Weathering Disaster from Beirut to Brooklyn

In the terrible wake of Hurricane Sandy which left my family unscathed without even a loss of power in our part of Brooklyn, our friend Dikran was stranded with his two-year-old daughter on the twenty-eighth floor of a high-rise in the blackout across Lower Manhattan.

His wife Jananne was out of the country and unable to get back for another thirty-six hours. There’s no unhappy ending here, as there was (and still is) for so many in the ongoing aftermath.

I managed to drive into Manhattan in a narrow window of time when one could do so after the storm, and brought Dikran and Nayla back to Brooklyn where they spent the week with us and were later reunited with Jananne.

But how happy can one be, thinking of the mother on Staten Island whose two little boys were swept from her arms in the flood as she tried to break into a stranger’s house for shelter, and now has to live with the fact that she didn’t evacuate in time? [Read more…]

My Grandmother and the Hurricane, Both Gone Now

To live in the mercy of God.
Awe, not comfort….

 And awe suddenly
passing beyond itself. Becomes
a form of comfort.

—Denise Levertov

Two weeks ago I flew to my childhood home in Tennessee, and twenty-nine hours after I arrived my grandmother died. Then a week after that I returned to my adult home in Philadelphia and a hurricane hit. My grandmother’s name was Gennie Vee. The hurricane’s name was Sandy. They are both gone now.

I’m not accustomed to being with someone while they die, and I’m not accustomed to being in hurricanes either. That means I had a lot to learn in the past two weeks, and not much time to learn it in. Some people call that being thrown in the deep end. Some people say that when one is thrown in the deep end, there are two options: sink or swim. [Read more…]

Do-It-Yourself Sacramental Tedium

Last Tuesday, after it became clear that Superstorm Sandy was going to bypass Washington, D.C., in favor of New York, I decided to stain the discolored grout in the bathroom.

It appeared that we had a few more hours to stay inside with our batteries and massive food stores—the rains were still torrential, the children were snuggled up under blankets watching a movie, my husband was practicing guitar—so I pulled out the blue painter’s tape and the bottle of Grout Refresh (No. 14: Biscuit/Bizcocho) I’d gotten at Lowe’s and kneeled down on the hard tile.

Painstakingly, and I am not one who usually takes pains—where do you think my son got his ADHD?—I cut strips of tape to edge either side of the lines of grout, a suggestion offered by a commenter on a home improvement forum. Otherwise, my gut would have been to trowel it on, freestyle, and hope for the best.

Once I managed to tape perhaps a three-foot-square section of the floor—I was too eager to invest the time for the whole space—I spread an old Snoopy toothbrush with the thick ecru paste, and dragged it slowly, evenly, down the lines, holding my breath. [Read more…]