The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 30, 2001

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After the flood

The basement flooded during the big rainstorm last week. Two feet of snow, coupled with the downpour, was just too much for the sump pump to handle. The few inches of water that were a nagging worry on Thursday evening rose overnight to a few feet of disaster by Friday morning. I put off checking the basement that morning until about 10 a.m. because I was afraid of what I would find and knew I didn't have a very good solution. Like trying to buy a snow blower during a blizzard or an air conditioner during a heat wave (both of which I have tried to do), I knew looking for a pump to buy or rent on Friday would be hopeless. When I did finally venture downstairs, I found boxes of baby pictures, computer monitors, our wedding pictures, college term papers and grade school report cards, all the stored memories that I thought were safe because I had saved them and put them in boxes, floating aimlessly around in the overnight lake.

These were relatively minor losses compared to the total devastation that real floods leave in their wake. The furnace was damaged, hopefully not beyond repair, and the hot water heater shut down for the day, but my dad bailed me out with an industrial strength pump, and by dinner time the girls and I were carting the salvageable stuff up to the attic where, I'm sure, spring floods cannot reach. Imagine watching your entire house wrench loose from its foundation and topple over into the river. To lose your home to a flood must be worse in some ways than seeing it consumed by fire. All the damaged memories live on, waterlogged and bloated, not reduced to unrecognizable ashes. To lose everything that you saved must bring a sense of weird amnesia. You remember your wedding day and your fourth grade report card, but you can't call them back into being for your children or friends without some tangible proof of their existence.

What really bothers me is how foolish I was. I should have stored the boxes in the attic. Should have kept a closer eye on the rising water. Should have bought a backup pump months ago. Should have shut the furnace off before the water shorted out the circuit board. I may not have been able to hold back the water, but I could have minimized the damage if I had only taken the time to protect the things I cared about.

If it's difficult to be prepared for floods or blizzards, it's even harder to be ready for the disasters that can strike in any season. Your mother is diagnosed with cancer. Your children move away and they seem glad to be gone. Your savings are decimated by a stock market slide. Your marriage dissolves. Some of life's crises are inevitable. Others are not. But, like baby pictures or love letters, anything left unprotected is vulnerable, and nothing left untended has permanence.


2001 The Carlisle Mosquito