Love no floods can quench, no torrents drown.
Song of Songs 8:7
Most people in America have heard by now about the Colorado “Thousand Year Flood,” the lives lost, property destroyed and people missing. Photos and video at our fingertips give us a safe, distant view of things we’re thankful not endure. Those who live downhill from those fifteen inches of rain are not so fortunate. The whole event gives a new dimension to the quote above, from Song of Songs, part of the epigraph to my novel.
When I heard of this week’s overnight deluge, I immediately recalled the Big Thompson flash flood of 1976, which occurred while I still lived in Colorado. That was a disastrous night of 12- to 14-inch rains that fell within four hours around Estes Park, and 144 people died. No doubt, this week’s flood has brought back many memories of 1976 for Coloradoans.
My parents, who live in Nebraska, drove to Colorado on Thursday, September 12, for a family reunion with my mother’s sisters, all four daughters of the Grandma Laura whose ledger enlivens The Darkwater Liar’s Account. The family gathering was a great idea actualized at the worst possible time, but, who could have guessed? Natural disasters don’t send out “save the date” cards. They’re sneaky that way.
To make a long story short, my parents are both stressed and blessed, spending the last week stranded at a motel in a small community along I-25. Most days they haven’t been able to leave the facility, due to a combination of physical disabilities and rising water. Water cut off their access to Interstates, too, so there was no fleeing home. My sister, who lives north of Longmont, forged countless heroic trips on back roads in and out of her own flooded and possibly-to-be-evacuated neighborhood to bring food, water, aid and comfort to the stranded travelers, whenever she could. I teased her that I wasn’t sure if I should send her flowers or a sump pump, in gratitude.
I couldn’t help. This was the hardest part for me and I pretended to be useful by searching online (my sister lost her internet access) to check county and state road maps for passable roads. That was an exercise in frustration, as an overwhelmed emergency services system couldn’t always provide up-to-date information in that “fluid” environment. So I phoned and texted and cross-checked information with friends on Facebook, still convincing myself I had a role to play, while trying not to panic over my friends’ and family’s vulnerability and my own powerlessness.
I don’t like being helpless. Nobody does, especially when loved ones are involved. There’s a life lesson in there somewhere, about acknowledging our limits and trusting others, and I’m glad I could trust my sister to come through. She’s a greater blessing to me with each passing year and family crisis. Maybe that same awareness, born of years of love for and trust in her sisters, kept my mother determined to reunite with them on this disastrous vacation, come hell or…ahem…high water. She’s reunited with one of them today, finally, and another is driving from Denver to visit her tomorrow. God bless and keep them. God bless us all and help us to help one another, amid the rising waters of life.
For every awful thing that’s been said and done, she is my sister. Parents die, daughters grow up and marry out, but sisters are for life. She is the only person left in the world who shares my memories of our childhood, our parents, our Shanghai, our struggles, our sorrows, and, yes, even our moments of happiness and triumph. My sister is the one person who truly knows me, as I know her. The last thing May says to me is “When our hair is white, we’ll still have our sister love.”