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then a hero comes along
Blogging for Books entry.

Anniebelle woke early to cloudy skies and a stiff wind. Her day always began with a prayer to her sweet Lord before she ever raised up to greet the morning. “Dear Lord…thank you for your bountiful goodness to me and mine. Please keep us safe through this day and show us Your will. Amen”. Focusing her eyes on the window of her bedroom, she became aware of the persistent pain that plagued her joints. Arthritis began to slow her down in her sixties and now, at 79, she was in such constant pain that she just learned to live with it. She could hear her granddaughter, DaLisa, moving around in the kitchen next door preparing breakfast.

“Lisa..honey!”, she cried out. “Help me into my chair so I can visit the toilet.” “Yes’m” was the reply from the kitchen. DaLisa had lived with her beloved grandmother ever since her Momma run off with some old crackhead musician years ago. She had never met her Daddy, but figured that was just as well. If she ever did see him, she’d give him a piece of her mind about abandoning her and her Momma. DaLisa moved the skillet full of bacon to a back burner, and went to help her Mamaw into the wheelchair. They were expecting a storm to hit sometime in the next day or two, and everybody was nervous. The entire parish was scrambling for supplies and shelter because Catalina looked to be one mean hurricane. Storms were a way of life for folks in southern Louisiana and their ramshackle shotgun house showed scars from past encounters.

After helping her Mamaw to the bathroom, DaLisa drew up the insulin that controlled Anniebelle’s diabetes. It was a daily ritual that they had learned together once the disease was properly diagnosed down at the Church Health Center. Some folks said that DaLisa should put Anniebelle in the home, so she could get proper care. “As long as I’m able, she ain’t going nowhere”, mused DaLisa to herself for the hundredth time. Her grandma had taken her in and raised her right….God fearing and humble…and she would stick with her until the end. They had just recently traveled to the North South Fellowship with other church members. Oh what a time they had! The annual event was held in Biloxi this time and the folks from Milwaukee and Detroit had been the ones to travel far away from home this year. They ate and sang and praised God until all two hundred of them were filled with the spirit of the Lord. As the chartered buses pulled away to take the visitors back up north, Anniebelle had thanked the Lord for the church and the fellowship that they enjoyed with other members from all over the country.

“Ouch!” Anniebelle shouted. She had never gotten used to the prick of her finger that drew blood to check her sugar on that little machine. The folks at the center had showed her and DaLisa how to do that and give the insulin. “One oh four” said DaLisa. “Lawd, thank you” said Anniebelle. Her sugar had been jumping around like a jackrabbit lately and this was mighty fine news. Next came the insulin shot, which was nothing compared to that finger prick. She was almost out of the drug, and would get some more when her check came in a few days. Anniebelle eased up onto her walker and made her way to the kitchen. Breakfast was bacon and homemade biscuits with some fried eggs. She had taught DaLisa to cook when she was just a little girl, and now the younger girl did most of the cooking for the two of them. DaLisa finished up the dishes quickly, and got her uniform on for work. Her job at the nursing home supplied just enough income for the two of them to get by coupled with Anniebelle’s social security. Anniebelle settled into her favorite chair to watch the weather on her tiny TV. “Girl. You be careful out there” she said to her babygirl. “This storm looks like it’s gonna be a bad one”. “I will Mamaw” DaLisa replied. “You know I’ve got a healthy respect for them”.

The wind was already blowing like crazy with Catalina just off the coast and the rain was moving in sheets, sideways. As DaLisa waited for her bus at the shelter, she worried that her Mamaw would be alone that day. Neighbors checked in now and then to make sure she hadn’t fallen, but for the most part Anniebelle spent her days reading the Bible and watching her stories on TV. The church had recently purchased a wheelchair for Anniebelle as her arthritis was making it increasingly difficult to get around on that walker. The bus pulled up to the shelter and DaLisa stepped onto the first step. Urgently, she stepped back down and headed home. Something told her that Mamaw didn’t need to weather this storm alone.

“Child! What are you doing back here?” Anniebelle exclaimed. “You know old Miz
Jones will be wondering where you are!”. DaLisa explained to her Mamaw that she was
concerned about the intensity of the storm and that she was going to stay with her that
day. “Okay, then. I’ll feel better with you here anyhow.” They passed the day playing
hearts and rummy and watching the hurricane ease closer to landfall on the news. By
nightfall it was obvious that Catalina was headed directly for them. The full wrath of the
storm hit during the night as they held onto each other and prayed. “We’ve done
been through this before” said Anniebelle. “The Lord will keep us safe.” Long about
mid-morning the power went out. DaLisa lit the candles that she had ready and they
begin to talk of the past as the wind and rain whipped their little house. “I sure do hope
your Momma’s okay, wherever she is” said Anniebelle. “I could care less Mamaw” said
DaLisa with hatred in her voice. “She ran off and left us on our own”. “Now baby, you
know what the Good Book says about that” Anniebelle crooned. Both the younger and
older woman still loved Bonita, even though it had been years since they’d heard
from her.

The wind died down but the rain continued. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door.
Who in the world would be out in this kind of weather, they wondered. It was that crazy
old cajun, Claude from down the street. “Miz Anniebelle! Dey say de levee she is
broke!” Claude stammered. “Oh sweet Jesus!” DaLisa exclaimed. She peeked
out the window, and sure enough water was beginning to creep over the streets and into
the yards. “Help me get Mamaw into her wheelchair, Claude” DaLisa instructed. “We
gotta get out of here now!” They gathered up some important papers in their
pocketbooks and by the time they got out to the street the water was already inches deep.
Claude and DaLisa both had hands on the wheelchair and pushed it willfully through the
middle of town. The main highway was not far away…just a few miles. If only they
could make it there, someone would help them.

They trudged along with water rising around their ankles, listening to Anniebelle’s
prayer. “Sweet Jesus, if it’s my time to go please hold my hand until I can see my
beloved Earl’s face once again.” Earl had died ten years ago, and she missed him
something fierce every day all day. Other townsfolks were joining them in their trek
now, as the rain beat against their faces and the wind gusted around them. After what
seemed like days, they finally arrived at the highway which was uphill a bit. Traffic was
lined up for miles as people ran from the rising water. An evacuation order had been sent
out by the Mayor, and it was fight or flight time.

Dennis and Lori were idling in traffic, carefully watching their gas gauge. They had
filled up prior to the storm in anticipation of a hasty departure. “Oh honey, look” Lori
cried as she saw the old woman hunkered down in a wheelchair sheltered by a plastic
tarp. “Why that’s Miss Anniebelle and her granddaughter” Dennis replied. A
general practitioner, Dennis volunteered his time at the Church Health center where
Anniebelle came for her checkups. The women had long since lost Claude when he
peeled off to find his own family. Dennis cracked open the door of his SUV and called
out to them “ Miss Anniebelle…..over here!” Lori jumped out to help with the stowing
of the wheelchair as Dennis lifted Anniebelle gently into the back seat. DaLisa soon
joined her in the dry haven of the luxury vehicle.

Traffic inched along in a caravan as the newfound traveling companions became
acquainted. “We’re headed for my sister’s house in the next parish” said Lori. You’re
welcome to come with us. “Oh thank you so much”, said DaLisa, her voice cracking
with emotion. “I didn’t know what we were going to do.” It was way past midnight
when they finally arrived at Jennifer’s home. She welcomed her sister and brother-in-law
and met their new houseguests. “Your folks are real heroes”, DaLisa said to Jennifer.
She beamed at the girl and replied “ I know! Our Mama and Daddy taught us to take
care of each other, and that includes folks in trouble. I was very fortunate to not get
much damage.”

Jennifer found dry clothes for everyone, and while they were changing she popped the
casserole into the oven to warm. Homemade bread cooled on the counter next to a big
slab of butter and an apple pie. Anniebelle crept down the hallway on her walker to join
the rest of them at the table. “May I say grace?” she asked humbly.”We’d be honored”,
said Dennis. As they bowed their heads, each of them grabbed a hand on the other side.
“ Dear Lord. Thank you for folks like these kind people whom you have provided to us today.” There was a gentle chorus of amens around the table as their hands squeezed each other and they raised their heads.

Anniebelle drifted off to sleep that night wondering if their other hero Claude was safe. She thought about all of the many times that she had thought bad of him for his sinful lifestyle of drinking and gambling. She asked her Lord to forgive her for that, and slept like a lamb with the assurance that He would. He always did.
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