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The scale of things

I’ve had a few moments of emotional perspective-shifting lately.

The first was Sunday as I stood in the throng of wetsuited, goggled 30-34 year-old men ready to begin the triathlon. As normal, adrenalin and fear were duking it out. My training was frequent but not for long durations and so I was more than normally worried about the race. As I stood there flirting with panic I heard a call from the back of the pack to make way. The physically-challenged athletes were set to go off in the wave before mine and they were making their way to the Swim In, as it is called. Amputees hopping, blind athletes being led, the “Paralympic hopefuls” lined up to begin. In a move that I can only applaud, the race organizers actually put the physically-challenged racers with the elite racers (not quite pro, but way better than the rest of us). Because, let’s face it, finishing a triathlon blind is fucking elite. Perspective shifted, I jumped in the lake invigorated.

Then today. As I noted in the previous post, my wife’s grandparents have most likely lost their house in coastal Mississippi. We were worried that they did not understand the severity of the storm. That is, until my wife’s grandfather, whose son died tragically in 1990, said this: “I lost my son and he cannot be replaced. Everything in Mississippi can be replaced.” OK, then. Family matters, stuff doesn’t. Move on.

Lastly, the whole “this is our tsunami” business. Katrina is a bitch, there is no doubt. My family is scattered throughout the south and their property is in various states of destroyed. But, people, it is not appropriate to compare this to the tsunami in southeast Asia. Tens of thousands of people died there. Let’s keep things in perspective. Tragedy is tragedy. Superlative comparison not needed. (Are you listening network TV?)

Clermont Harbor, Mississippi

My wife’s grandparents live in coastal Mississippi in a tiny town called Clermont Harbor. The eye of Hurricane Camille made landfall there in 1969 and didn’t leave much standing. Our grandparents successfully evacuated in advance of Katrina, but we’re worried for them. They are getting older and, having grown accustomed to evacuations from New Orleans and Mississippi, we fear that they don’t understand the severity of this latest storm. There are no reports from Clermont Harbor right now, but nearby Bay St. Louis is in tatters. The house we care about and which contains so many of my wife’s childhood memories is only a block from the water. Even if the house is still standing, the long-term disruption of our grandparents’ daily routine — such a sustaining force for them — is what will hurt the most.

We feel so helpless up here in Chicago.