The big blow

Published 3:29 am Wednesday, July 10, 2019

It’s getting to be that time again. Time to stock up on canned goods, paper products, bottled water, medicine and the like. For those of us who have lived in this region for any length of time, it is just what we do. We know that preparation is the key to remaining safe and relatively comfortable in the event of a tropical weather system.

These scorching temperatures remind me of that fateful August day in 2005 seared into our memories, the day that none of us ever want to relive. But this time of year always brings back memories of the big blow.

The rain is coming down outside right now, and the thunder is booming so the stage is set in my mind for a Katrina story. Actually, I can’t think of that storm without thinking about my late-husband, Glen R., and how he took such amazing care of his family during the aftermath of the storm.

We stayed at our daughter’s house in Jackson, Miss., until the winds died down. I guess it would have been easier to stay there for a few days, but we were so anxious to make sure everything was OK on our hill that we picked our way through trees and downed power lines as we hoped against hope that our property would somehow have been spared damage.

As we neared home, we realized that the creek was up and our road was flooded so we parked on another street and walked through our neighbor’s property to finally get to our house. It seems funny, but I was more concerned about our large oak tree in the front yard than anything else. I remember thinking that other things could be replaced, but that wise, old oak could not be.

I almost forgot to breathe for the last few steps in anticipation of what we would find. The house was there. The roof needed replacing, but the structure itself remained intact. Thank God for that, but my beautiful old oak had been uprooted. She lay at an awkward angle, and her limbs hid her face as if the old girl felt a measure of shame that she had not been strong enough to remain upright.

My children and their friends had played many a day under her loving arms, and her old tire swing companion had been both a joy and solace to all of us depending on the day. As with any old friend I knew it was going to be hard to say goodbye, and I was not wrong.

In the days that followed, the heat was formidable, and food and water were scarce. I quietly mourned the loss of my beautiful tree, while delighting in the love and support of my family and community. When I look back at all that was lost, I realize that something was gained as well. Neighbors who had rarely had time to visit spent evenings together. People looked at the night sky and gave thanks for another day of life.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at