After catching a little snowfall over Thanksgiving, December 2009 started out in a very pleasant way. That first weekend we took a short trip to the San Francisco Bay Area to visit family and to enjoy a long weekend away from home.
We visited Sharon’s father in Santa Rosa. At 93 years of age, he is feeling his age and requires a full time caretaker, but we were pleasantly surprised to see him getting around fairly well and quite conversant. We limited our visits to late morning and kept them short, but our time with him was quite enjoyable and allowed us to confirm the good care that he is getting.
The real highlight of our trip was the chance to see my grand daughter, Mia, dance in the “Nutcracker Ballet” at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium at the Marin County Civic Center. The Marin County office building and the auditorium were both designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and are excellent examples of his architectural genius.
On Saturday, December 5th, Mia filled one of the supporting roles, that of a Spanish dancer; both her beauty and talent showed during throughout her brief performance. We watched the show with her parents, Kim and Pete, her sister Kendall, and several of her family’s friends.
On Sunday, we returned to the auditorium and were joined by Mia’s grandmother, Julie, her cousin Shane, along with aunts Kristen and Kelly. We all watched Mia perform the lead role of Clara – which kept her on stage during about half of the entire performance. Again, I was amazed at her skill as a ballerina and her youthful, yet mature beauty.
I found it nearly impossible to keep from tearing up throughout both performances. To say that Mia exceeded our expectations in every way would be totally honest, and yet we should have known that with her dedication to her art along with the total and uncompromising support of her immediate family – that her performance would be exceptional.
OK. That was the fun part of December.
When we arrived back at our home in Salem, we were met with falling temperatures. Actually, “falling” would be more than an understatement. The lows during the week fell from the low 40s, into the high 20s, and then finally, by that next Thursday, into the mid-teens. Everything unprotected was frozen solid.
In spite of my normal winterizing before we left for California, water froze in a turnoff valve located in the attic space above the garage. Fortunately, Sharon happened to come home from shopping just minutes after the pipe broke and noticed water dripping from the garage ceiling. I was able to go up and tighten the valve enough to stop the water.
A plumber showed up early the next morning, turned off the water, and then repaired the broken part of the pipe with some new, flexible plastic pipe. He checked the rest of our taps and pipes and all appeared to be under control. Later that afternoon we took about an hour and left the house to run some errands. Wrong thing to do…
When we arrived back at the house, water was shooting out the side tap, pouring out from under the garage doors, and pouring out of the garage ceiling in dozens of locations. Water was everywhere, even inside the house, mostly in the laundry room.
After struggling with every pair of pliers, channel locks, and any other tool we could find, my next door neighbor and I, laying on the freezing sidewalk at 8:00 at night, finally managed to turn off the water at the edge of the property. It’s very, very cold when you are soaking wet and the temperature is around 15F. It’s a wonder that both of us avoided heart attacks, but we survived to live another day.
We were able to contact the plumber. He came out around 9 PM and went back up to see what had happened to his “repaired” pipe. As luck would have it, apparently some water left in the pipe cracked a solder joint when the water refroze in a remaining section of the old pipe. I had him cut and tap off the remaining bad section of pipe and turn the water back on. This time the pipe held. He was able to go home after a very hard day repairing broken pipes all over Salem. We mopped water out of our laundry room.
We spent the entire weekend cleaning up and moving undamaged boxes and stored valuables into our formal living room. It was clear to both of us that there would be no tree or decorations in our house this Christmas.
Nearly seven weeks later and we are still living in a home with missing floors, open walls and garage ceilings, and numerous other inconveniences and damaged areas. After four weeks we finally got the garage door openers replaced and the walls dried out, but now we are getting contractor and supplier quotes for flooring, drywall replacement, and other minor repairs too numerous to detail.
I must say, however, that our homeowners’ insurance company, Ameriprise (Costco), served us well and expeditiously. We already have the checks in hand for the repairs. They’ve paid for the emergency plumbing repairs and restoration services. It still took nearly two weeks to get everything dried out.
So that was our bad news.
The good news is that Sharon will get new paint and flooring and the garage will have new walls, ceilings, and some improved storage capabilities. She is very excited about getting new floors, she just hasn’t decided if they will be laminate or tile. I will be excited when she finally decides so we can get the work crew in here to do the job. Then I won’t have to walk on nasty old plywood very much longer.
All in all, when you compare our little disaster to what happened to those poor people in Haiti, we didn’t have it all that bad. We were very lucky when you think about the grand scheme of things.