“Not Me, Why Me, Who Me, It’s Me” is the continuing story of the loss of our home in the San Diego Witch Fire 2007. To read the earlier chapters in this series, click on the links below:
Prologue – Any Way the Wind Blows
Chapter One – The Valley That Time Forgot
Chapter Two – Eye of the Storm
Chapter Three – In the Blink of an Eye
Chapter Three.One – Too Far From Home (Tiffany’s story)
Chapter Four – Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Chapter Five – In a Blue Funk
Chapter Six – Back to Square One
Chapter Seven – One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
It’s Monday, October 29th. It has now been exactly a week since our home burned to the ground in the on-going wildfires. A week ago, we found out in a phone call made to a niece that we had lost our home. A week ago, we had a home. A home that we had lived in for 18 years. A home that had been in my husband’s family for 60 years. A home that was part of our county’s pioneer history and was one year shy of making the 100-year mark. An old home with much history, many faults and much charm. Our home.
When we first received the news, our reaction was classic: not us! Why us? In our neck of the woods, the fire skipped over our nephew’s home and another home across the street that was more than 100-years-old. My nephew and a team of friends and relatives had stayed the course, feeding water through hoses onto him home until his water tank ran dry. His efforts and the water from the water tank saved his home. The home across the street is surrounded by orange groves. They had turned on the giant sprinklers that watered the grove and kept them running until the raging fire passed by, cutting a swath around the backside of the orange groves. However, the rural country store, right next to our neighbor’s old home, burned to the ground. Ours burned in spite of 18 firefighters’ attempts to save it. Not enough water (we didn’t have a water tank that the firefighters could tap into) and not enough of a reprieve from the gale-force winds.
We had another bad night with Coco and are at our wits end. Coco is now biting us as well as caterwauling off and on all night. He bites our legs, arms and this morning at 4:30 a.m., he work me by biting me in the face and not letting go. I cried off-and-on for about an hour, in Charlie’s arms, both from the pain of the bite and the fear that we might have to put Coco down. I was overwrought with this possibility and begged Charlie to take Coco to the vet’s today, because I don’t want to wait until Friday, my day off. The problem with leaving Coco cooped up in the guest bedroom at our in-laws home is that he won’t come out of the room. We leave the door open and he just won’t come out. We carry him out and he runs back in the room and hides under the bed or under the covers of the bed. So, the Valium isn’t working. We gave it to him at 9:00 p.m. last night hoping that it would settle him down for the night and make him mellow, but it seems to have had the opposite effect. Charlie doesn’t like to take our pets to the vets along because he hates to handle bad news by himself. With his handicap, he can’t carry Coco’s case (with Coco inside) and walk because of balance issues. Plus, he’s afraid it might be bad news. But, he says he will try.
When I arrive at work, a beautiful handmade quilt is sitting on my desk from one of our corporate executives. She quilts in her spare time, plus she’s a wife and mother, and made this for me and Charlie. I’m astounded and tears well up in my eyes. We now own a blanket.
The positive outpouring of care, concern and love from co-workers is overwhelming. The feeling of “Who me?” sets in as people drop by my desk to offer their support and sympathy. I manage to start working on open projects that need my attention. Then, I get a phone call from one of our insurance companies. It’s the “home office adjuster” (we have two with this one insurance company – a home office adjuster and a catastrophic field adjuster) and he’s calling to tell me that they are overnighting two significantly sized checks to us; one earmarked for our contents and the other allocated as additional living expenses. I’m so relieved that I burst into tears while on the phone with him, thanking him over-and-over. I catch him completely off-guard and he doesn’t know how to react and stumbles a bit on his words.
My girlfriend, Mory, calls to tell me that the President of her company, located in their home office in Northern California, has issued a check on behalf of their company and it’s on its way down south so that she can deliver it to me. Again, I am overwhelmed and astounded by the generosity of someone I don’t even know. These acts of compassion, sympathy and kindness from various sources amaze and surprise us because we know that we are not the only “victims” that have lost homes in this disaster. I realize that yes, “it’s me;” that this disaster has happened to me and I mean that “me” in the plural sense to include my husband.
Both insurance adjusters call and we make arrangements to meet tomorrow afternoon at our property; first with the homeowners’ policy adjuster and later with the artwork’s policy adjuster. I call Charlie, at our in-laws house, to tell him the news. Our in-laws are in the throes of remodeling their house and Charlie tells me that the tremendous noise from power tools, the loud voices from the various sub-contractors on-site and other noises (slamming doors, barking dogs) are just too much for Coco and he’s cowered under the bed in our room, just out of Charlie’s reach. So, he’s not taking him to the vet.
All this time, I’ve been carting around the artwork that we took from our home during the evacuation in my car. It consists of five relatively large paintings and one smaller painting plus one of my father’s smaller sculptures and they fill not only my trunk, but my back seat as well. So, all of these items are still in my car. I mention this to a co-worker, Mark, and he graciously offers to store them until we are more permanently settled. So, I take a break and with his help, unload this artwork from my car to his car. I’m grateful they will have a safe, secure home until we know further what our future holds.
Also, my former boss, Michael, tells me again about the condo his aunt has for rent, three blocks from our office. She is in town today and happy to meet me if I want to see it. So, I meet her at the condo right after work. It’s on the eighth floor of a nine story building, has two bedrooms with two full baths, a small kitchen, small dining nook and a living room. It has some furniture, left behind by the previous tenant: sectional sofa, a TV cabinet with a TV, a kitchen table with 4 chairs, a king-sized bed in the master bedroom and two dressers and a washer and dryer inside the unit! What more do we need? In addition, it’s “pet friendly,” there are two underground parking spaces, an elevator so that Charlie won’t have any trouble getting around and a trash chute down the hall from the front door. And, it that wasn’t enough, it has a balcony and both the living room and the master bedroom windows face west, overlooking part of the San Diego metropolitan downtown skyline and the harbor beyond!
She says “What do you think?” I say, “It’s perfect for me! Three blocks from my office and all of this! But, Charlie’s a country boy and wants to live closer to our property so that he can monitor it. I’ll have to talk to Charlie and get back to you.” I tell her that I’ll talk to Charlie tonight and get back to her with an answer tomorrow.
I walk back to my office and call Charlie from my office, because it’s close to 6:30 p.m. and I’m usually home by now. I tell Charlie about the apartment and ask if he wants to drive down to see it tomorrow or the next day. He says, “Just take it!” I say, “Don’t you want to see it?” “No, just take it. We need to get Coco settled someplace NOW! Plus, you’ve commuted for 18 years, so it’s time that you get a break.” I call our new landlady and tell her that we will take the condo and that we want to move in on Friday. She explains that she won’t be able to have the condo cleaned, painted and the furniture removed by Friday. I tell her that we don’t care, we don’t have any furniture and so if she could leave the furniture, we would be grateful. I make arrangements to sign the lease and pay her the monies due and we have a home!
I head for our in-laws house, our current home, 35 miles north, to the uncertainty of Coco. I arrive home around 8:00 p.m. and Coco is sleeping. The sub-contractors have gone home and the house is relatively peaceful as our in-laws have already gone to bed (they are early risers). Coco has probably nodded off from sheer exhaustion. Even though we are concerned that he will keep us up yet again tonight, we don’t wake him. Our hope is that the rest will calm him and he’ll continue to sleep through the night.
The cover photo at the top of this post is of the beautiful quilt made for me by one of the corporate executives of my employer. She left it on my desk and surprised me my first day back to work after the fire.
The condo complex in downtown San Diego that became our home for 13 months.
The view from my walk to work. After our move, we were only 3 blocks from my employer. My employer’s office tower is the black one in the distance on the left peeking out between two other towers. This is the view from outside the front door of the condo complex.
A view of downtown San Diego and my walk to work.
The series continues tomorrow with Chapter Nine – “The Whole Kit and Caboodle.”
Until Next Time,