Thursday night, my dad received a phone call notifying him that our hours are up for the caregiver program we qualified for. Long story, but in a nutshell, the Alzheimer’s Association approved us for a program which allotted us a certain number of hours with a caregiver. We were under the impression that it was 30 hours a month from March until May. Apparently it was 30 hours total. So this left us without a caregiver on Friday.
Friday morning, I was prepping for my son’s birthday party that I was to be throwing on Saturday. The cupcakes had just gotten out of the oven and I was making another batch of airplane lollipops when my husband informed me that our family friend, Shaun, was going to stop by my parent’s house to get some roofing paper from dad’s garage. We’ve been working on a treehouse for our kids and the roof was the last thing to finish up before the birthday party (Shaun was helping with that part). Knowing my mom, Jeff suggested to me that I call her beforehand to let her know that Shaun was dropping by so that she wasn’t caught off guard. I figured that would be a good idea since she would likely not recognize Shaun when he showed up on her doorstep (on a side note…Shaun’s family has been friends with our family since I was a kid; our parents were best friends before his mom and dad moved away to Utah about 8 years ago).
I called mom and no sooner than I told her Shaun would be stopping by than she interrupted me,
“I’m having a severe emergency at our house right now. It’s so weird, weird things are happening and there’s things crashing down in the living room too and making really loud noises and stuff falling from the ceiling too and it’s real wet too. Everything is getting wet and I tried calling your dad and he’s not answering his phone.”
I tried to make sense of what she was telling me. I remembered a leak in a small area over the couch a few months ago during a rainy spell. I figured the leak must have returned somehow and that she was making a mountain out of a molehill; everything is severe to mom.
“Mom Shaun is coming by in a few minutes and he’ll check it out for you, okay? He’ll see what’s going on for you and fix something if there’s a problem,” I tried explaining to her.
“Shaun. Who is Shaun?” she asked.
We went back and forth for a few minutes as I tried to remind her who Shaun is. Again, I reassured her that he would be there very soon and would check out whatever was going on, but she was insistent that I come over.
“I just wish you would come see what’s going on right now.”
I had so much to get done for the birthday party, but I could tell that mom really wanted me to come over and assist her with her “severe emergency.” I finally told her that I would be there in 5 minutes. I hung up the phone, covered my cupcakes and was on my way out the door for what I figured would be a quick trip to soothe my mom.
My jaw dropped to the ground when mom opened the front door and I got a glimpse inside.
“Oh my gosh Mom!” I exclaimed, trying not to panic. I think I repeated myself several times as I stood in shock, trying to make sense of what I saw. Mom began rambling about how weird this was,
“I don’t know what all this stuff is…what happened there?…this is so weird…this has never happened before…and it’s so wet too, I can’t even walk to the kitchen…”
I noticed that water was spraying down the doorway that separates the living room from the kitchen. The floor was covered in water. I knew immediately that the water needed to be shut off.
As luck would have it, Shaun works in plumbing. I called him right away and asked him if he was on his way and (probably in a very panicked voice) told him what was happening. He told me how to shut off the water and I quickly found the valve and shut it off. I called my dad next and got his voicemail. I called my brother-in-law, who works with my dad, with no luck. I called my sister. No answer. I finally texted a picture to my sister and told her to have Melvin (her husband) call me right away. She responded quickly that she would call Melvin and Shaun and Stephani (Shaun’s wife) texted that they were just around the corner and coming as fast as they could!
Now that I knew help was coming, I knew I needed to get mom in a safe place. She kept making circles down the hallway and through her bedroom, which wraps around to a room addition that leads into the kitchen. I followed her around the house and urged her to come out and wait with me on the front porch. I wasn’t sure if there were any other weak spots in the ceiling and I didn’t want her to get hurt. Mom was concerned about the floor being so wet and ignored my pleas.
“I need to clean this up, it’s so wet too,” she said as she hopelessly tried mopping up inches of water off the floor. “I just don’t understand where all this water is coming from, it’s not even raining outside!”
After much coaxing and pleading, I was finally able to get her to abandon the mop and follow me out to the front door. My dad finally called me back and I told him we had a very serious situation and he was needed at home. When I told him the ceiling had fallen in, I think he was envisioning the same little spot over the couch that I had imagined when mom first told me of her severe emergency. He told me he was just finishing up at the tile store and was on his way.
Mom kept asking for dad and I reassured her (over and over) that he was on his way.
“Your dad is real good, he can fix that too. Are you sure you definitely talked to him? This is so weird…”
Within 5 minutes, Shaun and Stephani arrived as did my husband, Jeff, who just so happened to be home early from work that day. Right away, Shaun got a ladder and got up in that ceiling and figured out the source of the leak: the drip line that connected to the refrigerator. Once we figured that we were safe, and the rest of the ceiling wasn’t going to fall in on us, we quickly got to work cleaning up the remnants of the ceiling that had thrown up all over the living room. It was a huge, disgusting mess. Fortunately, not too much was damaged. A few picture frames met their end, and the bookcase housing the DVD’s busted, but dad’s brand new TV and the furniture survived with no damage (other than the nastiness of the ceiling that had splattered all over)
As soon as mom saw that people were there to help her, she noted that it was lunch time and made her way into the kitchen to make a sandwich. She was a little confused as to why there was no water on to rinse her tomato. She stood by the sink and ate her sandwich as we started cleaning up the mess. We brought in a large trash bin from outside and started shoveling ceiling innards and broken picture frames into the bin. The dust and the smell was so overwhelming that I found a couple of masks for Stephani and me to wear while we worked. My sister showed up shortly after and assisted us in cleaning up the waste and moving furniture out of the room; the “clean” stuff went into a bedroom while we wiped down DVD’s and other knick-knacks that were covered in mushy insulation. It was embedded in every nook and cranny and splattered as far as the walls in the hallway. What a mess to clean up!
By the time my dad arrived on scene, we had the bulk of the ceiling cleaned up off the floor and had started moving things out of the living room. I think it saved him from having a panic attack. Ha ha. He walked into the room and very thoughtfully and quietly looked up at the gaping hole in his ceiling. I was expecting some sort of a meltdown (he’d had a stressful week as it was!) but he handled it rather well. Right away, he got to work with us cleaning up the mess, repairing the water line and prepping the room to repair the ceiling. Thank goodness my dad is a handy man, he knows how to do it all! [It is now Sunday evening that I write this, and the entire living room ceiling has been replaced already!]
Mom eventually moseyed her way back into the living room and noticed the progress we had made in cleaning up the broken ceiling off the floor. I thought she would be happy to see the mess gone, but the gaping hole above her left her confused.
“What did you do with that stuff that goes up there? That stuff that was on the floor?” she asked, pointing to the empty floor.
“We threw it in the trash can, mom,” I answered, explaining that dad would get new boards to put in it’s place.
Mom didn’t understand. She shook her head.
“No, you can’t throw those things away. It needs to be fixed! That has to go back up there. You can’t leave that like that, you have to put that stuff back up there. We can’t have that like that!”
Mom raced to the trash can and began looking through to find the pieces of the ceiling in an effort to put it back together again. I tried to break it down simply for her.
“That part of the ceiling is broken Mom. Dad is going to get a new ceiling and fix it. Don’t worry, there won’t be a hole for long.”
She wasn’t satisfied with our answers and explanations, but dad was finally able to convince her to go play a game on the computer while we finished cleaning up the mess. A couple minutes later she returned to the living room with a birthday balloon in hand.
“Cassandra you forgot to take this round thing too for Ryder’s birthday. Please take it, will you take it?”
“I’m really busy cleaning right now but if you leave it in the front bedroom I will take it home with me later,” I replied.
“Huh? No, you need to take this. You forgot it the other day. Here, take it…” she continued to argue with me about the balloon as I was in the midst of cleaning up the mess. Stephani took the balloon from her and told her we would keep it “right here” (in the corner) until we were ready to leave. That settled mom down for a few more minutes, until she came out once again to declare to all,
“Well, it’s my naptime now so I hope you all won’t be real loud too.”
We all chuckled and dad gently said,
“It’s gonna be loud. We have to fix this ceiling so it’s going to be loud for a little while. But you go lay down and rest.”
“Yeah it’s time for my nap. And thank you all you people who came to help me with all this,” she added, waving her arm around the rubble.
Thank the heavens above that mom was not hurt that day. It really could have been a lot worse. I am counting my lucky stars that mom was not in the living room when the ceiling came crashing down. I don’t want to think about the outcome had she been caught underneath that…with no caregiver there to help her! Thank goodness I called her that morning. I am so grateful to the friends and family who dropped what they were doing to come over right away and help out in mom’s severe emergency!