It’s not really the end … (103)

Last weekend I had a housewarming party. I’ve been in my new home for over 3 months now, and while there are still a few mini-projects to finish up, the house is basically unpacked, decorated, and settled. This party was approximately one year after the ‘Half-way Home’ party I gave in the rental house last summer. At that time, I thought I was halfway through the rental house phase and would be moving back to my own restored-after-the-fire house. I should have called the party my ‘Third-maybe-even-fourth-way Home’ party, but how was I to know? Probably better that I didn’t. I ended up spending over five months in the rental and then a little over four months in my own restored home. Eight and half months after I had originally planned to put my house on the market, I actually did put it up for sale and then sold it in six days. In the ninth month I moved, again. I set up utilities and cable and changed my address on every account I could think of, again. I wanted to put the fire episode behind me. I literally moved away from the house that burned.

One year ago I began publishing a blog about my experiences surrounding the house fire, my son’s depression, and the beginning of my empty-nester years. I waited six weeks before I posted my first chapter about the fire ( and even then it was tough to write. I still get emotional reading about those early days. The first few months were especially overwhelming and I soon realized that most people have no idea what life after a fire is like. I know because I tried to tell them all too often about what I was going through. I decided that I needed a forum to express the surreal craziness of life after a fire before I totally alienated my friends and colleagues. A few months later, the Bastrop area in Central Texas experienced a series of devastating wildfires. I tried to give some general advice about dealing with the initial aftermath ( and that post has been my second most read chapter so far. I hope it helped some people. That was one of my intentions in publicizing my own experience.

I also began to share the deeply personal ordeal of my son’s depression before and after the fire. Mental illness still carries such a taboo in our society, especially for the male creatures among us. For a short time, Jacob took an informal university class designed to help students deal with depression issues. He was the only guy. Unfortunately, he didn’t stay in the class very long. It would take more time before he truly acknowledged that he needed professional help. The consequences of depression can be deadly. Last summer I wrote about my friend’s depressed son who committed suicide and my own fears for my son; it was my most viewed post ever ( I decided to write about depression because far too many dismiss it, consider it a weakness not an illness; they don’t want to acknowledge it, but it’s far too dangerous to ignore. My son continues to deal with varying degrees of depression and post-trauma, but at least he now realizes there’s no quick fix and is learning to manage it.

It’s been quite a year – full of challenges but also silver linings and small, unexpected blessings. Now that the housewarming party is over, I have begun to feel some closure on the house fire. I am ready to clean out the 400+ e-mails in my ‘House Fire’ folder. It’s time to move on. Looking back now with some perspective, I’m grateful to AAA and Bruce the insurance guy. I was frustrated with him at times, but having heard some truly horrible insurance stories from others in similar experiences, I know now that I’ve been pretty lucky. Triple A, you have a loyal customer for life. The people at Specialty Restoration of Texas, especially Mark the contractor, were absolutely the best to work with. I’ll be forever grateful for their help in navigating insurance requirements and reconstruction details and generally just getting through the year. My realtors, Sharon Downer and Bob Wolk, had my back throughout the whole much-longer-than-expected process of marketing my house — twice! They became my realtors 1 ½ years ago and ended up as my friends. My colleagues deserve a special thanks for all their support, both emotional and financial. Friends and family kept me going, and of course, son Jacob and daughter Sarah make my life worth living, even when it beats you down for a while. Dogs Buddy and Rosie remind me that as long as there is food, water, and belly rubs, life is good. To my all my subscribers and other readers who have come along on this journey, I can’t thank you enough for your encouragement. “Rebuilding house and life after a fire” may be coming to an end, but I’ve found that writing is addictive. I’ve already started planning a new blog or two, and I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re up and running, just in case they interest you. This isn’t really the end, just a pause before a new beginning.

This entry was posted in Blogging, Depression, Dogs, House Fire, My Life, New Beginning, Personal Memoir, Son, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to It’s not really the end … (103)

  1. Ric's wife says:

    Yes, indeed. Tell me about that smell! It will haunt me for a long, long time, I fear. When the fires I spoke about were both extinguished the arson police entered the premises (the houses, by the way were two blocks away from one another). We were given an ok to re-enter briefly, stepping over disaster crews, nosy but well meaning neighbors and building managers. If readers of this comment are not familiar with Fire Dept/Insurance protocol: NYC’s standard m.o. thus: they begin their investigation, and then as evidence is gathered, in the event the fire does not appear accidental, the insurance people appear, and get involved pronto. During that terrible time, nothing can be moved or disturbed. I still remember, four o’clock in the morning, stupid with fatigue, in the semi-darkness of my basement, staring around me, ankle deep in blackened wood, shattered glass, burned wire and chaos, charred books and paper. The only sounds were walkie talkies of the crews, and the pooled water on the floors and walls from the FDNY firehoses used to put the blaze out made this horrific, relentless drip, drip noise, as the hoses deluge drained into the sump pits. And then being told, “You must leave all this untouched for now.” “God almighty” I wailed , “can’t I even bag and sweep up anything?” “No, ma’am, the insurance company will send in their cleaners – next week sometime.” I could not clean, which for me is an action signifying forward movement, taking action, beginning to cope, even in some minor way… with this tragedy. The inertia, the mandate to do nothing at all – just stand idle, with that smell…. would drive me nearly mad. Meanwhile, I had to prop the basement doors open, and the sharp, ugly o of burned items from our life before this dreadful event kept filling my nose, and my head. Really the stuff of nightmares. It was after three days of this that, after my family’s urging… I went into counseling – and began to work with my intense emotional reactions, get some perspective, and, start my healing.

  2. shoshwrites3 says:

    Good luck on all of it! It does take a long time to get over such catastrophes, but eventually they do start to fade into the background. Still, whenever I smell smoke, I’m immediately on the alert, even if it’s just from some restaurant.

  3. Ric's wife says:

    I am recovering now, being the superintendent several brownstone buildings here in NY. We had two fires, evidently neither one accidental. There is so much to feel terrible about – the fact that even though after an investigation by the insurance and arson personnel I was cleared of all blame, there was a helper I brought into the buildings. The man worked with me right before both blazes broke out; and the investigation continues, now focused on him. Of course if in time it turns out this person is the culprit, then I have the added guilt burden of poor judgement – I allowed him access, and he may have indeed SET the fires. Even worse, items were stolen from both locations. In a strange way I cannot stop feeling responsible, indirectly, you see. And the friendships, after my being a ‘famous’ superintendent and trusted neighbor – for 25 years, those connections were permanently severed after these heartbreaking events. People start fighting, blame one another, misunderstand what you mean to say, look for someone THEY can bash afterwards, and the nightmare goes on. But I must count my blessings: my husband, my 90 year old still feisty Mom, and my dearest galfriend down the street all strongly urged me to get some counseling. And i have been doing this, along with keeping to a routine, looking after the house and my pets and my hubby. Keeping a frame of daily chores, with good healthy food, regular sleep, no alcohol, of course…and prayer and quiet time. I have also started a journal about the experience. Two fires in ten days! A double whammy, but there have been some amazing coincidences. The same insurance investigator – (bless you Woody) has become a phone friend and Heaven sent adviser and source of wisdom. He assured me, once I was cleared of all suspicion, that I got ‘caught in a pickle’ and he’d seen this happen many times, where innocent persons are implicated and suffer incredible stress, guilt and anguish – for something they themselves did not even do. Healing is a process, day to day, and not a straight, linear trajectory, I have learned. And my faith (I am a nondenominational Christian) sustains me, along with my wonderful husband and supportive family and friends. I keep alive the hope deep in my heart that the cause of these dreadful events – and the person responsible – will be revealed, by God…and the justice system.

  4. Lots of love to you and your family Shosh. Its wonderful that you have managed to assist others to cope with difficulties in their lives through honestly sharing your feelings about your own troubles. Very brave of you! I wrote about my Mum’s illness and my decision to start taking care of my heath now and not wait until the time when I am ill and it too, like your posts mentioned above, has had the most hits and responses both on WordPress and Facebook. Quite inspiring and humbling!
    Love you xx

  5. Joleen says:

    Good for you!

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