Monday, May 15, 2017

The Great Flood of 2017

I take a quick shower. Start to finish, 7 minutes tops. Still, you'd be amazed by how much can go wrong during that short amount of time. In fact, I am pretty sure that each time I cross the threshold into the bathroom, I trip some sort of wire in the time-space continuum. It is as if time stops and then stretches so that each minute lasts just short of eternity. Multiple epic sagas occur during the brief time I am occupied with my personal hygiene and self care.

Since practically every shower I've taken since 2004 has been interrupted by someone or something, I have gotten pretty adept at tuning out the mayhem that invariably occurs. This is why it seemed so strange to hear ear-rending screams the other day as I climbed out of the shower. Stranger, the screams were coming from Ren. Ren is the kind of guy who encounters a snake in the basement and decides the best course of action is to catch it with chopsticks and keep it as a family pet, so when I heard him screaming I knew it couldn't be good.

Grabbing a towel, I rushed out of the bathroom without even drying myself. I found him furiously wiping the floor in the guest bathroom. Clearly, this was no simple potty accident. But, before I could comprehend what had happened, Ren shouted, "Stow flooded the bathroom. Check the basement!!!!"

I'd only been gone for 7 minutes. When I went to the shower, the kids were dressed, the bentos had been made, and everyone was calmly eating breakfast. Now there was utter chaos.

We had 15 minutes to bus time, so I barked directions to Sky and Pink as I threw on some clothes and ran down the steps. "Get your teeth brushed. Pack your backpacks. Keep Stow out of trouble." Normally instructions like these go entirely unheeded, but the kids were suddenly unnaturally compliant.

Downstairs, I hurried from room to room trying to locate where the tremendous amount of water (WHY is there SO MUCH WATER?!?!) was going. I started in the bathroom and made my way from room to room checking the most logical places for the water to drain. Regret about the decision to drywall the ceilings consumed me. I heard the water before I saw it. It sounded a little like someone was dumping buckets from the ceiling. In my head, I was finding it hard to calculate the cost of repair.

When I finally found the damage, I was amazed. I was amazed by colossal flood Stow had caused, but I was even more amazed by the fact that the massive amounts of water all poured down just inside the doorway to the unfinished storage room. I mean, an inch further to the west and the water would have pooled inside the drywall causing it to crumble down onto the new-ish carpet and furniture in the finished part of the basement. More surprising, even though the water was spraying everywhere, it sprayed in such a way that only unimportant and easily dried things got wet. Mere centimeters from a puddle on the table, for example, a pile of the kids' best artwork was completely dry. I got up on a chair and reached my hand over the top of the storage room door frame into the finished part of the ceiling; besides a small bit of wet insulation, it was completely dry. I ripped out the wet part and went in search of the wet vac.

In the end, the whole catastrophe lasted about 30 minutes. The kids got to the bus on time, and after drying up the bathroom cabinets and floor and relocating all the dehumidifiers and heaters in the house to the basement, I left Ren and Sky to finish vacuuming up the water in the storage room. As I drove to work, only minutes later than I might have been without the flood, I thought about how this great flood so quickly resolved was probably a perfect metaphor for something--though for what, I wasn't entirely sure.

See, the other piece of the story is this: things are falling apart again. Our literal flood symbolizes a figurative one that threatens to overwhelm us. The week that Stow flooded the bathroom, we started pretty intensive in-home therapy to try to get a better handle on the flare in behavioral challenges that feel pretty insurmountable right now. That week also Ren finally acknowledged that, yes, his back really, really hurts. I'd been suspecting this for awhile, but he wasn't ready to admit it until he could no longer stand the pain. The fact that Ren panicked so quickly and worked so slowly to stem Stow's flood was irrefutable proof to me that the back is probably past the point of no return.

So, yeah, one way to read Stow's bathroom flood is as a sign that we are incredibly luck and that everything will be okay. But, I imagine the more accurate reading of it is as a sign that the relative peace that came from 12 straight months of a cooperative spine has come to an end. We're about to hit some rough terrain again, and Stow's flood was just the beginning.

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