In Transition is part 4 in my blog series of surviving a devastating house fire.
I need to start this blog with heartfelt gratitude to so many people – and in this blog episode, I want to call out my dear friend of 10 years, Stuart.
Having to find accommodation any time can be a little stressful. But when you are displaced, the added stress can be quite debilitating.
How blessed I am to have such amazing people in my life – my dear friend Stuart called me on that Sunday, after I got Ophelia. He told me he had temporary accommodation organized for me. He knew I wouldn’t be thinking rationally at that time.
Our friendship goes back to the first few days I moved to Brooklyn, and 10 years on, we are best friends that have each others backs.
The rest of the first day of being reunited with Ophelia, are kind of a blur. I remember staying at my friends apartment, I remember people stopping by. But I can’t really put things together chronologically.
My friend Stuart happens to have a beautiful bi-level home, that has a fully furnished apartment on the ground floor. And so for the next couple of weeks I had a wonderful place for me and my cats, to be able to start to rebuild our lives after the fire.
Our transition couldn’t have happened without so many people. Without so much kindness and support.
Friends coming to my friends apartment in Brooklyn, to drop off “stuff” – clothing, toiletries, this, that…. even an iPad for Shady! My dear friend Jenn had set up a GoFundMe – my mum was looking at it and was just so taken aback at how much people were donating, to help me rebuild my life again. To be totally honest, I didn’t even look at it for at least a week – Jenn took care of it all.
My parents live in Spain – I won’t go into details in this blog episode, but suffice to say, they are so very grateful to our community and all my friends for the great care, love and support.
Monday came. Another dear friend was kind enough to lend me his car, which was such a relief, as my temporary accommodation was in Long Island.
When I first woke up, my head was in “project manager” mode.
I called the utility companies, the cable / internet company – to cancel my accounts. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious and deliberate activity, but more an “auto-pilot-survival-mode” activity.
I had renters insurance, so of course I had to call them, and start the claim process. It is quite amazing at how many of my friends don’t have this insurance. I think they probably all have it now though!
Monday was a busy day. I had to redress my bandage, and make sure it wasn’t getting infected – cat bites can be pretty nasty! More people came to visit and give me “stuff” – and this was absolutely fantastic as my mind was truly not even thinking about “me” – it was all about my cats, and survival mode. I needed to get “stuff” sorted.
I had to start my life all over again. I needed to prioritize things. I was still unemployed, and now I was effectively homeless. That all said – thank goodness for dear friends!
We got a wonderful visit from a dear friend and her puppy – delivering more things that I would need and hadn’t even thought about. I am so blessed to have such wonderful and thoughtful people in my life!
A friend let me borrow his car, I had a place to stay, friends were dropping off stuff for me and for the cats all day Monday. I am forever grateful to Susan for opening up her home to me, and dealing with all that stuff going on too.
Mid afternoon on Monday, I packed up the car and drove to Long Island, with the cats in the stroller / cat basket. I always wonder what they were thinking as we took that 40-ish minute journey.
Our whole world had just been turned upside down. My priority was to make sure they were in a safe space. My dear friend Stuart had given us just that!
We arrived late afternoon. I was shattered, but I had to keep going, and get cat litter, food and bedding sorted for the cats. I am so thankful to my friends that had gone out and bought us some things to get us restarted.
The weird part about all of this – I was still unemployed at this point, and although I knew I needed to keep searching for a job, I needed to also take a pause, and work on rebuilding mine and the cats lives again.
Shady was simply amazing – he strutted around sniffing and exploring and plonked himself on the huge sofa. Rocky and Ophelia felt safer for a while in the bedroom. I made sure that I was outwardly showing them that we were in a good and safe place, I knew my emotions would help them settle. It didn’t take long for them to come out of the bedroom and join Shady on the sofa.
That night Stuart came down to spend some time with us, and we had a take-away dinner. Shady and Rocky love Stuart. Ophelia liked him from afar, but soon warmed to him.
We all snuggled into bed. Rocky and Ophelia paced around for a while, as Shady got top spot next to me in bed.
I honestly don’t remember much of the next couple of days. I basically just hung around in the apartment, popped out to the local pet shop to buy more stuff for the Three Amigos, and spent most of my time with them. They loved the windows in the apartment, and we had lots of toys. I remember seeing the little teepee in the pet store – I just knew they would love it.
It was quite amazing how quickly they settled. But I knew this was only temporary, and I needed to start looking for a new home.
I started back with my job search – trying to get into a regular routine, mostly for the cats – if they saw me “normal” they would hopefully be ok. I think it worked.
The day I had to meet the insurance adjuster, was also the day I had an interview. So I had to improvise – I borrowed Shady’s iPad, and had it set up in the car. The interview went well!
I won’t share photos of what I saw inside the house when I did the walk through with the insurance adjuster, as far as I have come, some things are still a bit too much to deal with, even months later. Suffice to say, it was rather a surreal and sombre moment. I am forever grateful to my friends that accompanied me through the devastation.
We did manage to salvage a few things. I remember seeing my grandads miniature brass bottle and brandy glasses – it was at that point I just lost it. I hadn’t even thought about them, until I saw them. Oh grandad I love you so much. I miss you every day, and I don’t care what people say, but I felt your presence, and it was an emotional, but calming feeling.
So now, I had been to the old place, I had salvaged a few special items, and my cats were in a safe place. But I knew we couldn’t stay there long term. But at the same time, I was concerned about the continued upheaval for them. I felt that the sooner I found a place, the sooner the cats and I could truly get back to some kind of normal. I just kept going – no time to rest, no time to truly sit and think about what happened to us.
I just kept going – even in the evenings I would be “on the go”, searching apartments to rent. I was more than welcome to stay at my friends for as long as was needed, but I needed to keep moving, and get a place of my own, so I could truly start to settle back into normal life.
It was hard work juggling trying to find somewhere to live and find a job, and think about the cats, and although I had so many wonderful people and a great community around me, I still felt very alone, and overwhelmed. I was so thankful that I had friends that took matters into their own hands, and were making sure in the background, I was going to be ok.
The littlest of things truly make the biggest impact – basic clothes, toiletries – tooth brush, deodorant, the things that we just take for granted in our daily lives.
My hand was healing, I cleaned and dressed it every day. I know that cat bites can be dangerous, and so I kept an eye on the swelling and pain. The scar today is a reminder of survival and rescue – Ophelia literally has left her mark on me. And I am fine with that.
In my next blog, I will talk more about finding a job and an apartment – pretty much on the same day! More crazy times ahead – including the cardboard meltdown.
(Writing a blog about a trauma is something that I find healing for me. It isn’t like I am reliving the moment, but more reflecting on what I have survived. I have always loved to write, and my hope is that others that have suffered trauma and bad experiences in their lives can find something healing through my blogs)