Puerto Ricans that lived through Hurricane Maria have many stories to tell.
I, for one, avoid telling them. I end up teary-eyed if not bawling my eyes out.
I decided to write some of those stories as I conjure them. I figured it could be a means to process the pain I still feel when reliving the memories of the storm and the harrowing weeks that followed. All in the hopes of eventually getting over it.
For those of you that have not had to go through such a traumatic experience, the stories will give you yet another reason to be grateful. That of not having lived through the harshest hurricane in US history.
Unlike most Hurricane Maria stories, recently I listened to one that actually made me smile.
While attending a dinner, one of the guests in my table who was visiting from the mainland asked what the worst part of living through the experience of Hurricane Maria was. Each of us exchanged war stories while his jaw dropped, literally.
After some minutes into the deluge of memories, one of the guests entirely changed the doomsday tone with an unexpected anecdote.
Lilly told the story of how on the eve of the hurricane, her children, their spouses and grandchildren moved in with her and her husband. A total of eleven relatives.
They all came to her house because it was big, had an emergency generator and water tank. At Lilly’s, they would have all the comforts of home.
The first two weeks were a nightmare for everyone in the island. Stark darkness, scarce fuel, scarce water, no communications, no internet were just some of the challenges we faced.
For Lilly, the agony was unbearable.
Her power generator alleviated the difficulties, but at a cost. In Lilly’s case, the cost was not just monetary.
By the end of the first week with a houseful of guests, neither she or her husband could bear another day of not having any privacy in their own home.
One glorious morning two weeks after the hurricane, the emergency generator stalled. Its continuous, exerted use had taken a toll.
As the first day without electricity progressed, one of Lilly’s sons took his pillow and bags and left declaring: “If I am going to be hot, I might as well sleep on my bed.”
No mechanics were available to fix the generator as they all had a waiting list of clients in need of their services. Commercial traffic by air and sea was limited to emergency response supplies. It would take days or weeks to get the parts needed for the repair.
Lilly didn’t care. Realizing the reward that the generator’s breakdown could bring, she was in no hurry to get it repaired.
Two days after the generator died, all of Lilly’s 11 guests were gone.
Lilly and her husband were delighted. Never had they been so happy to have no electricity. Never had they been thankful for having any house equipment fail. Never were they in no hurry to have it fixed.
“It was a blessing in disguise” she said, mischievously smiling while reliving the bliss of finally being alone with her husband of more than fifty years in their dark, spacious, and quiet home.
Needless to say, no one spoke again at the table about the storm. The mood change in the conversation made it unnecessary to continue reliving painful memories.