Family’s holiday spirit remains after floodingFor the better part of 60 years, members of the Rode family held Christmas on the same day, with the same people and in the same house. Traditions tweaked with time, but every year included presents, turkey, ham and multiple hands of pinochle.
By: Katie Ryan, The Jamestown Sun
ADRIAN, N.D. — For the better part of 60 years, members of the Rode family held Christmas on the same day, with the same people and in the same house.
Traditions tweaked with time, but every year included presents, turkey, ham and multiple hands of pinochle.
Forty years ago, Doris Rode and her late husband, Paul, would invite their children and the children’s boyfriends, girlfriends, families, etc., to their home. The group of 30 or so would play pinochle until 4 a.m. Christmas Eve and then scatter to couches, floors and wherever space allowed for shut-eye before Santa arrived the next morning.
As children aged and family grew, individual gift-giving became White Elephant exchanges and families drove home instead of spending the night. Grandma and grandpa became great-grandma and great-grandpa and the dining room expanded into multiple tables throughout the house.
And while most years resembled the year before, 2009 will likely look quite different than the Rode Christmas of 2008.
‘Just a building’
Doris Rode had lived in her home 59 years when floodwaters rose this spring. It was the home Paul’s grandparents’ built in 1906 and the home in which she reared her own eight children.
Water penetrated the basement, jeopardizing concrete and infecting walls with mold. The expense to fix the home wasn’t worth its value, so the family, some of them carpenters and construction workers, built anew. Doris evacuated her old home just before Easter and moved into her new home just after Thanksgiving.
But Doris wasn’t the only Rode with water trouble.
Doris is mother to eight, grandmother to 20 and great-grandmother to 10. Of them, her son Loren, grandson, Lucas, and great-grandson, Hudson, all live within half a mile.
The four generations reside along the same gravel road in Adrian, a town of about 50 residents located 30 miles southwest of Jamestown. There, at least seven families suffered flood damage to their homes.
Six inches of floodwater surged the Loren and Pat Rode home located along the river. Since then, the couple gutted and resurfaced floors and walls. They’ve also built a dike around their home to protect from future floods.
Lucas and his wife, Shawna, no longer live in their ranch-style home, located across the street. At its peak, water filled their basement and crept onto the main floor. In the eight months since the flood, the couple and their son, Hudson, have moved four times: once in with family, once in with friends, once in a camping trailer and now, they’ll spend Christmas living in a remodeled barn.
Deemed unliveable, Lucas and Shawna await a decision from the Federal Emergency Management Agency regarding their home. FEMA may buy out the house, but the agency won’t make that decision until March.
The wait is a difficult one for the couple who planned to have more children. A two-bedroom barn with no bathtub isn’t conducive to family building, Lucas said.
“This is too small to try to extend our family out any further,” he said.
Decorating the residence meant new locations for traditional items like stockings. Instead of on the fireplace, stockings were hung on the windowsill with care. Decking the halls also meant out with the old. The flood washed away many of Shawna’s ornaments including an artificial tree she received from her mother. The tree was old and austere, but it reminded her of family.
“It was just her (my mother’s) tree and that was the one I put up,” Shawna said.
Now, Lucas said, the family’s tree is 2 feet tall.
No presents are under it, Shawna said, but not because the tree is too small. Instead, the family keeps the gifts in the closet because two-year-old Hudson doesn’t like waiting to unwrap them.
The decorations are all donations from RAFT, an organization that advocates for disaster victims as well specializes in providing emotional and spiritual guidance.
Despite the decoration devastation, Shawna said she’s looking forward to the holiday.
“I’m just glad that everyone is OK and that we’re all together,” she said,
For Doris, parts of her old house, like siding and appliances, are now part of her new one. She decorated this year, but like her relatives, she lost ornaments as well. Christmas will be different this year, she said, but she’s experienced worse.
She lost a son, Mark, in 2002. The 42-year-old father of two rolled his vehicle on Christmas Eve that year, and died of the injuries he suffered.
No Christmas is as bad as that year, she said.
“In comparison to what we’ve been through, that was the hardest yet,” she said.
She’s situated in her new house now, she said, and looking forward to making new memories.
“I have to look at the old house as just a building,” she said.
Despite her losses, Doris insisted upon hosting Christmas again this year. The year was a tough one, but the holiday doesn’t have to be.
Doris doesn’t have the space she used to, her kitchen table with four chairs isn’t roomy enough for the 40 or so guests she’s expecting Friday. So family and friends will set up tables, chairs and place settings in Doris’ one-car garage.
“It’s time for new traditions in this house,” Lucas said.
That attitude is the right one for families enduring the added stress of flood damage this holiday, said Sandra Rodlund, licensed independent clinical social worker for South Central Dakota Human Services Center.
The holidays are already a stressful time of year, but adding hardships like flood repairs, damaged ornaments and decorations as well as financial struggles can make the season a sorrowful one. Recreating routines and establishing new normals help people grieve and move on, she said.
“There’s a lot of loss with regard to those traditions and memories. …” Rodlund said. “A feeling like people are losing a piece of their history.”
So the Rodes plan to create new customs this year. Instead of the traditional turkey and ham, Doris will serve spare ribs this year, with a Cajun barbecue sauce.
“We’re in a new place, so were going to do something different,” Loren said.
The pinochle, however, that tradition won’t change. The dinner tables in the garage will turn to card tables when the meal is over, the family agreed.
Despite the differences, Lucas said he’s looking forward to the holiday, because he’s hoping for good fortune in the new year. He and Shawna expect to move into a permanent home in 2010, regardless of FEMA assistance.
“One way or another, we’re going to be in a new house next year — on higher ground,” Lucas said.
Friends and neighbors often ask about the home, the flood and its damages. The concern is appreciated, Lucas said, but he looks forward to the day when questions change.
“It’ll be really nice when they’re asking how the new house is,” he said.
For Doris, she said she’ll miss her home. But with the loss and the grief comes a reason to be thankful, she said.
“That we didn’t lose any people,” she said.
“And that ’09 us just about over,” Lucas said.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan can be reached at 701-952-8454
or by e-mail at email@example.com