I watched the news yesterday in horror. I felt so removed, so detached, and yet I felt a total sense of ownership for a town that I no longer live in. In fact even when I lived there I never enjoyed it. But it was Millie’s hometown. The place where she met my Grandfather. The place where my Mother was born and raised. The place where I first learned how to take care of my Grandmother in those fumbling early years of Alzheimer’s.
I watched the news. I read twitter feeds. I waited for updates from facebook friends. Held my breath waiting to hear from one of W’s Godmother’s and exhaled when I finally got a text from her where she hovered in a basement in Birmingham. I called up to Mother as she bathed W: “The craft store is gone!” A minute later, “The gas station and drug store are gone.” A minute later, “The Kispy Kreme is gone.” A minute later, “MOM! 15th street is gone!”
This morning I tried to find a photo of Millie that has always been a favorite – it featured her mowing the lawn at the rental house that we moved into soon after my Grandfather died. She was so curious about a lawn mower that we had that could be plugged into an electrical socket that she had to give it a spin. She grabbed the handle and proceeded to mow the entire (small) front yard in her summer dress and pantyhose.
The photo has always been amusing to me because – ha! My Grandmother was MOWING THE YARD!!
But that house? Now? This morning? It’s gone. The entire neighborhood where we once lived is gone. It was a beautiful and old neighborhood with houses built after WWII. The trees that lined the street were tall and proud and provided that idyllic row of streets to drive through in the summer. Gone. All gone. A tornado took it.
I don’t live there anymore. I haven’t lived in that house since 2004. I haven’t lived in Tuscaloosa since 2007. I haven’t been there since we buried Millie and the day that happened I vowed I would never return.
And yet hearing about the flattening of a town that, like it or not, is as much a part of who I am as the city that I was actually born in has me incredibly raw and emotional. I haven’t been able to get people on the phone that I need to (Millie’s best friend in Tuscaloosa and her cousin in Birmingham) and because of that I realized that I have been doing something that I haven’t done in a long, long, long time. I’m praying.