Sunday, November 12


I had intended to take more of a break from this blog than just a few days -- you know, the kind of break where you're away for long enough to remember what it's like to have a life that exists without narration. But then you remember that you narrate your life in your head anyway, so you might as well write it down somewhere.

Big things happen and you want to share them, even if it's with no one in particular; you just want to eek them out to the universe, to put the words out there to make the events real -- out of boredom, desperation, narcissism, hope, whatever. The words matter. And sometimes the words and the stories are too amazing or too awful to keep to yourself. So you want to get them out there in the air, so their weight can be distributed among the elements. Let every living thing have a piece.

So here I am, pecking away at my grandmother's filthy keyboard, my nails suffering from the world's worst self-inflicted manicure (the color of choice: Savvy Mauve; the brand: ORLY, which makes me laugh and laugh), surrounded by the clutter of a woman with a hundred things to do and never enough time to do them. My clutter gene came from my grandmother, as I'm beginning to realize. It's never been more clear to me than at this moment.

Surrounding and on this desk, within a foot of me, are:

  • A nearly empty jar of Great Value dry-roasted peanuts
  • A Ziploc bag of raisins
  • A phone
  • A caller ID box
  • Two bottles of nail polish
  • A crumpled paper towel
  • A stack of local phone books
  • A Sept. 13 utility bill
  • A scrap of paper with some guy's e-mail address on it
  • A chip clip
  • Fingernail clippers
  • An empty pack of dry-mouth gum
  • An asthma inhaler
  • A stack of computer discs
  • An opened pack of Club Crackers
  • Floppy disks: green, bright orange, and neon yellow
  • A day calendar flipped to Sept. 6
  • A plastic hanging plant
  • Beggin Strips
  • Post-it notes
  • A stapler
  • A pen
  • A copy of an old photograph of a squirrel
  • A calculator in bubble wrap
  • Return address labels
  • A cable/DSL router
  • A stuffed lion and a stuffed cheetah, both on bungee cords, hanging from the lamp above
  • A funeral leaflet for Gene Bingham
  • A "back massager"
  • A boomerang from Australia
  • A Methodist Church directory
  • A manilla envelope, contents unknown

I could keep going, but I should go to bed soon.

I'm at my grandmother's house unexpectedly. I had planned to spend the weekend cleaning my filthy apartment and taking Gonzo to the vet, but I got a call from my mom today shortly after noon that tossed those plans into the back seat.

"I've got terrible news," she said. "Your sister's house is burning to the ground."

There was no way I was going to hear that and sit tight in Memphis. So I hopped in the shower and into the car and sure enough, when I pulled up to my sister's house two hours later, I saw my family sitting around a charred hull of a home. The house was standing, for the most part, but it was a shell. The entire inside had been hollowed and blackened. Sporadic piles of salvageables were placed several feet from the house, which was soaked from the efforts of the local firefighters (paid and volunteer, bless them). I stepped out of my car and my sister came toward me and we both broke down there in the yard, hugging.

What do you say to someone who has lost everything?

You offer the standard platitudes, that's what. You say things like, "Well, at least no one was hurt. That's what matters."

And it's true. But it's trite.

But that's what you say.

We are all thankful that the house was empty when it happened. Had the kids been home alone, or had the dog been inside (he was outside thanks to a nasty case of the runs, apparently), the whole ordeal could have gotten a lot heavier.

But no one was there. My sister got a call from someone who had seen it, I think, and she was several miles away but turned to look in the direction of the house and sure enough saw angry black smoke coming from the area. By the time the fire teams got there, there wasn't much they could do. The back room -- where the fire had started from some bad wiring, apparently -- had been demolished. The rest of the house had a combination of fire and smoke and water damage. They managed to get out a couple of pieces of furniture (which may or may not be salvageable), Patrick's school books, some knick-knacks, and a jar of pickled eggs. They lost all their clothes, their TVs, computers, video games, books, photos, kitchen equipment, beds, chairs, art, collectibles, everything.

My sister didn't tell the boys until later. They'd been at their dad's the whole time, and had no idea. So Krissie met them and their step-mom a few miles from the house, and drove up with them so they could see it. Casey seemed to be okay, but Patrick seemed to take it pretty hard. After a few minutes and lots of hugs from everyone around, they both seemed to perk up. They ventured inside and plucked out some things to keep. A Jason mask. A CD. There wasn't much else.

So now everyone's over at my parents' house. It's practically full up, so I decided to come stay at my grandmother's for the night. I think she's happy to have the company.

I am too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How awful! I am so glad the house was empty! It sounds bizarre, but they are so lucky that no one was inside!

Still, it sucks to lose everything. I hope they get on the road to recovery soon.

I suck at comforting people. I have no idea what to say. "Gee, that sucks," is probably the most trite comment I could make, but it's the first one that springs to mind.

Insert intelligent, comforting thought here

Mon Nov 13, 07:34:00 AM  
Blogger newscoma said...

Although I have no idea what to say I know this must have been devastating.
It does suck. Big-time.

Mon Nov 13, 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger theogeo said...

Thanks to you both for the kind words. I'll pass them along to the people who need them most.

It surely does suck, and that's as apt a description as any.

Mon Nov 13, 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Kathy T. said...

Wow. That's so scary. I am relieved to hear everyone is fine, but still. That just really really stinks. Hopefully the community will help your sister and her family out.

Mon Nov 13, 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger nashgirl said...

I also want to extend my condolences to your family for the fire. It's a sad thing to happen so close to Christmas.

Mon Nov 13, 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger TVonthefritz said...

I'm glad your relatives are OK.

Tue Nov 14, 03:00:00 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

That's horrible. Let us know if there's anything that we can do to help. I'm so very sorry to read the news. Let us know how they're doing. I certainly know how you feel. My brother's house burned to the ground, when I was younger. I'm just so glad that no one was home. Material objects are replaceable. People are not.

Tue Nov 14, 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger fearlessvk said...

I'm a bit late on this but also wanted to say I'm sorry to hear about your sister's house - that's terrible, but I'm very glad no one was hurt, and your pictures are truly amazing... hope your family is doing OK....

Wed Nov 15, 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger theogeo said...

Thank all of you, again, for saying such nice things. I told my sister that people on the internets were rooting for her and she was all like, huh? But still it's awesome to know good vibes are being sent her way.

I am such a hippie.

Thu Nov 16, 02:39:00 AM  

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