Category Archives: Family

My Grandfatherization

I traveled to Little Rock, Ark., over the weekend for the special privilege of meeting my first grandchild, a beautiful girl named Eller Elizabeth. Here she is:

With all of its trials and tribulations, it nonetheless amazes me how good life sometimes can be.

The Way We Were

They hadn’t told us there was no passport photographer in the embassy. We only found out that Monday afternoon, when we tried to get in line there, in order to have our small mountain of adoption paperwork finally approved so that we could bring our new adopted son home to Texas with us.

But no, now we had to search for a passport photographer. Luckily, that didn’t take long because several such photographers were parked in vans in the backstreets around the embassy building. We handed little Nick to one of them, he took three photos and handed the baby back. We waited a few minutes, then walked back to the embassy with our Polaroids.

By that time the long line had grown longer, filled with couples and the babies they were trying to adopt. Several more lined up behind us, too, however, as the clock ticked on toward 5 p.m., we were the last couple to have our papers processed. We were happy and relieved. This long adoption ordeal was coming to a close after all this time, and tomorrow we’d fly back to the United States and baby Nick would see his new home.


Or so we thought.

We were up early the next morning, packing up, double-checking our plane tickets, ready to grab a cab to the airport. Then the phone rang. My father-in-law from back in Texas. Turn on the TV, he said. And there was the plane, flying in slow motion through one of the World Trade Center towers and into the permanent memory banks of my brain.

Sept. 11, 2001, in Guatemala City. No, we soon learned, there’d be no flight. America was closed.

Also posted in Kids, Nobody Gets It Like They Want It To Be, Travel, War

Anybody Home?

Wow, no one’s been here for weeks and the places is full of cobwebs and stacks of junk mail. Sorry about that. Let me move these papers out of the way, have a seat, I’ll get you something to drink.


We came through the flood merely inconvenienced – yards and a shed full of mud, the tomato garden and fig harvests pretty well ruined – but it was and remains painful to watch as neighbors up and down the street haul their damaged furniture, carpet, appliances and rotting wallboard out onto the curb. Giant garbage trucks with attached metal grabbers were on patrol for weeks, lifting the roadside refuse and hauling it out.

Our house, and those of about 12 adjoining neighbors, sit high enough on the banks that even this last historic river flood failed to seep into our homes. However, dozens of other housess and trailers suffered damage of varying severity, with some taking on as much as 7 feet of water. Whether the owners can rebuild, and how they go about doing so, is in the hands of city inspectors or, outside city limits, in the hands of Federal Emergency Management Administration officials. You do what you can to help, but recovering from a disaster like this one is beyond individual effort. Great sustained work by volunteer organizations and government agencies all have helped, but I suspect the neighborhood never will be the same.

Long before the flood, we’d scheduled a vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, which provided some welcome relief and perspective. We rented a home for a week, in the mountains outside Asheville, and rested in cool breezes and the hot tub in between trips to the city’s excellent restaurants and arts community and parks and street performers.


Now I’m back slogging through the Texas steam-heat, rebuilding the gardens here and repairing the watering system at the farm, where parched rodents or rabbits have taken to gnawing holes in my plastic irrigation tubes in search of water.

Soon, very soon, I’ll haul out a few of the Asheville photos for a new gallery, and give the place a good dusting. Thanks for stopping by!

Also posted in Brazos River, Travel

River Rebound

Felt kind of buoyant this morning, looking out the window at a section of my concrete driveway that had been under water yesterday evening.

The Brazos is slowly receding. On Thursday morning it crested at 54.81 feet, higher by some accounts than it’s been in more than 100 years. Right now it’s at about 54 feet even. Just a few inches can make a big difference, but the biggest difference is the psychological lift in knowing the worst has passed and, in my case, this old house came through unscathed.

Here’s how it looked, from Monday when river water began leaking from the back of neighboring properties into the streets:

Just a couple of days before I took this, the National Weather Service was “only” predicting the river would hit 50 feet. Thinking there’d be not much more than a couple of inches on the road, some people shrugged it off and started their holiday weekend celebration.

That didn’t last long.


By Tuesday, it became apparent this was no ordinary major flood.


I could still wade through the street that morning, and checked up on the neighbors:


But by afternoon the river pushed its way between two neighboring properties just to my east. Water rushed in as from a strong-flowing creek, filling the roadway with another 3 feet of water, and cutting me off. I was (and still am) living on an island:


We had visitors; two guys from the U.S. Geological Survey who measured and quantified all the water around my island, front and back.


Then the National Guard stopped by. They were on a search-and-rescue mission helping people who underestimated how bad this was going to get:


That evening, a young man and some friends decided to take a joyride in an expensive-looking pickup with a big toolchest mounted in the bed. Down the road toward the house they came, seemingly ignoring the fact that the water was getting increasingly deep. Finally the kid, unable to distinguish roadway from ditch, drove into the latter.

His passengers jumped out and waded away; he helped his young girlfriend out of the truck’s passenger window, slung her over his shoulder, and waded onto dry land on the other side of my street. He left the windows down and the headlights on.

The next day was not a happy one. For more than 24 hours, the National Weather Service had predicted the river should have crested, at a lower level, than was the case. The river was at 54.5 feet – a foot higher than predicted – and continued to slowly rise instead of cresting. The water behind our property looked suspiciously similar in height to the water lapping up the driveway from the road.

My new lack of confidence in weather service projections, coupled with knowledge that some neighbors’ toilets quit working, helped me decide to evacuate the kids:

Fire Department rescue boats were making regular patrols. It was almost like a water taxi. I hailed them as they passed, they turned around and made shore, we talked, they made an appointment to stop back in a half-hour and picked up the kids. Their aunt drove over and met them up the road on higher ground. (I should mention that my wife was out of town on a business trip and likely relieved that her children no longer remained on a flooded island).

So it’s just been me and the pups for the past two days, putting sticks in the ground to mark the water’s progress by light and watching old movies by night.

But air conditioning, working showers and toilets, plenty of food and Internet access all helped take the sting out of the situation.

Then, as I noted above, the river began receding, taking (most of) my worries with it.

Ain’t life grand?

Also posted in Be Afraid, Brazos River, Nature