My family lives in Corpus Christi, and aside from downed fences and missing shingles, our home did well during Hurricane Harvey. We are fortunate our friends and family members are safe. But our friends and neighbors throughout the Coastal Bend have experienced devastation beyond recognition.
After Harvey passed, my dad was one of the first to share news of destruction with me. He said our family ranch near Tivoli looked like a war zone. But after driving through Tivoli and Refugio, he said the damage at the ranch was nothing in comparison.
Soon, I heard about the destruction in Port Aransas and Rockport. I looked helplessly at images on Facebook of familiar places and things that were completely gone. Then, it got especially personal. I learned my grandparents’ weekend house in Rockport was leveled.
When I was growing up, Rockport was a 40 or so minute drive for us. My grandparents would load me and their kitties into a station wagon, later a Ford Aerostar, and we’d head to their place for a weekend or summer of fun. When we got to the sign at Copano Bay, I was allowed to take off my seatbelt or ride my bike the rest of the way. Upon arriving, a statue of a pelican welcomed us. My grandmother hung her homemade windsocks from the balcony. We had arrived.
My grandparents’ home was simple. There was no air conditioner. But it truly was home.
The house was on a canal and near a small neighborhood beach where my aunt taught me to float on my back in the waves. On days when I could wake up early enough, my uncle would take me fishing. (Of course we have the story about the one that got away… a huge fish that snapped off the line just as we tried to net him at the boat.)
I slept on a floor mattress in the living room. The front door would be open with the screen locked. It was safe to do, and the breeze was cool at night.
I’d wake in the morning to the sound of seagulls and shrimp boats bringing their catches in. And my favorite boat of all? The aptly named “Old Dead Opossum,” which truly looked and smelled like the name suggested.
Each morning my grandmother made the fluffiest eggs served with well buttered white toast. I’d drink juice in a yellow plastic cup that had my name painted on it. To this day, I’ve never had better eggs, toast, or juice.
During the days we played Uno or Pictionary, baked watermelon cookies, and worked on crafts. We crabbed and the cages would light up with the glow of a special kind of jelly fish at night. We went out on the paddle boat. I’d feed ducks bread and always looked forward to seeing three white ducks in the bunch. As any fan of Ducktails would have done, I’d named, Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
We froze little Dixie cups of Coke and Dr. Pepper for sweet afternoon treats. I drank more Cokes and ate more cookies than I ever cared for my parents to know. The rule was that we ate cookies outside on the porch step so crumbs wouldn’t fall inside the house. My grandfather would grill. We picked blackberries.
My grandmother and I would go on walks and she’d teach me about wildflowers and the stories behind their names. She played a “Mary Poppins” game with me, where she’d walk downstairs and after coming back up, deny that she was my grandmother. She’d say she was Mary Poppins’ sister, or something of the like, and we’d have fun playing until my grandmother “returned,” oblivious to the whole ordeal.
In the evenings my grandfather watched tv on the kitchen stool until he’d fall asleep snoring and have to go to bed. The old dial tv only had channels 3, 6, and 10. Rockport is where I learned to “watch” golf because my grandfather liked it and nothing else was on.
I did my best reading being lazy on the couch, Babysitters Club to start. Then my grandmother introduced me to Nancy Drew and Mary Higgins Clark. Eventually I did chemistry projects on the dining table.
My grandfather would drive me to Sacred Heart Church on Sundays. Miraculously, the church wasn’t damaged during the storm.
As my grandfather aged and emphysema prevented him from being able to climb the stairs to their home, we stopped going to Rockport, but missed it terribly.
We’d visit my aunt and uncle’s home across the canal, but our “good ole” days were behind us to be sure.
Years ago, my grandmother and I went out to her Rockport home to collect old things of sentimental value. The pictures. The Fraggle Rock stool I stood on to brush my teeth. The Pelican statue from the front yard. We both probably knew we wouldn’t be back, but neither of us said it. We were right.
And as my brain struggled to process the days since Hurricane Harvey, my grandmother sent it. The photo that made it all real. Her house was in ruins.
I cried while looking long and hard for something familiar. I could see a bed. A mattress. The wooden walls I knew so well from “painting” them as a child with water and a paintbrush had been ripped apart and thrown about.
Losing the Rockport house feels like losing a most loved piece of childhood. We still have memories and some photos as well, but that special place is gone now. The time has come to clean up, remember well, and learn to move on.