Confession No. 145 — Bleach, pork and beans, and an overflow of tears

Strawberry fields really are forever. And it was here that I cried today over a gallon of bleach, a couple cans of pork and beans — and a slew of wonderful people.

Catherine and I were headed to the grocery store to find some food and cleaning supplies when she diverted our trip.

‘A lot of the stores are out of bleach,’ she told me as she passed our turn. ‘I’m going to a drop-off center in Kemah to see if they have some cleaning supplies.’

If your house has ever been flooded, you know that a truckload of bleach is barely enough to make it safe again for habitation. When that same home begins to take another bath — this time in raw sewage — it takes much more.

‘Hug me,’ Catherine said, as she noticed I was breaking.

With all of our drywall in pieces at the curb, we began to toss books, collector toys and even some valuable mementos. Catherine was working the front of the house. I was working the rear. And then the flow started seeping through a pipe joint in our exposed walls.

All we could do was plug in the wet-vac and get busy. Catherine, who has a much stronger gag reflex than me, worked in the thick of it. I moved fans and began spraying a germ-killing concoction. Even several hours after the cleanup, our house still smells like a sewer plant from which the workers are on strike.

‘You go in there,’ I said to her as we pulled into the crowded parking lot at Strawberry Fields of Learning, a private early childhood prep school on Marina Bay Drive.

I’ve never been a receiver … always the person on the giving end. No way did I want to be seen lugging bleach to the car. As I sat in the passenger seat, I updated my social media status to shout out to my circle that there was a donation drop-off center that was getting more givers than takers. It was a wonderful sight worthy of talking about.

‘So you got bleach and trash bags?’ I asked Catherine as she opened the back door. ‘We were only looking for cleaning chemicals.’
‘They are extremely nice,’ my wife said. ‘They told me to not be shy.’

And with that, she walked back toward the school-turned-hurricane relief center. I couldn’t help but to yank the keys from the ignition and follow her back inside. Admittedly, I did so with my tail between my legs.

After picking up some much-needed baby wipes and deodorant, I had to find the quietest corner and pause. I’ve cried perhaps five times in the last 40 years. Today was the second time in three days that I was overtaken.


North Carolina loves Texas. And we love them back.

‘Hug me,’ Catherine said, as she noticed I was breaking.

And we embraced. Right there. Both of us cried tears of hurt and joy.

‘These people came all the way to North Carolina,’ Catherine whispered in my ear, knowing I was staring at a truck and attached horse trailer. ‘They drove all night to help us.’

My tears then began to flow uncontrollably — much like the water that ruined our home just a few days earlier.

‘I’ve never been the guy who received,’ I confessed through tears to Randi Fowler Whitney, Strawberry Fields’ owner. ‘I need to be here helping others.’

I’d stammered through the past week, keeping my head up and cracking jokes, while my home and many of its contents had been reduced to waste. Who knew that a donation of bleach, some baby wipes, a couple cans of pork and beans and a crew from North Carolina would help me to (finally) throw my hands up and surrender to the kindness of people?

But that’s exactly what happened.

Catherine and I have had plenty of heroes during this whole Harvey hell. Randi and a family of wonderful people from North Carolina are the latest.

‘We saw what was going on and we started loading up donations,’ Dana Brewer, a North Carolina resident told me. ‘We finally had to tell people that we had no more room in our trailer.’

What she didn’t mention was that they also rented (with their own money) a U-Haul, all so that we could break away from our tears and try to get back to normal.

I don’t even know whether Dana Brewer and her family are Tarheels, Blue Devils or members of the Wolfpack. But I do know that they are angels.

Strawberry Fields Forever … And North Carolina too.


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  1. A beautiful story of some really beautiful people — especially Adam and Catherine!

  2. I wish I had words for you… knew what to say… thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings so eloquently.

  3. Adam. You’re passing the test of your life. And I’m thankful you have Catherine walking it with you. Thanks for letting us follow you.
    Still praying. Many times during the day.

    • adamjholland says:

      I’m not sure that I’m passing, Jill. Just trying to maintain and hopefully leave a footprint or two. These last several days have shown me that there are great people in this world. Lots of them. Thank you for your prayers. I hope that you’ll be in our neck of the woods some day so that I can hug you in person. 🙂

  4. I don’t think anything or anyone could understand the pain this is to go through unless youve been there. I love the fact how Texas pulled together and others to help. Florida in 2004 not so much. We lost of roof to Frances and before it could be repaired Jeanne took the rest of the house including contents the pool over flowed into the house sewers. Wall and ceiling fell. Its a freaking nightmare and I so feel you pain. I hate the thought of going through it again and here come Erma! All I can say is time everything gets replaced its inconvient yes but are lives were changed for ever but at least we have one. Love to all wished I can make it all go away and be 9 months from now when it will be all ok but its takes a ton of time and people from other states to rebuild what is lost. my love, thoughts and prayers to all of you… kind regards Claudia

    • adamjholland says:

      I seem to remember a lot of price gouging surrounding those Florida storms. I remember hoping that those people would be arrested and put out of business. Our roof still stands (knock on wood), but the tornado on night 2 of Harvey pretty much destroyed one car, did major damage to the Jimmy Rockford, and tore up the back of my wife’s car. It did a little roof damage on the house, but most of the damage is from the floor up the walls. ~ No doubt this will take plenty of time, if for no other reason than there are thousands upon thousands of people who lost everything. At this moment, there are wind damage adjusters in my attic. Someone from the mortgage company showed up yesterday (not sure why). We had no flood insurance, so are awaiting FEMA inspectors. Also, auto/RV adjusters have yet to arrive. Recovery will be anything but cut and dry.

  5. I am just catching up today and am heartbroken for you. There are just no words. (Except thank goodness for your neighbors, both next door and the ones from across the country.)

  6. I have very little words, only tears.

    Much love to you and Catherine. Your strength as a family is evident, and I’ll keep praying for all of you.

  7. Blessed is the gracious receiver of gifts. You and Catherine will rise again to help and encourage others. Please take your time to heal, eat good food fixed by friends as you would cook for them, and keep telling these stories, please.

  8. You know Adam, you responded to my last comment with the thoughts of wanting to give back. Not sure that you realize you are. With your heartfelt posts and your belief in humanity-that alone gives all of us hope. You have suffered with dignity and grace and I’m not sure anyone could do much better. I’ve always believed that everyone has a story. It’s how we choose to write it that speaks the most. I think you are telling it very well. Peace, my friend.

    • Abbe, I couldn’t agree with you more!! Well said. They’re officially my heroes.

    • adamjholland says:

      I know I throw around the word ‘kind’ like it’s nothing, but you (and many others) have offered such very kind sentiments. I’ve always surrounded myself with good people. What I didn’t realize was that most people are good. I guess I bought all of the hype about the world going to pot. — It’s always a blessing to see your comments, Abbe. Thank you.

  9. Adam:
    I have been keeping up on your struggle.
    I thank God that you and your family are well and unharmed.
    This isn’t enough though.
    I want to help.
    If you will be kind as to send me your address, then I want to send you something to help out.
    Please allow me to do this.


  1. […] In one case, an elderly neighbor who speaks no English appeared at our door to help us clean. Others have slipped us checks and gift cards, or meals big enough to feed an army. An old classmate even contacted me and told me that she was coming to bring stuff and that her husband was driving his car here for me to borrow. Of course, there’s also Mario and Linda, and the the bleach… […]

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