Where do I even start?
For the past month, we’ve been preparing and gathering items together like bears gearing up for hibernation. The idea was to get enough food and supplies in the house to last several weeks so that when the worst of the virus surge hit, we’d be all snug and cozy in our safe place, with no need to go anywhere. During that time, our internal environment was pristine as no outsider has stepped foot into our house. The way we choreographed this was working to perfection. Then we had the flood.
Last Saturday was a nice spring day, warm but breezy. Showers were forecast for most of this week, so the idea was to seed the areas of our new lawn that had bare spots or were torn up the one time the driveway was plowed. K spread the seed, and I covered the areas with straw, then watered the areas so the wind wouldn’t blow the stuff all over the place. This kind of work is hard for me because I have to keep contorting my body to stay in a position on a surface that is not level, and is very lumpy and bumpy, so my balance stays centered and I won’t fall. By the time I got to the last section that needed the straw, a section directly outside the entrance to the downstairs apartment, my body was protesting. All I wanted was to finish the task ASAP, so I spread the straw, hooked the hose up to the outside valve, then grabbed the hose to water everything down.
As I was watering, I noticed the water pressure wasn’t the same as the last time we used that hose last fall, but didn’t think twice about it because I wanted to be done. The task took about ten minutes, then I shut off the hose, rolled it back in place, put everything else back in the garage, and dragged my carcass inside. After changing, I grabbed a beer, sat in my favorite chair, and got ready to relax for the rest of the day, which began by helping clean the house. I was spent, but content in knowing that I can still be useful, and was looking forward to enjoying the rest of the day now that everything on the to-do list was done. Some time later, the phone rang.
It was my mother-in-law, who said, in so many words, that she just stepped in a large pool of water and that it was all over the place. My initial thought was, “are you kidding me?” The second was an understanding of why the water pressure coming out of the hose was compromised, and all I could think of was “Oh Shit!”
K and I rushed downstairs, and entered the apartment through the basement. As we looked to our right up the hallway, we could see that water covered half of the hallway, and it was deep enough in some places, maybe a quarter to half inch, that you could float a kids toy on it. Instinct took over, and we shut off the water going to that valve, grabbed the large wet/dry vacuum we purchased during the construction process, grabbed every towel and rag that we could find, and started getting the water off the floor. By the time we were done, I had to empty the vacuum container twice. It was filled to capacity once, and was half-filled when we were finished. It’s a good thing that the water leading to the valve was on for just an hour, maybe less, otherwise it would have been much worse.
One entire bedroom floor, the one next to the outside valve, was covered and so was the bedroom closet. The water drained from the pipe and down to the floor, left the room and slowly meandered to the lowest point on the floor before we shut it off, which took it outside that bedroom, into the entrance of the second bedroom, down the hallway, and into the opening of the television nook. It was under beds, sofas, and tables. The entire process took maybe an hour as adrenaline took over.
Afterwards, when the job was completed, the realization of what just occurred set in, and I was livid, sad, discouraged, depressed……you name it, I was feeling it. I mean this is a brand new house! We’ve only been living here for six months. How can this possibly happen? If things aren’t bad enough with the virus, and the fact that it has depressed the real estate market so much that I fear it might take until next year to sell the old place, now we have to deal with this?
After calling our insurance company (thankfully there were no issues there), we had a mitigation team downstairs in less than two days. After using their moisture meters to isolate which walls got the worst of it and where all the moisture was, they cut out a two foot section of sheetrock in the affected areas starting from the floor going up, removed the insulation, then removed maybe a third of the brand new hardwood floor, which was necessary because some areas had started to buckle, and we needed to remove any residual water that may lay beneath it so we wouldn’t have to worry about mold growing.
Once the team was done, they left a handful industrial sized dehumidifiers on for three days. Then the plumber came. Long story short, the valve for the outside water that caused the issue is on the north side of the house. Even though we removed all the hoses and shut off the water going to that valve before winter, and even though it was not a cold, frigid winter, water apparently remained in the valve, froze, expanded and ruptured the pipe leading to it when we turned the water on. Chalk this up to fact that they don’t make parts like they used to, even if was made of copper. We know what to do to prevent this from happening in the future, but at this point who cares?
So we are back in construction mode. The walls are exposed, the floor is ripped up, and the place is unlivable. My mother-in-law has moved upstairs with us and will stay there until all the repairs have been completed, hopefully within the next three to four weeks. The pipe and outside faucet have been replaced, and the insulation guys have already come and done their thing. Then come the sheet-rockers, followed by the flooring folks, who have the hardest job of the bunch. Their task is to repair the concrete subfloor (it was gouged in a variety of places when they had to remove and in some cases chisel the planks off the floor), remove the glue then refit new tongue and groove flooring into the pieces that weren’t touched, and make it look like none of this ever happened. Then the walls get repainted before major cleaning commences.
The worst part of the whole thing is that we were all set up. We had our stuff, and our environment was secure. Now we have workman coming in and out of the place, and I am sure they are just as happy to be here as we are having them. We’ve lost control of the environment, and have to do the best we can as far as safety measures are concerned. At least we have the ability to clear the downstairs out and have the workman there by themselves, until they need to see K, that is. Remember, she was the general contractor as the house was being built, and knows where everything is. She’s also a bit of a germophobe, so you don’t have to guess very hard to figure out how thrilled she is with this.
I was ready to write and vent my spleen last Sunday, when this was all fresh, and was I was filled with despair and anguish, but decided not too because I’d sound like an unhinged crazy man. The rawness of the event has subsided, but the wounds are still fresh. I want to rail against fate, and ask things like why us? When are we going to catch a break? When is this dark cloud that feels like it has been hovering overhead going to leave?
But I don’t because life isn’t fair, and because I don’t want to tempt fate. The Gods are not kind or benevolent, and with our luck, they would sneer at us and say, “you think things are bad, let us give you something to really complain about,” and one of us comes down with the virus. I don’t want go there, so I grit my teeth and try to look on the bright side. We are all healthy, and as long as it stays that way and we emerge safe from this entire ordeal, we can cope with this, as badly as it sucks.
Intellectually, I know that day will come, and believe we will look back on this with a mixture of humor, awe and gratitude that we survived. But emotionally? It’s really hard to see the light at the end of that long, dark tunnel.