October 6, 2005 - October 23, 2005: Waiting
Having long hated the predominantly two-lane drive northward through Louisiana, I elected to return to Missouri via I-10 to Baton Rouge and I-55 north through Memphis. This does make the trip a bit longer but it requires less stress than constantly having to pass logging trucks in timber country. Following a night at Knights Inn somewhere in Mississippi, I pulled in to Salem on the afternoon of October 6.
My mother was somewhat relieved that the house had not been completely destroyed, although I'm not sure she completely grasped the extent of the mold damage and the fact that solving the problem would require, essentially, gutting and completely renovating the house. Although her comments seemed to indicate a desire to return to her home, the trauma of the evacuation (as well as memories of a less chaotic evacuation for Lily in 2003) seemed to have loosened her previously stubborn refusal to move into a less maintenance-intensive living situation. She compared her situation to Abraham and suggested that perhaps, "This was a sign. That it was time for a change." We agreed that the best course of action would be for them to stay in Missouri until it was safe to return to Lake Charles and make arrangements for a temporary or permanent relocation.
I returned to New York and gave two-weeks notice to my school, putting a premature end to a long seven-week career as a middle-school math teacher in the New York City Public Schools. It was a mixed blessing since my teaching experience had been quite difficult. While first-year teaching is always unspeakably hard, I was team teaching an inclusion class of mixed special-ed and regular-ed students. The driver behind inclusion is that the observation that special-ed students perform better when placed in a situation that provides additional special-ed support but is more like a regular class than the stigmatized special-ed-only classes. In practice, since most special-ed disabilities manifest themselves in discipline issues, inclusion ends up being a dumping ground for the school's behavioral problems. Dealing with that kind of student requires a very special kind of personality that is oriented around people and is comfortable dealing with constant conflict... something I don't have.
Thankfully my co-teacher was a seasoned veteran capable of handling the discipline issues in those multitudinous situations where I was over matched by a room of screaming urban 12/13/14-year-olds. But my life was miserable and it was obvious from the assessments that I was not teaching them anything. Success in this situation would have required me making a considerable change in my way of thinking...something I was not prepared to do. While it was a violation of the trust placed in me by my principal, my students and my colleagues, I had a legitimate excuse for jumping ship and I took it. However, this did entail jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire...and Karma be swift.
On October 17, I got a call from one of my parent's neighbors saying she had heard that FEMA was providing trailers to people who weren't able to get back into their homes. I called the number she gave me, but was told that I would have to apply in person.
Also around this time I was contacted by Mary Kate, a FEMA contracted adjuster who wanted to get into our house to verify the damage. Aside from keys, she needed my mother to sign some kind of release form, a difficult prospect since they were nestled deep in the Ozarks and access to a Fax machine would be difficult. Since my parents and I were far from Lake Charles and no one in the neighborhood had the keys to our home, I told her there was no way to let her in until we got back to town. Mary said she was on a tight deadline but would see what she could do.
I never heard from her again.
Next: October 23 - 26, 2005: Back To Missouri
The plural of "anectode" is "data." (Frank Kotsonis)