I didn’t mention it here on the blog, but you might have picked up on the fact that I spent most of the month of May back home in Oklahoma.
St. Fidelis Seminary had a break between school terms and because of some family issues, I decided to spend that time in Tulsa.
My aunt, the only member of the older generation left in my immediate family, suffered a fall during Easter and has been recovering at a rehabilitation facility ever since. My sister Stacey is currently the closest relative (100 miles away) and has been managing her care and financial issues pretty much by herself.
I decided to use my break time to come home and help out as much as I could. I’m not sure how much good I really did, but I was able to visit with my aunt on a daily basis which I hope was a comfort to her.
My brother Kevin and his wife Maureen came to town one weekend too, which was awesome. We don’t all three get together that often and it was unlikely to happen at all while I’m working in PNG.
My friends in Tulsa really took care of me while I was home. It seemed like someone was always willing to have dinner, go to a baseball game, throw the frisbee around, see a movie, or just hang out in a coffee shop for awhile.
I thought I might suffer from some reverse culture shock when I came home, but I don’t think I experienced anything of the sort. Dropping into my home city, driving the familiar roads and visiting the familiar faces was just like putting on a glove. Of course, I really hadn’t been gone all that long anyway.
What surprised me was how much bigger my friends’ children had grown in the past 5 months. I should have expected it, I guess, but they’ve all grown up so much. Cuter and more precocious too!
If you’ve read much of my blog, you won’t be surprised when I say that I have a strong attachment to my home state of Oklahoma. I’m sure others feel the same way about their states, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s just something special about the people there.
I left Tulsa to return to PNG just after the terrible tornadoes struck Moore, Oklahoma. It brought back memories of the devastating 1999 storms and actually surpassed them in destruction. I knew people who lost their homes in 1999, and once again I learned that a college friend and his family lost their home this time.
Oklahoma, for all of its good attributes, does seem to attract more than its fair share of tragedy. Storms, earthquakes, domestic terrorism, economic depressions, droughts, dust storms, wild fires, and flooding seem to happen with some regularity.
What I find interesting is that the people always seem to rise to the challenge. It would be hard to find a more giving or more generous people, united by both the blessings and challenges of living there.
Sometimes so many people want to help their neighbors in need that organizers don’t know what to do with all of them. As I was heading to the airport, I heard a story on the radio about a Moore area church asking for volunteers to help clean up their property so they could have a memorial service. Over a thousand people showed up to help on a Tuesday afternoon. Incredible.
SinceI left Tulsa, there have been even more devastating storms. One in Broken Arrow, a neighboring city to Tulsa, was only about 5 miles from my home. The one in El Reno, west of Oklahoma City, killed 20 people, caused massive flooding after 11 inches of rain, and at one point was making a beeline for Stacey’s house in Edmond.
You would think that many people would be making a run for the border after so many storms in such a short time. I’ve learned though that this only seems to endear Oklahoma to the people and just makes them roll up their sleeves and work all that much harder to repair the damage, try to learn something from the storms, and be just that much better prepared for the next one.
I know it sounds crazy, but being away from the mayhem is hard. I’d rather be there in the thick of it, ready to help if I can. I know there would be people to help me if I was the one needing it.
(Note: the photo slideshow on this post is just some pasture shots that I took in Craig County near Grand Lake. Nothing special but they do remind me of home and its wide open spaces.)