HARLINGEN — He has what he wants: his family.
The rest are details.
When Tommy Benavides arrived home Tuesday after the storm, he found 11 inches of water standing in some parts of the house, and most of the furniture was ruined.
But the things that mattered most to him hadn’t been touched. His wife Missy and their three sons were just fine, on vacation in Kansas City, Missouri.
“I’m easygoing, I’m optimistic,” said Benavides, 42.
Years of adversity seem to have prepared him for anything that life throws at him, and they have given him a firm perspective on what matters.
“I know what’s important and my family’s important,” he said. “We’re all safe.”
He considered the furniture standing out front, the ruined couch, the books he and his wife Missy have managed to rescue, the water line along the baseboards of the sunken living room. He thought about the work that lay ahead, knocking out walls and replacing the sheetrock throughout the house.
“None of this stuff is important,” he said. “I’ve got my family. I know they love me, I know I love them.”
Still there’s a lot of work to be done, and a rather unusual story arose from his efforts just to get to Harlingen before the rains even started.
The family was on vacation. His wife Missy and their youngest son Frankie, 7, had just returned from Australia where they were visiting family. They’d gone to Kansas City to see more relatives and Benavides had met them there. But in the course of the visit he became a little concerned about the work piling up at his place of employment at Veterans Affairs. He decided to head home on Monday before there was any mention of rain.
“I flew down to Dallas, Dallas to Houston,” he said. “In Houston the flight was delayed, and delayed some more. Finally we get on the plane, and then they said, ‘Alright get off the plane.’ And then they said, ‘Alright get back on the plane.’”
The flight made it to Corpus Christi and then flew three or four big circles without landing. That’s when he learned about the huge storm cell just north of Harlingen.
“All the weather patterns, the simulations that they ran, showed the system was going to move south,” he said. “But it just stayed. They said it had contracted and expanded and that’s all it did. It didn’t move anywhere. So they flew us back to Houston.”
The rest of the flights to Harlingen were canceled for the night, so he slept in the airport and boarded a plane the next morning. He arrived in Harlingen at about 10 a.m. and took a taxi home.
“I walk in and I’ve got a sunken living room so all the water was still pooled,” he said. “The rest of the house was still soggy. It was still pooled here and there. All the carpets were still soaked. The dog beds were soaked, but the dog was fine.”
The family dog, a pug named Habibi, seemed to have the same upbeat attitude Friday morning as Benavides, running around and greeting visitors. She had more room to play in because so much of the furniture had been moved to a den the family affectionately calls the “Great Room.”
His wife Missy quickly joined him back in Harlingen after learning of the damage. She was too emotional to speak much about the damage. She did say she was glad they got flood insurance after the deluge that occurred last year. She was concerned about a friend whose insurance didn’t kick in until Wednesday, two days after the storm.
And the insurance is a bit of a mystery to Benavides.
“A lot of it’s my inexperience,” he said. “I really don’t know a lot about this stuff. I don’t even know what the phrase ‘total loss’ means.”
As far as Benavides is concerned, there is no total loss when his family is safe. And he’s got friends who are helping him and Missy with the cleanup.
He is trying to do some of it himself, and he drove to Lowe’s Friday to purchase tools and materials based on the recommendations of those in the know.
“I think we’re going to start doing demos,” he said. “I think that’s the plan, tearing out the walls and the floors and things like that. I don’t know about the floors. We have to run that by the adjuster.”
Yesterday morning, he said things were going “slowly but surely.”
Taking it all in stride, that seems to be the Benavides way.