Last night, I pulled an all-nighter in our church hall with some remarkable people. The local senior living complex was evacuated by boat on Wednesday, and several of the residents had no place to go. The Red Cross made our church a rescue shelter and some truly amazing people worked round the clock to help at least 200 people over the past few days.
And by the way, I do not consider myself one of those people--I merely showed up last night at 7 to help with the night watch. The older folks were sleeping on zero-gravity chairs (they couldn't handle lower cots from the RC) and needed some help getting in and out of them.
As I was there, I had a chance to connect with some of the residents who found it hard to sleep. One poor woman had a stomach bug and was sick all night. I asked her at one point if I could do anything for her, and her classic, quirky style, she said, "You could get a gun and shoot me. I am not drinking more of that Gatorade." She called her Gatorade "cocktail hour" and kept other residents in place: "What are you doing, Gloria? You are going to fall on your ass trying to put your shoes on while you are standing up! Sit down now!"
Around 3 am, a man who I noticed was very intelligent and observant meandered over for a cup of coffee and some blueberry buckle. He sat with the four of us women. After telling us an inspiring story about his battle with kidney disease and 6 grueling years of dialysis before receiving a transplant, he proceeded to entertain us with priceless stories: the time he set the drapes on fire as a kid, the way he still honors the nurses who took care of him during dialysis by cutting out coupons and taking them candy once a month, the tears that came to his eyes when his neice publicly thanked him at her for raising her at her wedding.
When asked what his profession was, he responded, "You'll never guess." I said, "CIA." He stared at me in disbelief: "How did you guess that?"
It was his observant nature (he heard every sound in the room with acute detail) and his watchful lack of sleep coupled with his intelligence that made me sense he was a spy. He told us he had top secret clearance and still to this day can't talk about his work. At the time, he could tell his wife what country he'd be in, but never exactly where or why.
I could tell you hours worth of stories about these beautiful people. My time at the church last night made me ever so grateful to not be the mother of four whose rental's walls are bowing and whose belongings are inaccessible and likely ruined.
I also sigh, thinking it will be a blink of the eye and I will be one of those little old ladies drooling over the young firemen: "It's been years since I had a man's arms around me!" one little pistol said. And I hope that Aidan, Gabrielle, and Liam will take care of their poor aging parents no matter how bad we get.
Where to go from here? The seniors should be going back to their apartments this afternoon. The water didn't damage the housing, so their transition should be smooth. The folks down on Broad Street and out Rte. 87, though, have a lot of clean up ahead of them. Donations of clothing, cleaning supplies, Weis and WalMart gift cards are being accepted at several locations, including Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 100 Walnut Street, Montoursville, PA 17754.