I was in my neighborhood grocery last week when a slightly older gentleman came up to me and asked, “Is your name Ed Pratt?”
That has happened a couple of times before, and it usually makes me nervous. I normally brush it off by joking: “No, I’m not him, but does he owe you any money?”
If the person laughs, I admit who I am and continue the conversation. If they don’t laugh, then my next response is very measured. But in this case the guy laughed and said he remembered from me the time I used to write for The Digest, the campus newspaper at Southern University in Baton Rouge. I last wrote for that paper in November of 1975.
I was impressed. But, then I thought, maybe he had remembered me because my writing was so bad.
He said he'd liked my work. As we talked a little about those days and people we knew from back in the day, we got to the part that a lot of conversations get to these days in Baton Rouge. “You know, I had three feet of water in my house after the flood,” he said.
He added that he had just returned to his almost complete house. At that point I know I’ll have to answer the question, knowing the response to my answer will make me cringe.
The great flood of August 2016, responsible for damaging thousands of homes in southeast Louisiana, resulted in me eventually taking up carpets in several bedrooms. That’s it.
Of course, I’m happy that I was basically spared the trauma that more than 100 families in my neighborhood dealt with. But almost automatically, when I say that was all I had, the response I get from most folk is, “You were blessed.” Then that starts the religious- philosophical questions that I wrestle with.
Does that mean that my neighbors who have done everything to help people all of their lives and the same neighbor who helped get me, my wife and my neighbors out of rising waters, were not blessed because their houses received several feet of water?
This questioning bothers me every time I hear it. I have not asked my minister or any theologians to weigh in, but I look for the answer.
I told the guy in the store about my difficulty with what he had said. At first he seemed stunned, but soon he said, “I kind of see what you’re talking about.”
I explained that it’s like the obnoxious football wide receiver who says God blessed him with a touchdown catch while apparently looking away from the defensive back who has paid for several children to have transplant surgeries.
About two days after that conversation, my wife and I noticed water seeping from areas around our house where there shouldn’t be any water. We looked and looked and couldn’t find a source.
Soon my house was invaded by big loud machines that can suck water through the floors and blow dry other stuff. The plumber came out to take a look around and quickly located the source of the water. He hoped it’s the only source. Me, too.
The result was my wife and I had to take turns leaving work to meet repair people. We also had to go without running water for 23 hours a day for four days. The latter can do stuff to you. Then having to deal with the roar of eight water-sucking and drying devices non-stop for four days was tough.
By the time you read this, the plumbing issue will hopefully be repaired, and I will be left to patch a couple of holes in my house.
Some religious folks might say I talked my way into my situation by questioning my “blessing.” Maybe it was a warning? There are others who will blame Karma. Still, what we’ve had to deal with recently is nothing compared to the life-changing horrors that my neighbors, many who are some of the best people you’ll ever meet, had to endure.
There are those who might say that I have risked my “blessing” by raising questions. I’ll accept it.
I will also accept it when people say I was blessed that my house didn’t flood, but I will continue to let my feelings be known about it.
And, of course I’ll take my moment to cringe.
Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman who writes a weekly Advocate column, at email@example.com.