TJ and I are happy and tan from our holiday get-away to Florida. We're now back home...
...at least what's left of it.
We were there for about a week and a half. We frequent New Smyrna Beach, FL, where my family has been vacationing since I was a little guy. We had a wonderful time with my family there. We figured it'd be a good thing to get out of the house this holiday season and get some sun. It turned out to be a great decision, on more than just the emotional front. My mind and body were just in GREAT need of a vacation, by the time we left, a few days before Christmas. I had no idea how stressful the holidays can be for a "single parent". Shopping was a debacle this year. Decorations? HA! Just a tree and a nativity scene. And then the special church services, family get-togethers, etc... and work got really busy, too, at the end of the year. I felt like I was chewed up and swallowed by the holiday season and then spit back out... but was happy to land on the beach to dry out a little. It was SO good.
Coming back from vacation is always a tough thing for me. We had planned on returning home in time for my big New Year's Eve plans (tongue-in-cheek... from a former post). It's hard enough to leave the beach, the ocean, the sun, and of course, the family-- we have such a good time together down there. And then, of course, there's the stress of traveling all that way back-- fly or drive, it's always an adventure with luggage and a 3-year-old in tow. And then, upon returning home, there's all the mail to catch up on and tidying up to do, settling back into home before heading back to work and the day-to-day routine. All of that is certainly compounded when the particular vacation from which you're returning is over the holidays-- a tree to take down, decorations and presents to put away... etc... This is what was on my mind as TJ and I spent last Tuesday traveling back home. Those were the thoughts that were on my mind as I opened up the garage door and carried TJ into the house. That first step is always a pleasant one-- you breathe in and smell the smells and feel the air of your own abode... it's like comfort instantly washes over you. "I'm HOME..."
That is, of course, unless that first step is accompanied with a SPLASH.
Chicago had near-zero temperatures, and wind-chills in the -30 to -40F range while we were gone. (Made me happy to be in Florida!) That weather was followed by 50-degree weather with a thunderstorm, I hear... which was in turn was followed by more freezing rain and snow. All of that was enough, as it turns out, to freeze, thaw, and re-freeze the pipe that goes from the water main in my house to the main-floor bathroom toilet. Which was enough to burst a plumbing joint.
I stepped into 2" of standing water on my main floor on Tuesday, when we returned home. The water was coming out with about the force of a high-pressure shower-head, straight out from the bathroom wall. I sloshed my way down to the basement to turn off the water main. On the way down, I realized that the stairwell walls were bubbling up like water baloons. Then, I splashed through my finished basement's carpeted floor to check the sump pump, rather in shock. The cellar/ sump room door was warped so badly that I had to nearly jerk it off its hinges to open it... Yes... It was that bad. It was literally RAINING in the cellar. Water pouring from the rafters, onto all of our belongings we had stored there. 2" of standing water on the unfinished concrete floor. All of our photo albums, collages, wall-art, keep sakes, knick-knacks, decorations, TJ's cradle and crib... all the things we hadn't had time to move into place in the month that transpired between our purchase of the house and Leslie's diagnosis, over a year ago... All destroyed. The "rain" from the bathroom above had filled every box, soaked every bag, saturated everything that was in the room... Boxes were literally pouring off of the shelves, into a soggy heap on the floor, they were so full of water.
Welcome home. And happy freaking new year.
Anyway... all is under control now. We're living in about half the house we were before we left for Florida, and will continue to be until February or March. That's the amount of time it will take them to get everything back to normal. They're currently "mitigating" the damages-- preventing mold, dehumidifying, drying, etc... Knocking out drywall and saturated insulation, tearing up flooring and sub-flooring. Reconstruction will probably start next week sometime. Fortunately, my guitars, all the furniture, recording "studio", pool table, etc... (all things if value that find their homes in the basement) were miraculously spared. But almost all of what was in the storage/sump room is completely a loss, or at least irreversably damaged. These are the things that will bring in the least amount of insurance benefit reimbursement. Just as well, because all of the money in the world can't buy those things back into existence. The men from my "small group" at church came over yesterday to help me go through everything-- trashing what was unsalvageable, inventorying it for insurance, and trying to save the rest of it. Insurance is taking care of the rest of it, minus my deductible. So there's really nothing else anything can do to help... It's just a matter of putting up with the inconvenience of having only half of a house (and a dusty, noisy, cluttered one at that) for the next couple of months.
Oddly enough... I've found the whole ordeal to be rather comical. The friend that brought us back from the airport that Tuesday even congratulated me for not letting a single "naughty word" fly, as we walked into and in turn assessed the mess. I admit there was a bit of a falling out with God over it. "Are you FREAKING SERIOUS!!?? I mean REALLY!!!!!???" I just kept on laughing/shouting, out loud. Yes, I was unbelievably frustrated... but it was more being "annoyed" with God than it was angry. I'm not afraid to get angry with Him... dont' get me wrong. But, hey, it's just a house, right? It's just "stuff". And it's even stuff I haven't used or even thought of for many months, at that. Everything that is important is still intact. TJ and I are safe, healthy, and actually "bonding" quite well, as we embark together on a new year... a fresh start. We still have a roof over our head, and most of our walls around us. We still have heat and water and comfy beds and an unscathed kitchen... not to mention the TV, computer, and all kinds of luxuries that 95% of the world will never possess. I'm thankful we've got good insurance... and a friend who's a plumber and just happened to be on his way home from work, 15 minutes away, when I called him that fateful Tuesday December 30th... and another friend who is a contractor specializing in basement finishing and reconstruction... and a bunch of friends who can come over and help me knock out about 3 weeks of sorting and salvage work in about 3 hours. The optimist in me even is looking forward to "starting over" with a clean basement, cleared storage area, new floors, new paint, and basically half of a new house, come March (or whenever the restoration/ reconstruction is finished).
I guess all we've been through this year has given me a new perspective on what is important... what is valuable, and what is "live-able"... What is a need, and what is a luxury. What is a "loss", in insurance terms, and what truly is a LOSS. Yes, 2008 will live forever in infamy, in the collective memory of TJ and me, family, and our friends. Might as well send it off with a bang. Or at least with a splash.