As Hurricane Florence leaves its sodden mark on the Carolinas, I feel the anniversary of Maria creeping closer. From the hurricane graphics, to tuning into listen to facebook-live weather report by Ada Monzon, it all brings me back to the uncertainty we felt last year, first with Irma and then again with Maria.
For our family, things have settled into a new normal. My mother, who we evacuated to Rochester, ten days after Maria passed, spent the rest of the fall and some of the winter with us while we waited for things to normalize in Puerto Rico. She went back this spring. She rejoiced to reconnect with friends, spend time with her church community and she negotiated with the weirdness of the normal and new normal of it all. She documented the flamboyans that survived and flowered again on her instagram. She helped along with her Salvation Army connections to bring needed supplies and other things to communities still hurting around the island. She reported to us how the landscape had changed on her trips to check our apartment on the south side of the island.
Even though my mother had insurance and the repairs to her apartment relatively minor (new windows and sliding glass doors) we ended up having to wait months to have them replaced and paying for them out of pocket. I am thankful we had the ability to do so, but I think of all the people who did not have that option, who still a year after Maria are waiting to repair their homes. Every time a family member goes back they note all the blue-tarp roofs still visible from the sky and if insurance is dragging their feet on paying apartment complexes and offering only a fraction of what is needed, it is not a surprise that they must be doing even worse to individual home owners.
After my sister and her wife decided to move to town, my mother, like one of her sisters decided she shouldn't spend another hurricane season in Puerto Rico and instead move close to us. We have put in an application for a apartment not far from my house and are making plans to ready her apartment in Puerto Rico for sale or rental.
My apartment in Puerto Rico is fine, although I haven't been there in a year. My father, who has made his home in Florida his main residence now, will be helping us renovate it this fall and hopefully we can spend part of Christmas or Feb break there soon.
I keep thinking about how blessed we were. Even if the ten days my mother was stuck without water or power in PR, seem like a minor suffering compared to those who had not option but to stay put. We didn't lose anything, and so many lost so much.
We get frustrated hearing the Puerto Rico government resist updating the death totals for so long and then president, deny the death totals so casually, when we know how the poor and ill suffered because of lack of preparation and the slow response. We all watch the weather news in PR carefully, noting each storm, and hoping it veers away or dissipates.
Don't forget about Puerto Rico. A year on, there is still so much to be done.