Sunday, April 29, 2012

Water Damage

What I didn't need, shortly before going away for three weeks, was a flood in our living room. But that is what we got last week when we woke up and found a little lake at the foot of our stairs and a giant water bubble on the adjacent living room ceiling.
At first I thought we'd had a leak in our bathroom but it turns out to have been a valve inside a closet which controls the water to the roof garden. Being in a closet, we never noticed that it had sprung a leak and that the water was working its way down between the walls.
What a mess! Although it was pointed out to me that it was lucky to have happened while we were still here, and not a week after our departure. So true.
We called our insurance company who sent someone that same day to have a look. The man very emphatically said that the entire ceiling (which was then still dripping into a bucket) would have to come down as mold would grow and possibly spread beyond the immediate area, one rippled wall would have to be replaced and the floor, where it had gotten wet, would also have to be replaced, re-sanded and varnished to match the colour. I explained that we were about to leave for an extended trip....not a problem, said he, we will do the work while you're gone and we will move all your furniture out!
The thought of having strangers in our house during our absence and more to the point, having them moving our personal things about, did not seem like a good idea to me. But before we could even object to that, the man told us that since we live in a condo, their insurance would also have to be involved. We waited three days for that representative to come and assess.
His evaluation was that repairing the floor would not be enough, the entire living and dining room floors would have to be pulled up and replaced, sanded and varnished....because there might be moisture underneath.
By now we were less than a week away from our departure and we still did not have a final decision on who was going to pay for what. And if we didn't want the work done while we were gone we would have to face living with the turmoil and plaster dust when we get back which made the idea of an extended holiday rather pointless.
With the weekend upon us we decided to take matters into our own hands. We called our own contractor. His assessment of the work is less dramatic than that of the insurance men. Because we know him and trust him, we feel confident in his opinion and in letting him work while we're gone.
Interestingly, with all the time that has elapsed since this first happened, our floor has had a chance to dry out nicely and now looks the same as before. Time really does bring counsel if one only has the patience to ride things out....
We have only made an insurance claim once in all the years we've been married and as I recall, we did not get the full value of our loss at that time. In our present predicament and with a hefty deductible, we have decided that it is in our best interest to repair the damages and pay for them out of our own pocket, during a time that suits us, than it is to wait for two insurance companies to come to an agreement. No doubt they will still be at it on the day of our departure.

Monday, April 2, 2012


I always feel energized after my early morning walk with my dog. On today's walk we saw several robins hopping around and a magnificent red-winged black bird singing his little heart out. Birds are chirping and rustling in the trees and shrubs along the canal where I live and the dog is busy sniffing exciting new scents. Nature is coming back to life all around us.

So it is with sadness that we received news last week of a death in the family. A much-loved uncle has passed after a long, interesting life. He was 93 and had been in frail health the last few years. In photos that his son sent us just days before his passing, we could see that he was tired of living. His eyes had that look that comes with a pre-eminent departure, a look that seems to say….I no longer have the vitality to be here….In that sense, it wasn’t a tragic death at all, yet for us who loved him, the turning of that page leaves a hole.

My husband used to tell me about his uncle long before I ever met him. He was a Naval Officer, a devoted son to his widowed mother, a supportive older brother to my mother-in-law. To my husband, who lost his father at a young age, he was a surrogate father. When I first went to the family home where my husband was brought up, I saw a framed photo of his uncle in his naval uniform and I saw for myself that his handsome face showed the humour, determination and kindness hubby was always telling me about. When I finally met him he did not disappoint. His face was open and smiling and full of curiosity and I could see that he had influenced my husband greatly because they had many of the same traits.

In subsequent years, after he had retired, he made it a point to come and see us when we would visit my mother-in-law and we even managed to make a few day trips together, once, to the delight of our son, to visit a war ship, another time to explore the walled-in city of Carcasonne.

In spite of the fact that in his later years he had to look after his wife who suffered from dementia, he was always in a cheerful mood, always interested in what others had to say. He never bemoaned his fate, never complained. He wasn’t a very tall man but he made up for that by always carrying himself with great dignity. He was an excellent tennis player and a graceful dancer. He was, above all else, a loving father to his children.

Of the many lovely memories I have of this uncle, the most enduring one is surely his arrival at our niece’s wedding a few years back. He was in his late eighties, recently widowed and had survived a serious back operation, yet he walked as erect as ever, in a pin-striped summer suit, white shoes and a a killer pair of sunglasses. He smiled at everyone but saved his brightest for the bride. And afterwards, in the evening when the music started he could be seen asking all the ladies at the reception to dance.  And dance they did; The paso doble, foxtrot, cha cha. He knew them all and he executed his steps beautifully on that dance floor while the rest of us watched in awe and clapped.

On our next visit we could see he had diminished slightly. His hearing had gone and he walked a little slower, with a bit of a bend in his spine. He was still interested in everything but without being able to hear properly, the strain of following a conversation sometimes proved too much. He ate less and napped more. On the morning of our departure, hubby tiptoed into his room to say his good-bye. He kissed his uncle on the forehead and told him how much he loved him which is a wonderful thing to have done because it turned out to be the last time we would see him.

 Although this spring has brought our family heartache, it has also brought great joy, for we have recently found out that we will become grandparents in the fall. One life gone, another well on its way.