Saying Goodbye for Real to My Home Destroyed in the Flood

Well, the news is in and it is not good. We do not have the elevation to rebuild beyond the 50 percent damage mark and it is quite obvious to anyone who walks into our shell of a home, that our damage was well beyond 50 percent. Our new appraisal came in at a figure too low to meet the City of Houston’s permit requirements.

In addition, the scare of a second flood with this no-show of Tropical Storm Bill, and the fact that the Harris County Flood Control project on the bayou will not be completed until 2021, leaves us too vulnerable to go through this again. At our age, our nervous systems can’t even think about going through this process again. It’s not that we are running scared — oh wait, yes we are. And so are a lot of our peers and neighbors.

We will sell our lot, as many others in our age group are doing, and a young family who wants the best schools in Houston and our suburban bliss, will build a high up big mansion on the soil we leave behind. (We don’t need these best public schools anymore since our children are grown, and that is exactly what makes our land so valuable.) These mansions are already popping up all over our neighborhood and was the subject of this past blog, The Mansionization of Meyerland. Little did I know when I wrote that two years ago, that the trend would affect me so personally.

We will not, cannot demolish and rebuild a high up mansion. It’s time to downsize and move. I am doing it kicking and screaming. My husband is doing it with a positive spirit and can’t understand my grief. Fortunately, most of my friends understand my profound grief.

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It is true I get attached to things, and also hoard a bunch of memories. It will take years of weeding through a storage space to toss out all the memories stored here that won’t fit in a downsized place. I can’t do it now even if I wanted to (and I am way too emotional to do it now anyway) as virtually everything is in boxes stacked floor to ceiling.

The stress of all of this, plus placing my dad somewhere has been unbearable. I can’t believe I am functioning, but somehow I am still working and making rational decisions at each step of the way. How that is, I can’t explain. I guess I am stronger than I ever knew, even though I am prone to tears at the drop of a pin.

My husband who is much less emotional, and a bit too rational, points out that we are healthy and can be happy elsewhere in this city. He would not trade our situation for a health scare, and we know many friends who have gone through that.

I’ve lost control of what I want to do though – similar to a health situation. The decision has been made for me, whether it was by Mother Nature, the Harris County Flood District’s inaction on the Brays Bayou, the City of Houston’s post-flood rules, or that this 1964 home was ready for retirement. That hurts. When other people our age move out of the home they raised their children in and downsize, they do it willingly. That’s the real difference here.

I am still planning my escape to New Jersey, (so desperately needed now more than ever) and for now, I will enjoy living in this space, though it is an empty shell of my memories. It will be demolished at some point so I have to appreciate living here in the last moments, regardless of the condition. My husband and I have set it up to be as comfy as possible until we can make the next move.

What a loss. What a mess. Where will we live? These life decisions would keep me wired 24/7 without the help of those little sleeping pills – my chemical of choice to help me through this trauma. We have begun perusing other homes and places to live in a certain vicinity to our lifestyle, and that too is a full time job. (Thanks to my kids who are helping with this.) We will stay in Houston, in the southwest portion where everything and everyone we know and love resides – just nowhere near a flood plain or bayou.

I can’t even begin to describe the sadness surrounding this event.



  • Arlene.
    Your hardship
    It is deeply felt! Although I have never had that experience I know we here in Bucks County had floods in New Hope and Yardley Pa it was the 100 yr flood that occurred several times . I meant with people who were affected and it is very difficult to move on. There isn’t to much to say other than moving on will be a new beginning one with renewal and peace
    Best wishes to you and your family
    Jen Buscheln

  • I am so sorry for your loss because that’s what this is. A loss. I hope once you get moved and start a new chapter in your new home, some of the sadness will have left and you can look forward to making new memories. I can’t imagine how it feels to be forced to let go of your home. You’ve given me a personal insight in to something I normally would have just read about in the news. I really am very sorry.

    • Thanks Vicky – it is my goal for others to see and feel what my entire community is going through so thank you for saying that. I speak for many. I appreciate you!

  • Jo Ann Schwartz Woodward

    Arlene I don’t know you but your heartbreaking grief probably is shared by so many people who are struggling through their losses. I too am a hoarder and the keeper of family history. As a result of the recent floods I have now begun the process of releasing those things that I thought I had to have. It has been very helpful giving things to those that need these things as they have lost everything. I hope in days, weeks and months to come that your grief will lessen.

  • Warren was talking to Gary and he didn’t mention that you were going to have to move. I’m always asking him to see how the two of you are doing. Your Margate visit will help clear your mind a bit. When you come to the area, let us know how we can help.

  • Wayne Hardack

    Hi Arlene, Wow, life comes at ya hard sometimes ! I read your blog often. We’ve never met but I’m a Pennway Street boy. My Mom always said we live our lives in chapters and everything, of course, happens for a reason. Makes me glad to hear that Gary is the same old “happy go lucky” and level headed guy as I remember him to be. I always looked up to him. You are truly blessed and I have a feeling that when you come out at the other end of this debacle you’ll be looking back and laughing. Best wishes, Wayne

    • Thank you for reading Wayne. I will never look back and laugh though. There are so many of my neighbors and friends and a bunch of us must leave and we are all heartbroken. This is not a situation to ever look back lightly on – so many forced out. (not just us)

  • Arlene, your article has left me in tears!!! I try to imagine what you’re going through and it gives me the feeling of panic. I am very sentimental and like to save memories in boxes. If I had to downsize, I would have to hire somebody to help me, because it would be hard for me to part with things that I know I no longer need. I don’t know what else to say, except that, I’ll pray that you stay strong to get through all of this!

  • Your profound sense of displacement is so clear. When one chooses to downsize, it is done in a period of time where one can make the adjustment and attitude shift. You did not have the luxury of time. I hope this transition time will pass quickly for you.

  • I’ve been following your situation. I’m glad you found a place for your dad. Keep your chin up because the dark days are almost behind you and there is daylight ahead. The important things are safe…. You, your family, your health. The rest won’t really matter much when you look back at this in a year or two.

    You’re a terrific writer and I look forward to reading your blog posts. See you at the Jersey shore hopefully soon..

  • Dear Arlene and family
    I can’t imagine the grief you are going through,based on what you have written it is unbearable !There is a brighter tomorrow ! Take care and call me if I can help you in any way that I am connected with Realtors through my Network at Keller Williams in the Houston area . I wish you and your family all the best !!

  • Arlene, I’m so sorry to hear this news. I know you will be fine with the support of your husband and kids, and your dad is most likely doing fine in his new place.
    Let me know if I can fill you in about this area, though it’s very expensive and not without its own natural disasters.

  • My heart aches for you, Arlene. So sad, I can’t believe you have to give up your house. Hugs!!

  • this entry actually made me cry. I’m sitting at my desk just aching for you. Janet went through this years ago after Hurricane Ike, so I’m sure she can empathize much better than I can. This IS a death, and it can’t be downplayed by saying the contents can be replaced. You will go on, you will cope and learn to live without something that gave you comfort and joy and years of memories, but it is, without a doubt, a very painful and permanent death. Mourn all you need to and reach out to those who can comfort you.

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