Adulthood is a funny old thing. Last week, I was stuck in a tiny hotel room in San Antonio with my parents and both big dogs. I’m not going to sugar coat it: we fought. At one point, the G.P. (my Dad) decided that we had only migrated from Hell to high water because he was sure that the creek behind our hotel was going to flood. It had a long way to go – from the dry culvert to the top was about fifteen feet. Dad wouldn’t give it up though, and in a (masterful battle) flood plain plots were deployed, and everyone accused everyone else of not being able to read a map. Then Dad got further infuriated because slices in the loaf of whole wheat bread Mom brought to the evacuation were “too big.” He also tried to walk both dogs in the middle of the night wearing only what he described as “my worst pair of underpants.” Family Time should be redefined as the length of the prison sentence you get for knocking out your own father with a tub of Country Crock.
We didn’t stay in San Antonio long. The G.P. couldn’t stand not knowing what was going on back home, so Friday morning he insisted that we white knuckle it back. I was pretty sure that driving into a hurricane is generally considered a bad idea, but I was out-shouted. Luckily, we made it home in one piece and neither of our homes sustained too much damage. We lost fences, one tree and had a few shingles in the yard. We also had no power, we were on a boil and we were supposed to limit our use of the toilet. It wasn’t bad at all, especially compared to the horrors I had been mentally preparing myself for. As we watched the news all night on Thursday, I swear I was just waiting for my little yellow house to blow past the guy from the Weather Channel – merrily skipping down Shoreline Drive, free at last from the terrible shackles of its slab foundation.
My father is in his element when faced what most people would consider “privation.” He would be totally happy holed up under a tarp in a swamp as long as he had his guitar, a whiskey coke, and a hammer to kill the alligators. The Rev and I both thought it was stupid to return to Corpus before it was recommended. When Dad determined that everything was fine on the home front, he was like a smug cat that had eaten an entire pet shop full of canaries. The smug rolled off of him in waves of smugness so thick and smuggy that I’m pretty sure it’s what forced the storm North to poor Houston.
While Dad didn’t give two licks about the power, the boil, or the toilet situation, his rich retiree neighbors had a different take. I had two of them come up to me as I was unpacking the car, and angrily demand to know how they were supposed to “boil water when the electricity is off.”
“Do you have a gas grill?” I asked on both occasions.
“Yes,” both people replied, furious that they hadn’t thought of it. I was legitimately concerned for them.
The power was still off at Dad’s house 42 hours later when the Rev and my brother (who is visiting from Hawaii – Bairs are among the only people stupid enough to fly directly into a hurricane for a “vacation”) got home. I went over to check on them when I finished work, but the dark house was deserted. It reeked of gas fumes from the G.P.’s generator. He had managed to plug in the fridge and his guitar amp – because priorities. The machine chugged along, locomotive loud, as I banged the front door shut.
At that point, I observed that the G.P.’s block had undergone a not-so-subtle character shift. Instead of the obsessively manicured yards of yore, now the houses boasted trashcan fires in the front yard. Small yappy dogs were staked around the perimeters serving as early looter alert systems. The floral chintz sofas were drug into the front yards with great disregard for fabric preservation. I’m sure that somewhere there were some hot dogs on sticks waiting to be roasted over the flames – at least I vehemently hope they were hot dogs. You could almost feel the ubiquitous car-on-blocks waiting to happen. I started checking the houses to see if they’d sprouted wheels.
Evidently, it only takes about 73 hours of semi-serious privation for my Dad’s elderly and wealthy neighbors to transform from people who can’t figure out how to boil water without electricity, into leather-studded-bandolier-wearing, Mohawk-in-back-of-the-bald-spot-sporting Road Warriors in plaid cotton boxer shorts. They clung like limpets to the white sock and black sandal combination. I really think that one of these ancient guys should serve as the unofficial mascot for Hurricane Harvey. He’ll be pictured fiercely brandishing a hot dog laden stick on all the t-shirts. The caption will simply read, “Survivor.” He’s certainly easier to draw than a 7 foot tall invisible rabbit.
We’re not sure if the original Road Warrior was happy about the return of my brother and The Rev. Mom was still mad at him, and she’s a fearsome creature when she’s enraged. Plus, he’d managed to essentially turn the house into what looked like the offspring of a hobo encampment and a dirty gas station bathroom. He was about three hours away from re-inventing the ultra-hygienic-towel-on-a-roller. Because the G.P. still loves Mom even when she’s mad, he helpfully told her not to put potable water in the blue Gott cooler. “The toilet seat fit perfectly,” he said.
Mom moved in with me. It took her about three seconds to claim my Queen-sized bed with the two super fluffy feather beds and the 12 inch memory foam. Stadler and I have been relegated to my guest room where we’re piled into my nephew’s old twin. It still kind of smells a little like pee, but it has Incredible Hulk sheets so we don’t mind too much. We must all do what we can.
Yesterday, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she heard someone say, “I am glad of my struggle because through it I know my strength.” In contrast, I posted that I had accidentally invented a Swiss Army Plunger (axe head on one side, hammer head on the other perpendicular to a long shaft with a plunger mounted on top), which I declared made me a complete genius. It would probably be better to focus on the former right now. However, if anyone knows how you get on Shark Tank, shoot me a line – I’ve got an exciting new multi-tool to pitch.