Friday, June 20, 2008

Floods, Bad Knees & Gettin' Old

The last few weeks have been trying for many people in the middle western U.S. The late spring weather has brought havoc to large portions of Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana among other states. Currently Iowa and points south are still suffering the brunt of flooding resulting from drenching rains.

Indiana had its own round of tornadoes and unprecedented rains. The last really soaking rain that ran its course through central Indiana poured as much as eleven inches of precipitation in some communities. Here on the south side of Indy we got around seven inches of it.

My wife and I have been in our current home since January of 1994. It is a very typical one level ranch style home wrapped in Bedford limestone, which is fairly ubiquitous in this neck of the woods. It has a full basement which is wholly finished including Berber carpeting in the rec room. The home was built in 1961. It has always and ever been dry.

At around noon Saturday, June 15th it had been raining pretty much steadily since late Friday evening. My wife noted that water in one of our three sump pits was rising. The pump in that pit has never functioned. I was concerned, but didn't really know what to make of it.

Suddenly, I heard my wife exclaim "Oh my god!" Water came gushing up through both of the basement's floor drains. Within seconds the water was pouring across a portion of our rec room into the laundry area. We soon discovered that water was also spouting up and out of another sump pit with the pump sitting submerged in silent stillness. At its peak, we had something like two to three inches of water eagerly flowing across this portion of the basement. It lasted for perhaps as long as an hour, subsiding only sometime after the rain finally abated outside.

While the apparent flow was limited to a relatively small section of the basement, when we started checking around, it became apparent that water had been absorbed into all but the furthest reaches of the carpet. After about three days of endless vacuuming with super-sucker wet/dry vacs and a half dozen fans, including two borrowered actual carpet fans, blowing air continuously making the basement sound like some kind of factory, we gave up the ghost. The carpet was a total loss. It stunk. Had we pulled it out within the first 24 hours and gotten rid of the pad, we may have had a chance of saving it, but that's not what we did.

Now, before you sit back and say: "Well, boo-hoo. You lost some friggin carpeting. Big friggin deal! Thousands of people have lost everything: their homes, their cars, most, if not all, of their other personal belongings, their businesses, their jobs. Some have even lost loved ones. So who gives a rat's ass about your friggin Berber carpet? Well, yeah, I'll give you that. Our carpeting is a piddling loss by comparison.

I guess the point of this is that, while we lost relatively little, it still represented a major glitch in our lives. We have always lived pretty close to the vest, having little in the way of reserves or disposable income. We cannot replace the carpet. Given that, I cannot imagine what it must be like for those who have, in fact, lost it all; those who are living in some middle school gym or sleeping on a grandparent's living room floor; those whose jobs are gone and no money coming in. No prospects. No insurance. FEMA, in its typical fashion, moving slower than the Mississippi in the dry season.

With all the unsettled weather here and elsewhere, even a rare midwest earthquake a few weeks ago, my wife likened the world to a large dog shaking back and forth trying to rid itself of us "fleas." I make no claims about this stretch of weather being symptomatic of global warming. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But thousands of people are reeling in despair and disbelief. Global warming is the least of their concerns. Some may succumb to that despair. Most will ultimately prevail, but it will likely take at best, months, and for some, years to get their lives back on any kind of meaningfully normal track.

Fortunately for us my younger son flew in from Florida on Wednesday and did the lion's share of work in pulling out the wet, stinking carpet and pad, and doing much of the clean up. To further complicate things, I had had surgery early the Monday after the flood on my ailing left knee. For the next several days, while there was untold work to be done, I was hobbling around on crutches and eating Vicadin. My wife assisted our son as best she could, but she has some of her own health issues which limits her as well. I can't begin to describe just what a life saver our son's presence has been.

I am now on the cusp of my "old fartdom." All of the above events have been unsettling at best. What has been hardest for me to absorb is that owing to my age and still relatively minor, but nevertheless escalating, infirmities, I can no longer take part in the day to day maintenance of our home, our lives, at least not as I have always been able to do. It is my first time feeling, at least to a degree, impotent. Not in the sexual sense, but in the sense of being an adult, and, yes, being a man. It was killing not to be able to dig into the mess and do my part in making it right. It's a helpless, disturbingly emasculating feeling.

What makes it perhaps more difficult is the knowledge that time will continue to take its toll, that we will continue to decline physically, perhaps mentally over the coming years. I don't obsess about this. I don't dwell on it with any constancy, but recent events have had the effect of bringing it all to the surface. It's always there at my finger tips, as it were. Little reminders: a twinge here, a forgotten name there.

I am reasonably confident that I will recover adequately from the knee surgery (just a scope and clean out, not a replacement) in due time resulting in a bit less pain and a bit more mobility. I'm not ready for a permanent spot confined to a wheel chair staring out the window of a nursing home cubicle as the world continues moving onward without me. That day may perhaps come, but not yet. Not just yet.

I intend to stave off this aging process, and remain active and effective in keeping my house and home and my family as safe from harm as any one person can hope to. It will require of me a concerted effort and, I'm sure, a great deal of mental and emotional strength. At this juncture I don't know that I have those in great enough supply. I guess we'll see, won't we?

I hope to take heart in the dauntless spirit of those who have lost so much more than we, those who will persevere and rebuild their lives from their catastrophic losses as so many have done since the devastation of Katrina. I also take heart in the selfless, loving and tireless efforts of my son in this instance, and from the love, gentleness, intelligence, enthusiasm for learning and the creative energy of both of my sons, and my wife as well, who has hung in there with emotional strength and humor.


No comments: