Pam’s Ponderings

Water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink

Excerpt from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", Samuel Taylor Coleridge

It all started on our honeymoon...

We got a phone call from friends that we had asked to “check on our place.”  In all honesty, we must have wanted them to pick up our mail because there wasn’t much to check on at “our place” (an old 10’ x 50’ trailer at the edge of a farmer’s field). I think we were anticipating more money-filled wedding cards.  Our friends informed us that there was water dripping out the door of the trailer.  We promptly panicked and told them where the key was hidden. They discovered a rusted out water heater (conveniently placed under the kitchen sink).

They cleaned up most of the mess for us.

Years later in Lockport, NY, we had a decrepit washing machine in the kitchen.  When I did a load of laundry, the drainage hose was placed in my kitchen sink.  Sad to say, on more than one occasion I forgot to do this strategic move and not only did my kitchen flood, but did I mention we had the upstairs apartment?  And did I mention our landlady had the downstairs apartment?  She never sounded very blissful when she called to say she had water dripping from her ceiling.  Hey, don’t feel sorry for her – I had more of a mess to clean up than she did!

She was grateful when we moved out and bought a house.  One summer when the girls were little, we managed to travel for a few days down to Charlotte, NC, to visit Jeff’s parents.  I remember we were able to leave the girls with them for just ONE night for a little getaway.  We had a room with a jacuzzi and I had just put my dainty toes in it when the phone rang.  It was Jeff’s dad.  Our neighbor (who we had asked to “check on our place” while we were gone) called to say part of the drywall kitchen ceiling had collapsed.  Somehow the upstairs toilet overflowed ~ flooding the bathroom ~ soaking the kitchen ceiling ~ causing its mighty fall.  That water warped an area of our hardwood kitchen floor and made its merry way into our basement.

They cleaned up most of the mess for us.

Not having learned our lesson we moved to a rental property in Kent, Ohio.  We had a minor problem with flooding in the basement that involved sewage – but most of our stuff was packed up so it wasn’t as appalling as it could have been.  The entire three months we lived there the road out front was all dug up as they worked on the water main lines ~ big surprise.

Eight years ago, 22 years from our honeymoon water fiasco, we were up in New York celebrating not only our anniversary but a week-long family reunion with my entire immediate family.  We left Saturday and asked a friend to “check on our place” and feed our cat on Monday.  When she did, she walked into a kitchen with a flooded floor.  Seems the water hose attached to the refrigerator broke and water poured out behind it.  Most of the water escaped down the handy hole cut into the floor for the traitorous hose and soaked the main support beam of the house … which was directly over our bookcase (filled with 160 books – we had to count them for insurance purposes), our entertainment center, and a tall cabinet filled with every scrapbook and photo album I’ve made since I was in Junior High.  I’m a sentimental chronic collector and custodian of stuff.  All wet … as well as the carpet … and the futon … and the recliner.

They cleaned up most of the mess for us.

After processing the loss of items, cleaning up what was left and discovering what was recoverable, I was then ready to think about this more clearly.  It also made me think about how I handled all this.  Some of us tend to be too hard on ourselves:  we believe we shouldn’t talk about our legitimate problems since we know others who are experiencing more serious circumstances.  While we must be wise in who, when and where we share what we are going through, there is danger in not ever sharing a struggle or hardship.  Open up and be honest and genuine.

On the flip side, when people do share with me, I sometimes find myself guilty of playing the “one-upmanship” game:  someone starts to share with me and I interrupt with, “Oh, something like that happened to me but it was worse” or “I heard a story about someone who…”  Why do I do that?  The other pitfall is to say right from the start that what they are going through “could have been worse.”  While that may be true, I need to first show empathy and support.  How delightful it is to progressively lead them to where they can perceive how God has protected and provided.  In my case, after I was home and could see the situation clearly, I was able to tell myself this “could have been worse” – oh, so much worse, and I am grateful that it all turned out the way it has.

So what have I learned?  I need to continue to ask reliable friends to “check on my place” when I leave.  (Or maybe I should just never leave?)  And I might be sentimental but I need to hold onto things loosely – it’s all just STUFF. Finally, when I don’t handle a situation in the wisest way…

…God will clean up the mess for me.