By Hannah Reich Berman

It has been nine weeks–or 64 days, to be precise–since Hurricane Sandy roared into town and did a number on us. A great many people continue, in various ways, to suffer from the effects of the incredible floods brought by the storm. Some folks are back in their homes but are living without walls while renovations go on. Countless other families haven’t gotten even that far and are still not living in their homes. In some cases, parents are living with adult children, and, in the absence of close family members living locally, others are staying with friends or more distantly related family.

Those of us who were fortunate enough to move back into our homes after a few weeks feel deeply for the displaced souls among us. The overriding emotion is frustration, which is due to our inability to do very much for them. We call these people and commiserate with them, we take them out to lunch or dinner, and we make purchases for them in an attempt to replace some of their lost items. But we can’t alter the fact that what they want most of all is to be back in their homes. For those of us who feel so sorry for them, it’s a helpless feeling.

This is not to say that we don’t face some issues of our own. This speaks not necessarily to the expenditure of money, although there is more than enough of that! There seems to be no end to the amount of money that we continue to shell out. And many people, those who were not properly covered by insurance nor adequately compensated by FEMA, are having trouble. Initially, some people received payments from FEMA that appeared to be generous, but as time passes we see things differently. Those who thought that the amount of money we received would cover everything now realize just how wrong we were.

The difficulty we face is that, although “things” can be replaced, there is, for some of us, an emotional component. Personally, I’m still in my three-month aveilus for my old car. We–that car and I–were together for nine years. No joke! Our relationship lasted longer than some marriages. Additionally, I’m mourning the loss of the clothing that was stored in my flooded basement. The water that roared in, after knocking down the basement door and simultaneously ripping the doorframe, had to have come from the ocean. It came complete with eels and water snakes. The only thing missing was a lifeguard. And based on the depth of the water, I could have used one.

The loss of my own property was upsetting enough, but some of what was in the basement belonged to my children who left clothing behind when they moved out. They may have left the house and married, but they never gave me permission to dispose of a single item. What’s odd about it is that not one of them would actually have considered wearing any of those clothes again. Some of the items were 15 years old or more! Still, my kids had me holding on to skirts and jackets that they wore as teenagers! But then, why not? As long as it didn’t clutter up their homes they didn’t care how long their old clothes took up space in my place. It may have been a case of sentimentality. What else would account for it?

My clothing, on the other hand, falls into a different category. I’m not quite so fancy. I have no problem wearing something that I bought years ago. So the loss of my clothes was a practical one.

But there is another type of loss, one that is less easily explained. I am still mourning the loss of my basement as it once was. But that sadness is for a rather unusual reason. It’s because I realize that if Hubby returned, he would no longer recognize the basement of the house we shared. I know he isn’t returning to me in the physical sense, but, if he did return, he would be totally shocked and disoriented since he never saw the basement as it is today. Gone is the wall paneling, along with the tiled floor, the bar, and the barstools. What I now have is a cement and cinderblock cellar!

True, the paneling was put in sometime in the 1960s so it wasn’t exactly what could be termed state of the art. And we had not used the bar or the stools in close to 25 years. But that is irrelevant. It’s an emotional disturbance, which has nothing to do with reality. Although I’m not certain why it should bother me, it does. I’ve decided that if I get lucky and Hubby should walk back in the door, I won’t let him anywhere near the basement.

The car is another story. It was my car that got lost in the flood, not Hubby’s. So it wouldn’t take him long to adjust to the newer model and brighter color of my recently acquired Camry. Hubby wouldn’t care one way or the other that my old one is gone, so the nostalgia for it is strictly my own. That’s the way it is! v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.


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