Jan 5, 2017
Sometimes you get unlucky and that one giant meteor aims itself right at your tiny little life. That’s what happened on October 22 at about 1pm, two hours after the time crunch for our maiden voyage with the camper had convinced me to buy a tow vehicle I wasn’t 100% sold on, don’t need now, and has been nothing but trouble.
The will of a fire is fierce. It does not ask you what you would like to take on at this juncture of your existence, or if you’re ready for a “real challenge”. It does not tell you how to handle the amount of adult responsibilities that are about to rain on you for months on end. It just unceremoniously starts tearing down your walls.
To elaborate, on October 22, 2016, the condo unit directly above mine caught fire, and set out to gut or damage over a dozen units surrounding it. So with a pot of chili still on the stove and an open bottle of wine on the counter, we left all our worldly belongings, grabbed the pets, and ran outside to the parking lot where we watched our world burn.
I’ve learned a lot through this experience. I’ve learned that I had no idea how to handle my home should it be severely damaged. I’ve learned that if a big purchase doesn’t feel absolutely right, it’s probably wrong (and the universe is telling you you’re 2 hours and one flame away from rapidly changing your mind about it). I’ve learned that having adequate insurance is the difference between a hard time and an unfathomably life-trashing hard time. I’ve learned that you can spend years fixing something up with your own two hands and a shoestring budget just to lose it all in a matter of minutes. And I’ve learned that you should know what contractors you want to handle your textiles, contents, and rebuild before you need them to help you put your life back together, or your life will be in the hands of ambulance-chasing vultures real quick (and they know way more about your situation and how to capitalize on it than you do). That’s not to say that everyone who shows up at a tragedy is bad. Some of them are great people who are only interested in helping out in any way they can to salvage what’s left of your life. The problem is, if you don’t sort that out in advance of disaster, you really can’t tell until it’s too late. Same goes for your family and friends. And that’s all I’m saying about that.
Through this experience we’ve also learned that being uprooted and moving around is hard on us, and hard on the pets. We’ve lived in a hotel, a vacation rental, and even a very kindhearted friend’s couch (thanks, Lisa!) just trying to figure out what our next move is, waiting to understand a timeline, and figuring out what our options were from an insurance limitation standpoint. Mojo lost three precious pounds in the process, and the vet confirmed she is near-blind. Shortly thereafter she endured a bout of constipation that had to be surgically dealt with. Regardless of whether those issues were stress-induced or just old age, life on the road for her was now out of the question. This experience has made me excruciatingly aware of how delicate our pawed companions really are, and how strongly they are affected by our life events (whether planned or unplanned).
Standing there shoeless and watching my home, all our belongings, and my largest monetary investment receive gallon upon gallon of water poured into it and be smoked from the inside out was the easiest, least traumatic part of this entire ordeal. That’s really saying something about how much stress comes after the fire’s put out.
Having a fire is kind of like dropping your favorite dish. You can’t use it anymore. But you can’t just mourn it and then put it out of your head, because you’re trapped in the corner of the kitchen with a minefield of broken remains all around you. In an instant it evolves from something comforting and familiar into something that has rendered you vulnerable and paralyzed.
All in all, this next year or more will be dedicated to rebuilding, instead of the plans we had to hit the road. Until then it’s a slow cobble together of what we have left, what’s behind us, and what’s ahead. I have tried not to reflect too hard on what’s happened, but some days I just want to go back home.
Progress! A mere 9 months after the fire, and there is now some sealant on my bare studs, electric wiring, and lighting installed. Thrilling. Annoying. Heartbreaking. I’ll go grab my glass of wine now.
I lost my Mojo in February. Shortly after we finally landed a long-term rental with plenty of stability and sunbathing opportunities, it became excruciatingly apparent one evening that expedient euthanasia was the only choice for my beloved near-18 year old four-footed feline. Sometimes timing is perfect in life. Sometimes it’s the worst. We all just get to spin the wheel.
Even if it’s only a memory, something always remains.