When we went down to see the devastation first hand, we found the riding lawnmower perched upside down on the slab of concrete that used to be a house. It was full of salt water and mud, but the body of it was oddly undamaged.
Darwin, who was a state small motors champion in middle school, thought he could fix it. Dad, so disheartened by the whole thing, said if Darwin could fix it, he could keep it. We needed a new riding lawnmower, since the last one Darwin fixed up is a total rustbucket and could collapse at any moment.
So a couple of months ago, he and my dad hauled the thing back to our house. In addition to the hurricane damage, it had been sitting upside down and exposed to the elements for months.
Darwin thought about it, cleaned it, greased it, bought about $120 worth of replacement parts. He eagerly dashed outside in the few moments of daylight he gets at home during the week and on Saturday afternoons to work on it. As spring brought longer days and warmer weather, his excitement grew and he worked on it more, talked about it more.
Then Friday afternoon, I came home and he was hovering over it. He grinned when he saw me and cranked it up. It runs. He fixed it. I told you this man can work miracles with his hands.
He cut a bit of grass with it on Saturday and decided it needs new pulleys. Simple enough, he says. Then it will be perfect. Rust free and running smoothly.
Besides the lawnmower, virtually nothing was salvaged from the house. We found my mother's beloved white farm table, broken and wedged amid other debris two yards over, but in the end they decided it wasn't worth saving.
The insurance company is giving them money only for flood, not wind damage - in spite of the fact that an impartial eye witness saw a tornado hit the house before the storm surge even came through. Even with the $30,000 the government would give them for rebuilding, they wouldn't have enough to rebuild the house, let alone cover the stuff inside it.
It's a sickening situation, and my parents have decided not to start over there. It pains my dad, because he loves the coast so much. But what can you do? There's no way to stop a hurricane.
So we salvage what little we can and feel grateful that our family photographs and mementos are safe up here - not stained with mud and littering the ground in Biloxi.