What You Save in a Flood

Close call: behind our house.
Close call: behind our house.

There was a flood in Houston, they called the storm Harvey, and the water got close to our house. We got ready to go, packed our bags, but never had to leave. Today we unpacked and put away our things. The piano where we sang show tunes at the height of the flood is safe.

We will be able to have another family sing-a-long and that is good.

As I packed, I realized how little of what we own really matters. We had Father Michael’s papers and those could not be lost. He suffered enough for the faith that his words, sermons, and life should be preserved. Our pictures are mostly in the cloud. We had a few snaps that are still paper only, but that is about all.

We have stuff we like, eccentric stuff, like a framed print of Charles Stuart on his way to execution, but none of it is really worth anything. Our adult kids might miss Party Fox, the taxidermied red fox, who got his name in ways that are none of anyone’s business. We weren’t going to take up room in our car with a stuffed fox.

Yet one battered blue notebook came with me and it reminded me of a certain truth: My kids do not want my stuff, but they want my battered notebook. Furniture styles change over time and both my parents and my generation are selling off our collected things at the same time. In our case, it is worse than usual. Nobody wants our oak Presbyterian church pew unless it is for the wood. If the waters had swept it all away, I suspect most of the children would have rejoiced.

They want the blue notebook. Why? These are notes I took in my childhood, the oldest pages are pushing fifty hard, for a novel. The text is nearly unreadable and there was no spell check on eight and a half by eleven lined pages. I liked purple prose even then with even less restraint.

Here is the Blue Book.
Here is the Blue Book.

Trust me, history did not want the blue book, but my kids would have missed it, because, God help me, they love me. This was my story, written by child Dad, and they want it. My children’s children’s children will certainly not care for this old thing . . . if it holds together that long. It is mortal prose and ephemeral storytelling.

I realized that because I love my mom and dad, the most valuable things they have are those things that recall them to me.  Just as the smell of pine always reminds me of Christmas, so certain objects bring happy memories back to me and the more they have put themselves into those objects, the more I sense them.

So here is a simple lesson: make things. When I write here, I think of my children long after I am gone reading some of this and thinking of Dad. They will pick up a Disneyland globe and think of the days spent there growing up. They will take their mom’s needlepoint to every new home because their mom made that piece of art. God help us, let’s make things.

We are immortal. When I am gone, as gone I must be, then I will join Edmund Saint John Reynolds, the son who was born into Paradise, and leave the rest of my family behind me. This is fine for me, because time will be no more and I will see them in the eternal now of God. It’s only for those that have not yet died that death holds terror and the pain of separation. We mourn the dead, but the dead mourn only our pain.

So what can we do? We can create. We can leave clues to our immortal souls and if they miss us, then perhaps in the Christmas ornament that says “Our First Christmas” that Hope and I got when we were married, they will recall us. They will be happy until they no longer have to remember, because we will all be there in an unbroken circle of eternal love.

Make something worth saving.


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