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About Me

I grew up in a village of 500 people and now live in a beach town of 10 000. Wife to Jeff, Mama to Makenna and Jack. This is my place to share what's up with us, and the place where I sometimes need to pour my heart out about the not so sunshiney moments. This is my happy place. Thanks for stopping by :) Copyright 2012 by Melissa Wormington, that no part of this blog may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, without permission from the publisher.
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The Wormingtons

The Wormingtons
Jeff, Makenna, Jack and Melissa. Spring 2012. Photo credit: Tricia Denomme/Hope Photography

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tornado in Goderich: 7 weeks later.

To read previous entries about the tornado, click here.

The thoughts are starting to jumble and overcrowd my mind, so here I am, back to try to sort them out.

I have been quiet on here, because I haven't really had much to say.  There hasn't been much "news" to report and more than anything, we are just waiting.  Waiting for our house to be demolished, waiting for the rebuilding process to begin, waiting to move on with our lives.

Waiting may be one of the hardest parts of this process.

Almost every day we drive by Park Street. We drive by it to get across town.  To get out of town. I mean yes, we could detour down other streets so that we don't see our house, but we don't.  We are not going to avoid it.   My bank is there.  We have to drive by it to get the mail.  Because of course the mail is not being delivered to our house right now so we need to pick it up at the Post Office.
Aside:  When I did pick up the mail at the Post Office this morning, I was informed that tomorrow mail delivery would resume to Park Street so from now on I would be getting it there.  I just looked at the woman. "Um, my house has a big orange fence around it...we aren't living there...they can't physically access it to deliver mail there".  "Well, it says they can" she replied.  
Hmmm...I wonder how they will deliver it to Deb's "house" 2 doors up.  Or the two Hakkers homes or the Vanstone home on the corner..the ones that are no longer there, having been demolished already.  Maybe they will just stick in their orange fences. 

Anyways, the waiting. It's hard.
We feel stalled.  We feel like yes, we want to move on, we need to move on, as everyone keeps saying.
But its hard when every day you drive by your house and see it still there, still ruined, the backyard in the same state it was in by 4:30 on the afternoon of August 21.  It has been 7 weeks now.  Our house is still standing but we still aren't supposed to be in it.  Its hard to put it into words, what that's like.  Its draining.  I
think hope that once it has finally come down and we start to see physical progress on that property, we will be able to feel excited about the process of moving forward.

There has been lots of progress behind the scenes.  We have the house plans drawn up and have a few different very talented women designing plans for the inside.  We have settled our contents claim and are in a position to start replacing the items we have lost.  Tops on my list - our terrycloth bathrobes.  Tops on Jeff's list:  BBQ and lawnmower.

So why have other homes came down and not ours?    I will try to explain.
Nowadays when you build a new house, it needs to be so many feet away from your neighbours' property lines.  When our house was originally built, that rule wasn't in place and so our garage sits pretty much directly on our neighbour's property line, violating the current "policy", shall we say.  In a normal situation, if we wanted to tear the house down and rebuild it, we would need to change the layout so that it was further away from Christa's property line.

Since the tornado hit, the Town of Goderich tabled a motion stating that homeowners needing to rebuild could in fact ignore this rule and rebuild it the exact way it had been prior to the tornado - regardless of how close it was to the property line.  This is what we want to do...we want our garage to sit where it did before because if it doesn't and we need to re-position everything as per the "new" rules, we would lose a lot of our backyard.

Following me so far?

So, The Town of Goderich, said "no, we will allow you to rebuild the way it was (On the current 'footprint', it's called).  This entire process is called a "Variance".    Because it is new and the town is allowing it just because of the tornado, there is a waiting period for this "variance" to be passed.  I doubt very much I have all the terminology right, but hopefully you get the general idea.  

That waiting period ends on November 6. So although yes, we could demolish it anytime,  we cannot start any rebuilding until after November 6. Our contractor who is taking care of the demo along with the rebuild would prefer not to demo it until he can get in there and start rebuilding right away.  Otherwise, among other things he would need to fill the hole while he waited, then come back and dig it all back out again to pour the foundation.

We completely understand this.

It's just the waiting sucks.

There are still days that this whole situation just catches up with me and I have to stop and think "Is this really my life now?"  Is this really all happening?  A few days ago I was filling out a form about August 21 and had to write that date a few times.  I am used to that by now, but when I signed the form at the bottom and dated it with the current date, October, I had to stop.  It's October.  This all happened in August and it's October now.  We are still dealing with everything and in so many ways it feels like August will last forever.  But no, it's October.    I often wonder how we would be and what we would be doing/thinking if this hadn't happened.  I doubt I would have allowed Makenna to take this cheerleading class, as the cost is higher than I normally allow.  But the Mommy guilt got to me. I would be at work and very busy with fall programming.  I am completely absent from all of that right now.  I would have decorated for Thanksgiving, taken the kids to the apple orchard and made half a dozen different apple recipes with them.  I could have still done that, but by the time it occured to me it was too late. I have been too busy with house plans and insurance claims and appointments, and the motivation just isn't there.  So much has changed just in our day to day lives as a result of this tornado, its hard to even remember what we would be normally doing.  Jodi would still be on maternity leave and Jack would still be at the daycare, but where would Makenna be before and after school?  I hadn't even fully figured that out by August 21, figuring I still had almost a month to do so.   Somedays all of the changes, just the day to day changes, too many to list here, really catch up with me.

But as the shock is wearing off, other feelings are creeping in.
Like sadness.

I miss my house.  
It has been so beautiful outside lately, I miss our backyard.  The vegetable garden, the flowers,  the plants that would be blooming now.  Yes, we have a big(ger) backyard where we are now, with a (better) swingset, but it's not the same.  It's not ours.  I miss sitting at our patio table under the gazebo for picnics or just to watch the kids play. I miss their outdoor toys.  Playing catch.   I miss the sounds of our ponds.  I miss our front porch.  So much.  I miss sitting out there with Jeff once the kids went to bed talking about our days, people watching.  I miss rocking in the hammock swing or on the Glider.  I miss watching the kids play on the sidewalk or on the front yard from my opened screen door.  I miss chatting with our neighbours.
I miss knowing where everything is.  I miss the pictures and prints that were on the walls.  I miss my kids' bedrooms and the memories they hold.
I miss my house.  

There are people from Park Street I didn't even know before August 21.  Living just up the street and I would see them, but didn't know their names, where they worked, that we had mutual friends, anything.
Now, some of those people are the ones I can talk to, really talk to, about all of this, and know that they understand.  We have an unspoken bond between all of us now.  We saw things in eachother during those first couple hours that we will never forget.  The kids of raw, true human emotions that people rarely show eachother.   Since then we have learned so much more about eachother, just because we have been forced to come together.  Before that day we never gave a second thought as to who was living we are displaced all over town, wondering where the other families are, how they are doing and what is happening with their homes.  When we do come face to face, their is an unspoken understanding.   I miss our neighbourhood.  It looks that an inner city ghetto now. I want it to be fixed and I very much look forward to the day when we are all back where we should be again.

All that has happened has changed me and the way I react to things.  I get teary so much quicker, and in ways I didn't before.  The kindness and generosity of people, of friends, aquaintances and strangers, brings me to tears. Simple acts of kindness really affect me in ways they never did before.   Its embarassing at times, what brings me to tears.  People compliment me on my children, how smart they are, or say that they are role models for the others in their classes, and I get teary. I was at the Oktoberfest parade on the weekend, which was led by the marching of War Veterans.  We gave them a standing ovation as they marched by and I could barely even watch, I was so close to tears.  Song lyrics just about kill me.  On the radio while driving, on youtube videos, on TV..everything seems to carry a deeper meaning now.
The mommy guilt has me teary on a regular basis too.  What all of this has done to their lives, how they way we are handling it has impacted their lives...the conversations they have had to have with people because of all that has happened.  I just want this to be done for them.  Just a blip in their lives, not a defining moment.  It's not moving fast enough in their lives for my liking.

Loud, busy, confined places continue to affect me.  Sometimes that can be in a store, sometimes it's my kitchen.  It's not all the time, and it's not every loud busy place... restaurants don't bother me at all...(maybe I'm just so happy to be eating out, lol)...I can't explain it...but there are times, and places, that I wish I could escape from and retreat to somewhere quiet.

I talk to friends and aquaintances whose homes were not nearly as affected as mine was...but their minds were.  The effects of this tornado on this town are so far reaching, across so many domains, its hard to even comprehend. Outside stresses such as insurance issues, job losses or the reactions of other people have created stresses on many marriages.  As have spouses' coping strategies (turning to alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc to get through), a lack of communication, or turning on and blaming eachother out of frustration.   People who had no damage to their homes can't sleep at night. Others may not have lost their homes, but were out of work and have suffered financial difficulties they were not prepared for.  We all know the effect that can have on a person, and on a marriage.  Still others struggle with "survival guilt", wondering why they were spared when others they know have suffered so much.  These people feel guilty putting through small insurance claims that they need to deal with, worried that they are taking the people away from the work that needs to be done in heavily affected areas.  Or they feel guilty for being happy.  For carrying on as if nothing has happened, because really, nothing did happen to them.  Fighting the guilt, the sadness, the anxiety and fear you are having because you feel you shouldn't have those feelings in the first place, compared to others you know, only makes it worse.  Everyone reacts. Even if its just the sound of a tree you heard coming down, even if its because you were out of work for a few weeks, even if its because you have been trying to hold it all together and be strong for your family and those around you... even if its compassion fatigue...that you are just worn down from helping others and can't do it, don't want to listen to it anymore...if it affected you, it affected you.  You are no less entitled to your feelings than I am.  There are plenty of people in this town worse off than me, but I am not understating or downplaying my feelings, because they are mine, I am entitled to them and I need to feel them.  So do you.  

The only way to get through it, is to allow yourself to go through it.  

And while that's not easy, it's the only way.  Believe me.  You have to allow yourself to feel it, to grieve what you lost, no matter how trivial you perceive it to be, and you have to find good, caring people who will allow you to do so in your own way and on your own time.  Who you feel safe with and who will allow you to be matter what that may look like.

Other people are ready to move on, just want to put this behind them and are tired of hearing and talking about it.  When you are out of your home, living in someone else's home and confronted with the reality of your ruined home every single day...when the reason you can walk your daughter to and from school is because of where you live now due to the fact that you can't live in your own home because of the damage it sustained, when feelings of anxiety, sadness and fear choke you at the most unexpected moments, over and over again and render you incapable of doing a job you have been doing for over 10 years... talking about getting over it and moving on is like a slap in the face and perhaps the most insensitive thing you could say.  This is my life, and the life of many other people in this town, every minute of every day.  Every single thing about my life right now is different and will continue to be, because of a tornado that was 12 seconds long.

7 weeks later, we are still waiting.
And many people are still struggling.

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hayley said...

thank you so much for explaining the different ways people are affected, and how that needs to be allowed. not allowed by others, but to myself.
it's really difficult to pinpoint my feelings and to process them when nothing tangible has happened to me, and when so much more has happened to others. i don't even live IN goderich. and yet the overwhelming sadness and heartache i feel every time i speak with people about it, or drive into town, is not going away. i may not have a goderich address, but i spent my childhood and teenage years going to church, dinner, the beach, the square... just hanging out with my friends at the burger bar, having breakfast at zoni's, or doing ringers over and over again. it's part of my history, and now my memories crumble along with the bricks.
it's hard to know what to do to heal and process an invisible hurt, and to do so without guilt. helping people, taking photos, sharing resources with people who need it--those things help a a little. i guess i have to just keep taking chances as they come along.... keep finding ways to come to terms with how the town looks and how many people still have needs, weeks later. reading your blog helps so much too. there is that lingering sense of guilt for not knowing what it felt/feels like, and your experiences really open our eyes and foster that empathy which we need to help us grasp the magnitude of what happened. as always, thank you for your words.

Anonymous said...

Well said Melissa! -C.P.