I’m not sharing this for recognition nor for sympathy, but because someone needs to hear it. Somebody out there is complaining about minuscule things, that at the end of the day, doesn’t even matter. Someone is throwing a temper tantrum about something they can’t or don’t have. Or even worse, someone is encountering the very same thing that I have just overcome. This is for Everyone who Needs this.
Ask yourself these questions before reading this submission: Have you ever encountered a situation in which your hands were tied and you felt absolutely powerless, to the extent that all you have control over is the capacity of which you breathe, and not even that is yours?..
Allow me to paint a picture for you.
December 10, 2009, my family and I went to bed, you know how it goes when you’re at home with your parent(s), you say your good nights, but everyone goes to bed at different times. Well this particular night was different, we had no idea what would await us the following morning. At around 3AM, I laid in bed, awakened because I noticed the ceiling fan was no longer squeaking (needless to say, I’m a light sleeper). I got up, walked over to the switch, clicked it, but nothing happened. I had to be up in 2 hours to go shopping for an annual charity Christmas benefit my boss gives every year, for underprivileged children, I coordinate it, so being late wouldn’t have been within my best interest. So, I got back in bed and forced myself to sleep. An hour later, I’m awakened again, by a strong stench of some unidentifiable source that I had never smelt before. This time I’m getting a bit cranky. I laid there for a while and realized, I may as well get up, since I need to be leaving in a few anyways. As I exited my room, the scent heightened in strength. I went into my mother’s room,
“ma! What’s that smell?”
My mother: “I don’t smell anything.”
It dawned on me, seconds later, that she was on a breathing machine, of course she doesn’t smell anything. I went back to my room and got dressed, in the dark because the lights wouldn’t come on. Then, I went back into my mother’s room,
“ma, take that thing off your nose. The lights aren’t working.”
She’s half awake, half in dreamland, she replied: “it’s probably just the breaker box, it does that sometimes.” So I bid her a goodbye and rushed out the house.
Not even a full hour later, I get a phone call from my father:
“Hey! You alright?”
I’m like WTF it’s 6am, he must still be on prison time. But I reply, “yeah, pop, I’m fine, what’s going on?”
Pop: I just got a call from one of my boys, said your house was on fire.
Me: My what? Huh? (now my heart is racing) Fuck! Are you serious?
Me: I’ll call you back. *click*
I immediately dialed the house. No answer. (but of course there’s no answer, it’s on fire!) My mom’s cell. No answer. My brother. No answer. My mom’s boyfriend’s cell. No answer. I’m fuckin’ freakin’ out to the highest extent of freak out. My mind is going crazy, but my composure is kept, because I’m around a group of people with 50+ shopping carts loaded with toys for kids, but I can’t deal with these people right now. I located the manager of Wal-mart, gave him the credit card, told him I had an emergency, charge the card, I’d be back to sign for it and pick up the receipt and card. The trailers were outside, I told the guys to load everything up and unload everything at the location designated. I ensured that everyone knew what they were supposed to be doing and told them to call me if they had any trouble and then I left. Racing home, hoping I don’t get pulled over. I’m still calling every number that comes to mind, NO. ONE. IS. ANSWERING. I’m frustrated! I don’t know what to think. Trying to remain positive, but I can’t help but think that my family has died in a house fire and I’m the only one that left in time to survive it. I’m getting angry. I’m bottled up with all sorts of emotion. Blaming myself. I should’ve made my mother get out of the bed. I should’ve investigated the problem when I first smelled the bizarre scent. But I had no idea it was that….
I arrived at the corner of my street and sure enough, it’s blocked off by fire trucks and an ambulance, I had to take an alternate route and park on the street behind ours. I damn near jumped out of the car before putting it into park. I sprinted up to the house. I saw my mom, brother and some family that made it over, along with straggling passer-byers. Sigh of relief. My mom and brother were crying. First time I had ever seen my brother cry. (I was tempted not to insert this part, because he’ll kill me if he sees this). But crying does not represent weakness, I like to think of it as pain leaving the body. In fact, it takes courage to cry. However, I was moved. I didn’t cry right then, in fact, I’m not even sure I cried at all. Must indicate I have a lot of pain. Maybe I do. Maybe I don’t.
Fast forward. Everyone is okay. The damage was bad, but the house wasn’t totally destroyed. The fire started in the attic, so the fire mainly destroyed the living and dining room areas of furniture, along with the front portion of the roof of the house, and all the wiring, which caused the electricity blow out, because it was an electrical fire. And my mom did not have fire insurance.
How the fire was discovered: My ma said she got up to use the restroom and went through the living room, which is a really weird direction to travel when the bathroom is right outside her bedroom door, she took the scenic route, I suppose. But she said she looked up at the ceiling and it was black and it started out a small spot, but then it began to spread rapidly. At that instance, she realized what it was and was able to get everyone out. This house is ancient, I’m talking 65+ homestead old. It’s even exempt from property taxes. The living room is the exit, had the living room ceiling collapsed, everyone would have been trapped in the bedrooms.
A bittersweet Christmas it was last year. We all divided up to stay with family, until we could get repairs done. We really didn’t have the money. A lot of people made a lot of promises, to do a lot of things, that day, but when it came time to deliver, no one was to be found. My mom always taught us to rely on ourselves and that’s what we did. We stuck together as a family, the 4 of us and we did what we had to do.
This was especially devastating for me because I had just ended a long-term relationship and decided to move out from where my girlfriend and I, at the time lived in Austin, and back home to Houston, to get my head together and ultimately, my life together. It was almost as if my world was crashing right before my eyes and there was nothing I could do to prevent it from happening.
And… You can only stay with family and friends for so long before they get annoyed and bothered by your presence and they begin to make it blatantly clear that your welcome is worn out. So… we migrated back to our home. Created ways to make it work. We made trips to Lowe’s and did our best to make the situation livable until we could do better. Bought candles, battery operated camping lights, flashlights, coolers with ice, etc. Took baths when it was daylight and did everything we could or needed to do while the sun was up. Me, on the other had, I had work in the mornings which often times extended passed sunset. And bathing by candlelight is only sexy when you actually have electricity. Gotdamn candles make it hot when there is no air. lol Reflecting back, I can make a funny, but the shit was really serious.
I secured a salary paying job two months prior to the fire, so I could’ve gotten an apartment, but I felt that would be unfair to my family. Yeah, they could stay with me in a one bedroom, but for how long? What about our home? Paying money for rent, utilities and other bills, takes away from financial efforts towards our home. This is where I grew up, it’s where my mom grew up. There’s ancestral history in that house. My mom doesn’t work due to her diagnosis of cancer a year prior and my brother does what he can to assist. So many decisions… and so I made one. I decided to stay with my family and we’d get through it. Together.
Have you ever experienced a winter with No heat or a summer with No air conditioning? Talk about intense. It was hotter in the house than it was outside and the cold air was stagnant and it lingered like it owned the place. Talk about attitudes flaring, misunderstandings, and heads butting. I think I finally encountered what it means to go mad.
It took us 8 months to get the repairs totally done. Four weeks ago, marks the day in which our home is fully functional. Talk about amazing. I walk around the house sometimes in the dark just because I’ve grown accustomed to it. My brother laughs at me and says “nigga you know we have lights now, right?!” and we laugh together. I would do absolutely anything for my family. I know that if NO ONE else has my back, they will, minimal questions asked. None of my friends even knew this. This isn’t something I tell people, because it doesn’t necessarily make me proud, but it definitely made me better. And that’s why I’m sharing it now.
This was THE experience of a lifetime. It was one of the toughest trials of my life. And I thought college was a challenge. This reminded me that just when we think things are hard, they could always be harder. So, I stand corrected and grateful. This experience brought my family and I closer right after it tore us apart.
I hope that you’ll take something from this and that you’ll incorporate more gratefulness, more love and more understanding and appreciation into your lives. There is always someone who is worse off than we are. Help people. To all the people who said they’d help us and to just give you a call, and when we called you didn’t answer nor return our calls. If any of you called me today and asked for my assistance with anything, I’d give it to you, cheerfully and willingly, because that’s the type of person I am. I don’t need something for something. That’s where we go wrong. I dedicate my life to the service of others. There are a lot of things that I do that I don’t publicize and I won’t start now. But it is so crucially important to help others, because you never know when you’ll be the one in need. And trust me, one day you will be. Everybody needs somebody, even when you think you don’t.
My ultimate goal at hand is to continue to proceed with life, in a positive direction. Not speaking from expertise, merely speaking from experience. Onward and Upward. Let’s go together!