Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Great Flood of 2013

My head is crammed and crowded with stories bumping against one another, begging to be told, and all I know to do is tell them one at a time, letting go of chronological order and choosing whichever story is rattling hardest at the moment. In this case, the Great Flood of 2013.

My mother-in-law Lorene inspires me for many reasons, not least of which is the devotion of her sons: the sort of devotion one earns over decades of sacrifice and unconditional love. Nothing quite rattles these men like the idea of something's being amiss with Mama, and I guess they'd do about anything to help her out or even just make her smile. Late Thanksgiving night, "anything" involved their buying and installing a new dishwasher.

Just at the start of installation, Jim got slightly too aggressive with a water pipe under the sink, and it busted, hot water spraying into the kitchen like what sprays from a fire hydrant in a cartoon. There was much hooping and hollering and racing to and from Lorene's bedroom closet (in which the hot water heater hadn't been touched or even spotted for many years) and the water main out at the road (which hadn't been messed with, most likely, for a decade or more).

My sister-in-law Jill, our teenagers, and I were very much at a loss as to what to do, but Lorene waded through the lake of her kitchen and started casting bathroom towels into the water. The effect was very much like casting a few Cheerios into a bowl of milk (and a gigantic bowl, at that), but having no better idea, Cade and I (baby on my hip) waded through the kitchen, too, and back the hall, where the water was flirting with the edge of the carpet.

The girls were asleep mere feet behind us, and most all the stuff we'd brought was in those back bedrooms, so Cade and I set about trying to create a barrier of sheets and towels between the linoleum and carpet. I was just asking Jill to call 9-1-1 when the sound of spraying water stopped.

Jim proceeded to use a carpet shampooer to suck up water, Jill emptying the canister into the kitchen sink every few minutes, and (at this point in the story, early on Black Friday) Terry and my older niece Jasmine ran out to K-Mart to buy a Shop-Vac.

Later, after things had slowed down somewhat, I said to Terry: "It was crazy to be standing where Cade and I were standing when the water stopped. It stopped just as it started to flood the carpet."

Terry nodded. "It was wild what happened at the main, too. Jim and I had both tried to turn the valve several times, and it wouldn't budge. And then suddenly, it just gave."

The guys were concerned initially that water had poured down a vent in the kitchen floor, but interestingly, the vent is built up such that the water circumvented it entirely; the shaft was bone dry. Water hadn't flowed into the carpeted living room, either; it had stayed almost precisely on the linoleum of the kitchen and hallway. Lorene pulled up the edge of the carpet in the hall and set a fan there for a few days. Amazing how little the damage considering the quantity of water that poured into that trailer.

Much later, after Jim and Terry had replaced the broken pipe and installed the dishwasher, they discovered that one of the shut-off valves under the kitchen sink was leaking. Yes, their mama agreed, it had been leaking off and on for some time. The guys bought and installed new valves under the sink. They bought, too, a tool to turn the valve on the main.

I wonder what would've happened had there been a serious leak when Lorene was alone and know in my heart that the Great Flood of 2013 was providential in more than one respect.

Jim's Mom and Chip, the Day before the Great Flood


  1. great memory, I love your stories, I love this picture.

  2. I love how natural it is for you to acknowledge God in all your ways.