Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Two Years Later...

August 29, 2007
5223 Basin View Drive
New Orleans East

Dear Family and Friends,

It's midnight in Katrina's garden of ups and downs. Yes, two years ago Michelle Mohammed, like so many other New Orleanians watched her city drown.

She lived in Portland, Oregon for over a year after the storm. In October, 2005, she flew from the Northwest to see the home she'd owned for 11 years for the first time.

"There's nothing else you can do when you see that, I broke down and cried."

I work with Michelle. I went to the University of Oregon so we had a connection from the first day. Over time Michelle and I grew closer. She has a 23-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son.

One day Michelle said to some co-workers, "Look ladies, that's Robert, that's my son!" We joked about it. A black woman with a white son. We joked about going to restaurants and telling the waiter.

And then something real happened. On my 24th birthday, Michelle showered me with gifts. Like only a parent gives kind of gifts. A new shirt, a tie, a pair of pants, and a bottle of cologne.

"I wanted my son to look sharp on his birthday," she says. Later that week, a friend and I spoke of the gesture. What started out as fun had become something much more for the both us, my friend said.

"Robert, you know she's really adopted you. You're her son, she tells us that when you're not around."

Mohammed's house took eight feet of water. Her husband still lives in Portland. The 21-year-veteran of the New Orleans Public Schools was without home or career because of Katrina.

She's shown me that people overcome obstacles and do it with grace.

"It's been a struggle."

It's close to 1 a.m. She walks me back to my car.

"I love you," she says. "I love you, too."

"You know I pray for you, Michael and Aryanna every night. It's the only way I can go to sleep," she says.

I drove home.

And slept well.



No comments: