‘‘Irene took more than six months out of my life,’’ said Ben, 49, who lost his marketing job during the recession and oversaw most of the repairs himself. ‘‘We have no idea how long this recovery will take.’’
Kim, 48, who works in financial services in New York, grew up in this house on Harbor View, with its sweeping views of Peck’s Ledge lighthouse and Long Island Sound. Ben grew up nearby.
They love the close-knit community of about 100 homes, many of them charming cottages dating to the early 1900s, where everyone knows everyone and ‘‘high tide Friday’’ socials at the clubhouse (where the couple were married in 1994) are a staple of summer. They can’t imagine raising their 5-year-old son, Matt, anywhere else.
‘‘The whole reason we stayed in this house was to preserve it for the family,’’ Ben said on a recent frigid morning as he surveyed the darkened shell of his first floor while waiting for yet another visit from a building inspector.
But disasters are taking their toll.
The 1908 house belongs to Kim’s mother, Barbara Borden, who splits her time between Florida and Connecticut. Before the storm, the couple had intended buying it from her. They own a house across the road, which they rent out, and which was one of the few houses in the community not damaged by Sandy.
Now, all plans are on hold as they rent a house nearby and try to figure out their future. Do they stay in Kim’s childhood home and raise and reinforce it, or move into their own home? Do they even want to live as close to the water anymore?
‘‘There are a lot of complicated family discussions we need to have,’’ Kim says.
In a strange way, they say, it helps that they are not alone. Many neighboring homes were badly damaged too, and the neighborhood is still jammed with Dumpsters and cleanup crews amid the boarded-up houses. In the first week, the Red Cross swept in with buckets and mops, firefighters brought food, and a busload of volunteers from a church in Tennessee mucked out homes. Neighbors whose homes were spared cooked hot dinners for those whose homes were flooded.
The goodwill goes a long way in persuading the Cesares to stay.
But questions persist — about costs, security and whether, as some suggest, massive coastal flooding has become the new normal.
Ben, for one, can’t bear the thought of another year of ‘‘living in a permanent state of reconstruction,’’ as he navigates insurance claims and small business loans and FEMA assistance.
‘‘I'm incredibly attached to this place, and when I'm here with Al the electrician and Dan the plumber and it’s all activity, I feel I'm making progress,’’ he said.
But when they leave, and he is alone in his dark and damaged house with his doubts about the future, ‘‘I confess I look around and feel pretty depressed.’’
— By Helen O'Neill.
Ever since Tommy Cramer’s home was destroyed more than a month ago, it has been hard to move forward.
Cramer and his wife, Irene, live in Lavallette, N.J. The island where the town sits only recently allowed residents full access.
While staying with his sister in Toms River, N.J., the Cramers looked and looked for a rental apartment. It has been incredibly difficult amid immense competition, but they knew it would bring a return to some type of normalcy. ‘‘If anything it’s going to be a mental thing to help us move on,’’ Tommy said as the search dragged on.
Adding to the sense of dislocation, the Cramers have been separated from their dog, Opus, who has been staying with friends.
‘‘We used to do certain things like our walks in the morning, and he hasn’t walked since it happened,’’ Tommy said. ‘‘That’s the big thing. Get him back to not waking up in a stranger’s house.’’
He and his wife were able to clean out their house, which had five feet of water in it, a few weeks ago. They disinfected it, but didn’t feel they were making significant progress because for weeks the town only allowed residents in on designated days. Tommy is disabled and can’t lift more than 30 pounds; Irene helps with heavier lifting on weekends.
‘‘Every week is better, but every week you end up with different problems,’’ he said. ‘‘We do the best we can.’’
The feeling is all too familiar for the Cramers. Last year, they had to move out of their home for nine weeks after Hurricane Irene. They did learn some lessons: This time they are going to have professionals replace the sheetrock walls, and they will try to save money by putting in their own kitchen cabinets.
Last week the Cramers finally got the news they were waiting for: They found a furnished rental apartment in Bradley Beach, N.J.Continued...