sendoff. It’s amazing how personal weather can feel.
Watching the storm take a right turn for Bonita and Sanibel, hearing geniune alarm in the announcers voices, learning of the predicted 18 foot water rise, my vicarious excitement quickly changed to worry. We know many people down there. The film clips on the TV all showed familiar places. While technically no longer our home, that coast, now evacuated, was still in our heart and a monstrous vortex was aimed right for it.
Then it became clear that its target was Sanibel. The monster was aimed directly at the beach where I’d said my goodbye, where my semweb journey began, where this blog was born. As those who went to ISWC last October will remember, Sanibel is a fragile island. During the time the eye was over it, I imagined the damage being caused to property and nature. Later, I envisioned the island underwater.
As a writer, I sometimes inhabit a kind of metaphorical geography. Weather has always affected me emotionally, as the writings I’ve linked to in this post will show. It hit hard to have such a monster hit the heart of our haven just days after leaving it, on my dad’s birthday no less.
Grief is both friend and foe, and always an attention-getter. Some days it’s a slow drizzle, some days it’s grinding rain, and some days it rips apart everything in its path. I’m personally doing much better, but Florida . . . Florida’s not doing so good.