A couple of posts ago I wrote about how I have struggled with when to break away from the blog’s standard format. I think I know what the main criterion is now: it’s when I can’t not write about something. This blog is, at its most basic, a chronicle of my everyday life, and some things happen that it just doesn’t feel right to have be invisible. Because when I look back at the archives, I’ll remember what was happening, and it will feel odd to have that missing. So I’m going to tell you about the unpleasant thing that I referred to in my last post.
Maybe writing about it will make it seem less surreal.
About two weeks ago, I heard through the family grapevine that my parents’ neighbors, who’ve lived two doors down for at least 30 years, had had a fire in their house in the middle of the night. Despite being quite old and rather frail, they both got out safely, as did their ground-floor tenant. No one related any information about the cause of the fire. I talked it over in a phone call with my parents, who were distressed on their neighbors’ behalf, and then went on with my week.
At 6:30 last Sunday morning, my phone rang. Knowing from grim experience that this usually means bad news, I leapt out of bed and ran into the next room, heart already pounding. My sister was on the other end to tell me that my parents’ house had caught fire a few hours earlier. They, too, despite being elderly and frail, had escaped unhurt, and their ground-floor apartment was empty—because that’s where we stay when we’re in Boston.
Given the similarities between the times and locations of the two fires, the Boston police and fire departments have classified both fires as arson, and investigation is ongoing.
My parents have been displaced from their home of nearly 50 years. Between the damage to the house and concerns about who lit the fires—and what they might do next—it seems unlikely that they will be able to return any time soon, if at all.
I spent two days in Boston last week, much of it sorting through a pile of charred rubble to salvage what I could of my husband and daughter’s belongings that had been stored in the closet over where the fire was set. I walked around my parents’ house and garden in a face mask and work gloves, talking to insurance adjusters, police and fire officials, family members coming and going, and shaken neighbors; all between bouts of working under the window of the room where Miss B sleeps when we visit, the outside wall three feet away boarded up and the scars of the fire clearly visible.
Then I came back here to Missouri to pick up the threads of my regular daily life, while trying to keep in contact with what is going on back east, prepare for whatever the next steps might be and what they might require of me, and deal with the welter of emotions (my own and other people’s) brought up by this bizarre and awful situation.
I am grateful that my parents are safe and being cared for. I grieve the violation and likely loss of my family home and neighborhood. I remain incredulous that anyone could carry out such a random, malicious act. I continue to try to adjust to the new reality in which my family finds itself, where things like this happen.