DC has been getting a LOT of rain.
My sister came to visit a week ago, and we had grand plans to go to the pool and the zoo and on all sorts of fun adventures. Instead, we’ve been stuck inside having marathon dance parties and playing laser tag. Even for two girls from Oregon, this rain was too much.
Wednesday night, I invited over a few friends for some food and a break from the rain-filled monotony of the day. It was pouring. The kids ran around playing laser tag and we drank wine, marveling at the intensity of the rainstorm. I think I was in the middle of looking up “flaming juggling pins” (yes, I can juggle, and we thought this might be a useful thing for me to own) when a big group of kids came up from the basement. They were screaming. “There’s water pouring in everywhere!” they all seemed to yell simultaneously.
I sent the kids to get towels and I went outside to investigate. I tied up my long dress and put on my boots and my raincoat, but it didn’t matter – within 30 seconds, I was soaked to the bone. My friend Josh came outside too, and together we bailed water away from the house. Soon, other adults joined us, but try as we might, the amount of water coming in to the house was much more than the amount we could move away.
I’m sure I was swearing, though I was too wrapped up in the situation to make much sense. “God,” I said out loud, to no one in particular, “I really miss Shawn.”
Shawn would have been the one who dealt with the rain, the flooding, and all of the aftermath. I know because in 12 years of home ownership I never once did anything besides assist him. In fact, I remember one day many years ago when I had 4 or 5 little kids over and the basement started flooding. Did I try and unclog the drain or re-route the gutters? No. I called Shawn at work and he left his job and came home to fix the drain.
I feel the need to point out here that I am a decently empowered woman, and have always been. I can take charge of almost any group of people and I know that I can solve problems. But the house – and specifically issues related to water – were just not my domain.
So when I found myself bailing out my basement stairwell in Wednesday evening, I felt grief on top of all of the frustration. I had no idea what I was doing, and I had no idea how to make things better. Everyone else was trying to help, but it was not their house. Finally, my friend Brian showed up with a plunger and we dug out as much debris as we could and somehow, we got the drain beside the basement unclogged. Everyone was soaked.
It was only the beginning. The basement still had a ton of water in it, and the Shop Vac couldn’t quite get it all up. I was supposed to go out and have drinks with friends, but clearly I couldn’t leave. Because if there’s one thing Shawn made sure to emphasize throughout our marriage, it was the importance of keeping water out of the basement.
I spent the evening rotating between using the Shop Vac, drinking wine with my friends who had relocated to my house, and dealing with the mass quantity of laundry. I also texted my friend Cathy. The year prior, Shawn had helped her with water issues, and so I asked her if she kept any information he sent her. She immediately forwarded the email that Shawn had sent her. I read it before bed that night, and it tore at my heartstrings. It’s not like it said anything earth shattering, and it’s not like I haven’t re-read other emails he sent to me throughout our many years together. It’s just that the email was so HIM. Here’s an excerpt:
I would also strongly recommend finding ways to divert as much water away from your home as possible. The closer the water from your gutters outputs near your house, the more pressure it puts on all the other water already in the ground (hydrostatic pressure), and it is probably a key reason that water is forcing itself into your home through the basement toilet.
I mean, he uses the term “hydrostatic pressure” in an email to a friend! God, it was like he was here.
Except he wasn’t. It was just me, cleaning up the next morning and trying to figure out how to solve the water issue for good. I had a moment – okay, I had many moments – where I was like, “how the hell am I going to fix this?” and then I would feel immediately defeated. I just don’t know how to do stuff like this, you know?
I did remember how great my friends were Wednesday night, and I did think about how my kids had been flexible when I wasn’t able to deal with them at bedtime. So, that made me feel a little bit better. Still, I knew that I had failed in a lot of ways (why didn’t I check the drain before the rain started?), and I knew that things would be so much easier if Shawn was here.
But then, in the midst of one of these sessions of feeling sorry for myself, I remembered one more thing from Wednesday night – a memory that finally made me feel a bit better.
Just after I had discovered the flooding basement, I was outside trying to unclog the drain. I was soaking wet. The kids were screaming, and at one point I ran up to the house to ask for something and heard one of them crying. It was my friend Becky’s daughter, and she screamed, “what is going on?”
Becky turned to her daughter and said, “well, we are watching Ms. Marjorie solve this problem.”
“Yes,” I remember thinking, “that’s what I’m doing.” I mean, there were a number of people helping me inside and outside the house, but yes, I was the one making sure that the basement didn’t fill with water. I was the one rinsing out the towels and using the Shop Vac and dealing with the dehumidifier. It’s not what I ever wanted to be doing, but it’s my life now.
So, who’s saving our basement now?