When the remnants of Hurricane Gordon recently inundated Pittsburgh with record-breaking rain, my blood pressure spiked when I saw water pooling in the bottom of my split level house.
I was running circles around a small lake forming in the family room when my cell phone rang. It was my husband. I was so frantic, I didn’t even say hello.
“Our house is flooding!” I cried.
“Call the plumber!” he responded.
My husband understood my panic, but misunderstood the crisis. Since we live on top of a hill, he assumed a flooding problem had to be a sewer problem.
“It’s not the sewer!” I blurted.
Holding the phone with one hand, I used my other hand to throw a towel on top of the water. It was a desperate and laughable move. The towel instantly waterlogged and sank to my ceramic tile floor like a stingray settles to the bottom of a tide pool.
My husband, who is not one to take anyone’s word until he considers all the evidence, continued to suspect the sewer. “Does the water smell bad?” he persisted.
“NO!” I shrieked.
I didn’t need to stick my nose down to sniff the water since water was pouring in from the base of the walls and not erupting from the sewer drain in the laundry room.
I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. All I know is that I was sick of rain. Our swimming pool was overflowing. The sheet of water pouring off the roof of our enclosed porch made it look like we lived under a waterfall. For several hours, I utilized every towel and rag I could find to try to sop up the mess. When I ran out of dry cloth, I threw piles of dripping towels into the dryer to use them again as quickly as possible.
It was hopeless. I couldn’t stop the flooding. After one of the soggiest years on record, the ground beneath my house was so saturated that poor Gordon had nowhere to go but up into the lower level of my house. All I could do was hope that Gordon would leave soon. Sure enough, as soon as it stopped raining, the groundwater finally stopped pouring into my house.
I wasn’t sad to see Gordon go.
Then came Florence a few weeks later.
“Uh, there’s water dripping from the bathroom light fixture,” my stepson said. There was hesitation in his voice, as if he didn’t want me to worry.
Too late. As rain from Florence pounded our roof, I was already worried that she was seeping into our attic through some unseen weakness in our roof, laughing at the rubber gasket and putty my husband used to try to stop her.
There’s nothing more demoralizing than to be outsmarted by a sneaky storm.
Gordon and Florence may have frazzled my nerves, but I’m not complaining. Not when I think about the local woman who was swept away in rising creek water a few months ago. Not when I hear about the residents in my South Hills community who lost homes and businesses as a result of this unusual spate of summer flooding. Not when I see rooftops sticking up out of floodwaters in the Carolinas and read that out of the millions of people who lost everything, only a small percentage have flood insurance.
Even if raw sewage started bubbling up from my drain right now, my inconvenience would be miniscule compared to the suffering of North Carolinians who have to deal with millions of gallons of pig and human poop contaminating their waterways.
I used to enjoy hearing rain pattering on the roof, but now? Not so much. We still don’t know where the roof is leaking. The ground is still saturated. Every time it rains, I’m going to have a pile of rags handy in case I have to sop up more water downstairs.
But that’s okay. I know how fortunate I am.
Ann K. Howley is the author of the award-winning memoir, Confessions of a Do-Gooder Gone Bad. She writes a monthly feature for Pittsburgh Parent Magazine and her essays have also appeared in publications nationwide, including skirt! Magazine, Bicycle Times Magazine, and Pittsburgh Post Gazette. She teaches writing-related classes for CCAC’s community education program and is helping to organize The Authors’ Zone (TAZ) Writers’ Conference at CCAC in September 2018. An entertaining and thought-provoking speaker, Ann loves to convince people that their lives are worth writing about.
Confessions of A Do-Gooder Gone Bad is a humorous coming of age memoir about a well-intentioned “problem child” raised by conservative, evangelical Christian parents in Southern California during the Sixties and Seventies. As she naively stumbles through her youth and young adulthood, one misadventure after another, she also struggles to reconcile her ultra-Christian upbringing with women’s liberation, prejudice, protest and poverty during this turbulent era, eventually gaining a different perspective of faith in a world more complicated, funny, terrifying and wonderful than she expected.