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Sunday, August 15, 2004

Let me reiterate, we are lucky! 

My husband and I have been blessed with a pretty good life. We have our parents still with us, family close by either by car or air, live comfortably, and have everything we need. We live in the house of our dreams in a location that takes our breath away every day. I tell you all of this because we also experienced one of the worst scares we could ever imagine when Hurricane Charley was barreling straight at us with no expected detour in sight.

Although located in an evacuation zone, we had pretty much made the decision to stay put. We are more buffered from the Gulf in this house and 10 feet up in the air, so storm surges were not going to be a huge issue. Our primary reasons to stay were these. First, our folks are our evauation point. They already had a pretty full house with my sister and her husband, their son and daughter-in-law and their two children all in a two bedroom home. And, even more aggravating, they had just lost their central air conditioning and it could not be repaired. Second, we have three dogs and two cats. All of the animals are getting up in age and don't like changes in their routines. Nor do they particularly like to get in the car and go anywhere because they always conclude they are on the way to the vet. So our decision was made, or so we thought.

As the storm gained in intensity and we listened to all of the emergency and weather folks, we realized that the winds could do some severe damage. There were also tornadoes spawning from Charley's wrath. So at about 12 PM, we made the decision to bunk in with my folks and we're really glad we did. Although no one wanted to admit it, everyone was anxious and dealing with it in their own way. My folks were trying to act like nothing was going on, but they both looked like they would blow over in a good wind, no pun intended. My sister took to mothering her 2 month old grandson and my brother-in-law was periodically saying "I don't want to hear anymore" while shaking his head. And my husband got very chatty and enjoyed his cocktails trying to act like everything was fine. I was glued to a chair holding on to the leashes of our three dogs and vowing not to move or leave them alone in the garage. You see, my mother doesn't like animals in the house so they were relegated to the garage. She could not understand how I could make the decision to stay out there with them through the storm, but she also understood I was very serious and would not alter that decision.

As 3 PM came, my sister checked the news and informed us that the storm was beginning to turn. There would be more to know in an hour. Suddenly we all got a little more chatty and breathed a bit easier. My brother-in-law said "What a let down. I was all set for more than just this little rain shower" all the while beginning to get more color back in his cheeks. By 4 we learned that Punta Gorda had been hit and the storm track was moving through central Florida and up the east coast. We all decided it was time to pack up, go back home and leave the folks with a little quiet and the use of their room air conditioner without all the bodies floating around. We arrived home around 5, unpacked the car and collapsed on the sofa.

Yesterday was a "dazed" day and we noticed many other folks were feeling the same way. People were driving more slowly and seemed less annoyed by traffic. We stopped by to make sure my folks were okay, and they were feeling tired and washed out. Today is a little better as we try to get back into our daily routines - doing laundry and housework and other household chores. But what I have noticed is this. In the 8 years of living in Florida, we have never ever come this close to staring a hurricane in the face and walking away from it. I've read articles in the St. Pete Times, particularly Mary Jo Melone, and agree with all they are saying. Our hearts go out to those who experienced the full brunt of this horrendous storm and we feel a bit guilty that we dodged the bullet. We also agree that the next time (of course we pray there is no next time) we are threatened, many people will not respond thinking the authorities are crying wolf one more time. What I have learned is this. Life is precious and Mother Nature is unpredictable. So every day when we watch the sunset and appreciate what we have, that appreciation will be just a little sweeter knowing we are still here with our dogs, cats, family and friends. Nothing could be better than that. Happy Gardening.

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Thanks to Andrew Stenning who contributed the photograph for our masthead

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