The plane banked over the Maine coast as we made our final approach into Portland airport, and out the window I could see the orange and reds of trees that were changing their colors. I was coming back home just at the start of the glorious fall foliage season, where the Maine woods turn a riot of bright colors and the days are crisp under clear blue skies. It is one of my favorite seasons, and I haven’t missed it!
Stepping off the plane when we land I breath in the crisp dry air, with just a hint of salt water and pines. It truly is good to be home!
Raggs seems to sense my mood, and softly meows from his travel carrier slung over my shoulder. He is coming home too, not to the home he has known all of his life in Louisiana, but back to be reunited with his mistress. I have a coffee cup at home with a saying “Home is where the dog is”, and I think that applies equally to cats as well.
The timing of everything is perfect. I call Penny and she is just entering the airport as my bag comes round the conveyor belt. I have just time to pick it up, put on the backpack with my laptop and work files, and shoulder Raggs when she pulls up at the curb.
Penny is there to greet me with open arms, and my dog Colby is hanging out the car window twisting and turning to get to me. I’ve been away from home many times, but this trip seemed longer than most. I know it has been just as long for the folks at home as well.
Raggs goes home
“We’re at the Portland Jetport,” I tell Debbie Dickinson as we leave the airport. “It should only take us about 15 minutes to get to the Eastland Park Hotel. Where will you be?”
”I’ll be in the lobby waiting. Is Raggs with you? Is he OK?” she asked anxiously.
”He’s fine, and has been a wonderful traveler. We’ll see you soon.”
Traffic was light, and as if we were movie stars (notice that they never have to find a place to park, even on the busiest streets?) a car pulled out of a place right in front of the hotel as we drove up. Penny and I and Raggs walked into the lobby of the hotel and there was Debbie waiting for us. It was a tearful reunion for her and Raggs and he nuzzled her as she hugged him. I felt really good in my small role in getting them back together again.
I have been sleeping with a hundred other Red Cross volunteers at the staff shelter in Baton Rouge every night, and I’ve noticed that those that have been here for a couple of weeks or more develop an irritating cough. The sound of coughing goes on all night, along with snores, and I routinely wear ear plugs to shut out the noise.
Although I have escaped it, my photographer, Tom Jacobson, has developed the cough. He and I decide that it is some sort of kennel cough, the same respiratory illness that dogs get when they are boarded in a kennel with other dogs. Most kennels require that dogs get a shot to ward it off before they will allow a dog to stay with them.
”Is there a kennel cough shot for humans?” I asked him.
”Not that I know of. I think we’re stuck with it,” coughs Tom.
When I go through my out-processing I stopped at the Health Services desk and asked them. “Yes, the cough is a respiratory infection that people get from staying together in a group. If one person has a cough it is not unusual for others to pick it up as well. When you get back home it goes away for most people without any medication. If it persists, your doctor can prescribe some antibiotics and that will take care of it. Only rarely does it worsen into bronchitis. You’ll be OK,” said the nurse.
Coming home, I think how wonderful it will be to sleep in our own bed instead of a cot. It will be heaven to be able to only walk a few steps to go to the bathroom instead of trekking all the way across the gym, negotiating rows of cots and air mattresses in the pitch black with a flashlight in order to find the men’s room. It will be great to go to sleep without earplugs. It is good to be home!
As soon as I dropped Raggs off with his mistress, I could feel the air going out of my balloon. The closer I drove to our house, the less air I had in me and by the time I pulled into our driveway I felt as limp as a flat tire. Said hello to the cat, dragged my bag into the bedroom and collapsed on the bed. I slept for 12 hours straight, took a shower and had a cup of coffee, and felt almost normal the next day. Spent the day unpacking and cleaning house. I also wrote a story about Raggs and his homecoming and posted to the editors at the Red Cross offices at headquarters. I see that my stories are starting to be posted on the Red Cross website, and hope Raggs’ story will be posted there soon also.
Our belated wedding anniversary
Penny and I have been married 25 years as of September 21, but had to postpone the celebration until came back. Last night we had about a dozen friends over and Bob Greene led us in a very touching and warm renewing of our vows. It was a very special occasion, made even more special because of the separation and forced postponement.
Today we are packing the car and will take off for a second honeymoon to Nova Scotia. There Penny and I and Colby our dog will take in the Celtic Colours Music Festival at Cape Breton, relax a bit, and finish up several stories about my Hurricane Katrina assignment. Paul, our contractor, will be staying at the farmhouse to finish up some of his projects without us being in his hair. He’ll also look after the cat, although the cat is pretty independent and doesn’t need much looking after.
On our trip we will decide whether I should volunteer for another Red Cross assignment to Louisiana. There are so many heart-warming stories about the survivors of Katrina that need to be told. I have been amazed and heartened by the resilience of the human spirit to overcome even the most overwhelming adversity, and it is important that their stories be told as shining examples for the rest of us. Disaster can, and does, enter all of our lives at one time or another. Our stories help us survive and give succor to each other.
This Red Cross assignment has made a deep impression on me, and has given me the opportunity to concentrate on my writing. There have been no distractions, and I am indebted to the Red Cross for being able to help out, even in my small way. I want to thank all of the folks who have sent me messages about my blogs. Your support is appreciated and has heartened me.
Copyright © 2005, Allen Crabtree