Today we arrived in Tuscaloosa. It is very difficult to express what this place means to me as it holds a special place in my heart for so many reasons. It is my spiritual home. I found myself here after being lost for quite a while. It gave me a path to my spiritual identity because what I chose as my career path is a spiritual journey. I have much to say about that, especially after having spent an evening and a morning with Thomas Moore, but I cannot write about this at this at particular time, because of recent events in my life in Virginia and due to the experiences I had upon my return to a place that I dearly love after about 5 or 6 years.
Some of you may recall that in 2011 that an F4 tornado laid a major portion of Tuscaloosa to waste. I had not had the opportunity to revisit here until today.
Patty was not feeling well at all. She and I have been through quite an ordeal this past week and she was not up to going to see the University of Alabama baseball game against Florida as we had planned, but she encouraged me to go anyway. It felt really good to be out in the sun, even though we lost the game 4-3.
When I got back, she was not feeling any better and I went to the pharmacy to get her some medicine and then went to eat dinner at Buffalo Phil's, a hot wings place that I went to when I went to school here.
Before I went to eat, though, I decided to see what happened to where I lived and also to visit where I had buried a very beloved cat named Timothy, who came with me from Virginia and was killed by a dog. Patty and I had talked about going there together, but I had also told her I was sure that that tornado demolished where I had lived. She and I have visited that place together in the past several times. She has been such a loving supportive wife when we have gone together, though this is not a part of my life she experienced personally.
I had been through a tornado personally when I lived in that upstairs apartment and was terrified when it hit the neighborhood before my apartment, skipped over us, and destroyed the next neighborhood on the other side of us in 1991. Trite as it may seem, yes, it does sound just like a train. The Drive By Truckers have a song about that. What people like me don't mention is, that in fact, it sounds like you are lying between the crossties and it passes right over on top you. That is not an exaggeration. It scares the living wits out of you and you will never forget it. You just can't. Even though you wish with everything you can that you could forget it and wonder why you made it through and others didn't.
Though that particular event happened in the dead of the night and I had the sense of foreboding that made me keep the radio on loud that night, and I browbeat my ex-wife to get out of the bed and under the kitchen table. Perhaps it saved our lives, but we won't know that because it skipped directly over us then. It was a very close call and this last time, that whole neighborhood is gone. Thank God I was not there.
I decided that I needed to do this this evening and as I expected, where I had lived was gone without a trace. I was overcome with a sense of grief and took a few moments to collect myself. Though I was prepared intellectually for this for a very long time, in the face of such a massive confrontation that what of my past was no longer there was heart breaking, especially in view of all else I have lost in the last week. I wish I could say I enjoyed my dinner, and on some superficial level I did. The profound sense of loss was overwhelming and it took a few minutes to pull it together and go have dinner. I wish I could say I enjoyed eating at Buffalo Phil’s, a chicken wing place, that evening, but that wouldn’t be truthful.I was just too upset and it was all I could do to keep from crying.
The next day, I took Patty with me to see the destruction and support me in the sense of loss that I felt. I felt waves of grief when I saw what had happened again and knowing that it was only by God's grace that this had not happened to me the night I was living in that apartment. She suggested that I take home a brick from what was left and a piece of wood that was lying there in the ruins. I found the brick lying on the spot where I had lived along with a piece of wood that was weathered and twisted. It means nothing to no one else but it is a symbol of my life there in that spot which does not exist there anymore.
Still, I am glad to be here and have found a reawakening of my spiritual progression after having been feeling like my spiritual life has been on a plateau since my father died a year ago this past Christmastide. I have so much more to write about this and look forward to conveying my experience in spending an evening and a morning with Thomas Moore in Birmingham.