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by Philip Gulley


Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. (1 John 3:18)

    Our older son, Spencer, was five years old when we bought our first house. Sam was three. They called it our red house, as in “Are we going to work at the red house today?” or “Are the workers at the red house today?” The word house was seldom uttered without the word work being tied to it.

    Our first meal in the red house was pizza, eaten cold as we sat on packing boxes. We asked Spencer to pray. He bowed his head, clasped his hands, screwed his eyes shut, and intoned, “Give us this day our daily dread.” Thus our adventure in home ownership began.

    In a letter to some friends, the apostle Paul observed, “Five times I received thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with sticks; once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I was adrift at sea for a day and a half.” While I don’t wish to minimize the apostle’s sufferings, they are child’s play compared to my travails. You see, I am a homeowner.

    After six months in our home, I wrote my insurance company “Once my basement has flooded, three times limbs have fallen on my house, twice my dishwasher has broken, and once my pipes burst.” I didn’t even mention that wind blew my shingles off, my water heater gave out, and my house needed painting. The insurance people were sympathetic. Their letter canceling my policy included a calendar. May features the Grand Canyon, December is a snow-covered New England village, and August pictures a red barn on the Kansas plains. The barn in Kansas needs painting, too. I notice those things now that I’m a homeowner.

    The worst tragedy we faced was when our basement flooded. In ten hours we received four inches of rain driven by high winds. A maple tree in Thad Cramer’s backyard blew down on top of the electrical wires and knocked out the trunk line, causing our town to lose power for an entire day. Our sump pump shut off and the basement filled with water. If we had been home, I’d have powered up the generator, plugged in the sump pump, and been just fine. But we weren’t home; we were at my mother-in-law’s working on her house.

    Bill Eddy is a plumber in our town and a good friend, despite having punched me in the nose in Mr. Evanoff’s fifth-grade class. Consequently, twenty years later I had to have my nose operated on during my vacation time. It was an exceedingly painful experience before, during, and after the operation. But I’ve managed to put it all behind me. I don’t even think about it anymore, except for when it rains and I get intensely throbbing sinus headaches.

    When the power went out, Bill called on the phone to check on us but we weren’t home. He drove by and looked in our basement window. He told me later, “I knew you had problems when I saw your filing cabinet float by”

    Bill went back to his shop for a gas-powered pump and pumped nine thousand gallons of water from our basement in five hours. The average bathtub holds fifty gallons of water. That means we had enough water in our basement to fill 180 bathtubs. Plus there were two frogs. My boys got them.

In times like these one appreciates good neighbors.
    In times like these one appreciates good neighbors. Some people stand by noncommittally and observe their neighbors’ perils with cool detachment. My neighbors pull on their hip boots and wade right in. Joe Saddler brought his wet/dry vacuum and worked for six hours. His eight-year-old boy, Matthew, worked right alongside us, toting wet pieces of carpet up the stairs and out to the corner. Bill Eddy came that evening with his daughters, Sarah and Melissa, with whom my boys shared their frogs.

    As basement floodings go, ours was exceptional. We took a break at dusk and visited on the porch. The rains had stopped and the fields sparkled, as if alight with jewels. We gave Bill the porch swing. He’d pumped out eight basements that day and had earned the privilege. Joe and I sat on lawn chairs. Our wives graced us with iced tea and cherry cobbler while the kids played hide-and-seek. It occurred to me, sitting there in that sweet moment, that this was the second generation of children to play together.

    Thirty years ago, Bill and Joe and I played the same games in the same little town. I’m glad to be back here, flooded basement and all. Some things have changed in the twenty years I was away Joe’s daddy is gone, and Bill’s father with him. 1981 and 1993, respectively I spoke the words over Bill’s father at the graveyard. George Eddy was a guidance counselor and a woodworker. Every time I saw him, he had sawdust in his hair. To this day, I have an inherent respect for men with sawdust in their hair.

    My father is the lone survivor. The night we were cleaning the basement, he was there. To supervise, he said, though his orders were few. The year before he’d had a heart attack and a quadruple bypass. His edge is gone. Nothing flusters him anymore, not even wet basements. I would have a wet basement once a week if it meant spending more time with my father. He cheated the reaper by one artery. Having almost lost him, I treasure his presence more than ever.

    Bill and Joe have a father hunger. Not a day passes when they don’t think of their daddies. They ease the loss by doting on their mothers. They are good sons and good friends.

    A few days after our basement flooded, the insurance man stopped by. We were his sixth basement that day, and he was weary. Joan served him iced tea and cherry cobbler and took him to the back porch swing. I told him of Bill pumping out the water, of Joe coming with his wet/dry vacuum, of my near-miss father supervising the operation, of children playing hide-and-seek when the storm had passed and the fields were alight with jewels. As flooded basements go, I told him, ours was exceptional.

    With the insurance money I bought a new washer and dryer, a water heater, and a dehumidifier. I was left with eighty dollars. I’m thinking of taking Joe, Bill, and Dad to dinner. Joe, Bill, and I can have steaks. Dad can have baked chicken. When we moved into our house, if someone had mentioned the benefits of flooded basements I would have thought it absurd. Now I am learning that blessings, like water, can flow from any corner.

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. (Proverbs 17:17)
      From the book For Everything a Season, by Philip Gulley. © 1999 by Multnomah Pub., used by permission.

      Title: ""
      Author: Philip Gulley
      Publication Date: February 7, 2002


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