There have been several things on my mind the past two weeks. But the situation that seemed to loom the largest (and most expensive) was the fact our boiler was broken.
When I bought my 80 year old house 14 years ago, there was much that needed repairing or replacing. The non-handyman who had owned the house before me left an awful mess of inept 'repairs'. Although I had paid a professional house inspector a significant amount of money and he had certified the house as in adequate condition, he was, let's see...how can I put this? COMPLETELY INCORRECT. The washer was illegally hooked into the sump pump. The roof needed immediate replacing. The attic conversion to two bedrooms and a bathroom had been done with no township permits and was not up to code, therefore two days before closing we found we could not get a Certificate of Occupancy. And that is just the tip of the list. I was naive and trusting. You might also say I was a smug, smarty pants know-it-all. Or an ominous combination of all, blinded by French doors, the sun room, the fireplace, the Craftsman built-ins, original hardware...you get the picture.
Follow the picture to the full basement, three quarters finished, with a built in bar, pool table and separate laundry room. On the far wall of the finished space was a door. And behind that door was No Woman's Land. It was dark, dank, held dozens of shelves loaded with tons of man-stuff like metal and wood. There was a work table to do the kind of work that I, myself, certainly would never do. And there was...The Boiler.
In an eighty year old house that had only had three owners in it's lifetime, you can expect radiators and an old boiler and that is exactly what I had. But it kept us warm and had been certified OK by the House Certifier, so I didn't give it a second thought.
Nine years ago when my carbon dioxide detector went off one afternoon, with brilliant logic I said to myself "Gosh, the carbon monoxide detector is going off. The new toaster oven that I just bought must be defective. I hate it anyway, I will just get rid of it and get a new one."
I know I am hearing some groaning out there. Before we go any further, let me remind you from kindergarten to high school to college, childbirth ed training, nursing school and graduate school, I have about 22 years of education. But back to our story...
I pitch the harmless and helpless toaster oven out and buy a new one. Boy, those were the days. Sigh. Dumb AND well off. At any rate, lo and behold, the carbon monoxide detector goes off again one afternoon. "Gosh" I think, "There must be something wrong with the carbon monoxide detector. I better get a new one." So I get myself a new, ceiling-type CM detector. And what do you think happens? Why, THAT detector was broken too!!! What are the odds?!?!
My sister was heading over to visit, so I asked her to run into Target on her way by and pick me up a new detector. She got a plug in one this time and I didn't look at it until after she left. I plugged it in to the kitchen outlet and the reading shot up to 50 ppm (parts per million). Safe is ZERO. Finally showing a modicum of the intelligence I supposedly had, I went down to the basement, back to the scary boiler room. Before I could even plug it in, I was already woozy and nauseous. But out of morbid curiosity, I had to know. The number zoomed up to 375. Even I knew this was bad. I opened all the basement windows on my way out, hit the Emergency Off switch for the furnace, got the dog and high tailed it out of there. Next call was to the boiler guy.
The boiler guy was the same one who had installed the boiler fifty years earlier. Our children went to school together and I was friends with his wife because of that. He had a good reputation and offered a turn around time of one day. Best of all, I would have a new boiler and that issue would not be a problem for decades.
For decades. Right? So why did I have no heat less than ten years later?
Because that is the story of my life, that's why.
The first repair person that I called two weeks ago came in dressed like someone exploring a spill at a nuclear power plant. He gave his dire-you're-lucky-you're-not-dead speech and estimate of $13,000. I was still sobbing when he left.
The next repair person was arranged for me by a high school classmate. His technician was funny and kind and thought he had found the problem, but it wouldn't stay lit. After a few more tries like that and a week of very cold nights, it was determined we did indeed need a new boiler. No one could figure out why the old one gave up and the guy who had installed it for me was now in his 90's and the business was closed. The question was moot anyway. I had just gotten out of the hospital and we were freezing. I didn't know how I was going to pay for it but the owner of this second company, along with his tech and my classmate, worked out an incredible deal for me. They worked for hours on Thanksgiving eve, until almost 9 p.m., to make sure I would have heat again. Despite my snarky comments, once again I was blown away by the amazing kindness and generosity of truly good people.
I am so incredibly lucky to have the support of friends and the support of their friends. This care has seen me through many crises, not just the boiler debacle. But I know while we are warm this Thanksgiving and have much to be thankful for, there are far many more who are suffering right now. This prayer is for those who do not have access to warmth, the where-with-all to get help or do not have help available at all.
For Those Who Are Cold This Night
Lord, I thank you for the warmth and safety of my home and for putting in my path people who could and did help me. Please comfort those tonight who are struggling to survive without this consolation, those who are cold or homeless. Allow your love to spark in their hearts, to give them hope and the resources to seek help. For those who cannot reach out, for those who are too beaten down or too unwell, please give them some sense of relief or healing. Let them feel the blanket of your love and peace surround them. Open the eyes and hearts of those of us passing them by, that we might be aware and provide whatever help we can or, at the very least, to pray for them. I humbly ask this. Amen.
Because I love to laugh, I admire and envy all the comic geniuses who have treated us to their many and varied gifts. As far as I am concerned, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are two who are at the top of the list. These brilliant men ironically led tortured, unhappy lives. But, luckily for us, they have left a legacy of hilarious performances. This is one of my favorites, "The One-Legged Tarzan".
Did you like what you read? Let others know. Thanks!