Last night, I got home at nearly 11 pm (still not done...) and had three THREE messages from my Mom, left on the neighbor's borrowed cell phone. She said he was leaving EARLY in the morning, and she would miss her normal Saturday morning call.
So, when the phone rang promptly at 8:15, I did something I NEVER do: I answered without identifying myself -- I just started talking as though I KNEW who it was.
"So, what did you do, hold L. at gun point to steal his cell phone?"
I was rewarded with a giggle in my mother's voice. I REALLY NEEDED to hear that laugh.
I recited the Ferret Crossing the Road story, and got it again. Then I was calm enough to allow her to talk.
"We're fine -- we have everything we need and are healthy."
They have no phone or cable TV. (Big deal. They have a battery operated radio, so they are not sitting in a silent house, staring at each other... The world will roll along without those two things.)
Well, as she desired, I was greatly relieved. But unfortunately, my mind still works. As she kept talking, it came out that the Red Cross (God will surely bless those people WELL) are still delivering food. Chile one day, green beans as the vegetable one day, ravioli and carrots another. She'd made a "blech" sound after that on the phone message.
"Mom, I thought you liked carrots. Was it just because they were cooked?"
She's thinking hard, puzzled. "Oh, I like the carrots. The ravioli's sauce was too spicy."
The local bank is WORKING. (Great!) But, unfortunately, she kept on talking. "I didn't have to wait long at all. The people outside recognized me. I go there twice a week to cash a check, so I got escorted right in. They're only letting people in four at a time, as they only have four windows. You have to show all kinds of ID before you can enter." (So, if you lost everything and weren't carrying your id, you also lost your money in the bank? If you weren't retired and never took the time to stop in personally, you are "unknown" and suspect?)
I told mother about the year's school schedule and first month's breakfast and lunch menus that I'd nearly gotten in the mail to her. "I'm glad I didn't get that off. Just think, as you sat there eating another dry oatmeal bar, and reading the school menu. Bad as we think it is, about the 10th morning in a row of oatmeal bars, IT WOULD LOOK GREAT. I got another laugh.
Tucked secretly within a bunch of other information, she repeated, "Our refrigerator doesn't work. G. doesn't feel up to doing the driving, so I will. We're going out to Sears to get a replacement today."
I wanted L.'s mother's cell phone #. Well, it turns out, I'd mis-remembered. She did't die -- she'd moved to Lafayette, LA, a town 200 miles north of NO that is now getting quite overrun by the refugees. And, L. is NOT even his name, but a nickname... He's a "Jr." so he uses that to separate him from his father. But I got a number, which every once in a while, actually might answer. He's leaving for 10 days again.
All five acres of my aunt and uncle's (Hoot Owl Hill) has SOLD, for cash. (Great!) But unfortunately, I had a question. Status of the little house they'd intended to purchase and move into -- UNKNOWN. But, IT'S OKAY, they don't have to give up possession for A MONTH.
Say what??? Do they REALLY believe that with the gobs of folks who lost everything trying to come back into the area that they'll be able to locate (it, or anything else) within a month? So I went into my clear skys, pleasant people, etc. Iowa promotion routine.
Did mother take it seriously? Will she pass it on to her sister? I doubt it -- I got that giggle again.
Last night, when I pulled up beside the mailbox, I had one lone letter -- postmarked in Lafayette, LA, (which I did NOT notice until she mentioned it this morning) but written in my mother's hand, with a note from her on the outside, and two pages inside (a LONG letter from mother is a front sheet, padded with the devotional reading copied carefully from the church bulletin or somesuch... This was nearly two full pages of detail -- written before Katrina was over.
"So, I see you have postal service now."
"No, our distribution center is NEW ORLEANS."
Mom did go to the local postal office, which had just gotten in a huge pile of mail. She turned in two letters to be sent out. "We don't know how long it will take to sort this out," she was told. With tons of the addresses now non-existent, and no master list of where people went, I can well believe THAT!
And, finally she told ME a joke! C. went to the Ocean Springs Baptist church. The minister, hoping to draw a laugh from his grim faced, grim spirited congregation, said in an upbeat voice, "Hallelujah! The Civil War is OVER! Chicago has adopted New Orleans as her sister city."
So, for my parting shot, I tried for another joke -- but it backfired totally. "Mom, tell G. to offer to trade the Hoot Owl Hillians refrigerators." When she hesitated instead of laughing, I laughed and said, "Mom, be sure to tell G. that! It is a JOKE. You have a lot of funny stories you can tell him now."
You really feel how grim life is when the idea of trading a broken down old refrigerator to a relative whose house just sold is taken SERIOUSLY. (Did she forget the month possession period? How could she REALLY think I would wish no cold stuff on my aunt and uncle for a month? Maybe we both were just trying too hard to keep things "normal", whatever that is.)