On January 28 three friends and I had the privilege of touring the Pommery estate and champagne cellars, which double as a modern art museum. My favorite installation was this “house that rains on the inside.”
Little did I know that the exact same thing was happening to my house in Minnesota, probably at the exact same moment.
My poor husband bore the brunt of the surprise, after spending a long weekend with his father. When he arrived from the airport on Tuesday evening, he walked into a surreal scene of water running down the walls, pouring through the ceiling fixtures, and saturating the wood floors. Almost everything we owned was soaked.
But I was blissfully unaware: He didn’t say a word about it for almost a week. “I didn’t want to ruin your time in Paris,” he later explained. I was deeply moved by his selflessness and generosity.
And I was equally grateful for his hard work. He’d managed to rescue my clothes, my photo negatives and my cameras. He’d saved our guitars. He’d sent our paintings to an art restorer. He’d filled our hotel room with so many cherished (if slightly damp) possessions that I didn’t fully feel the loss.
But our home was a total loss.
“You must be DEVASTATED,” wrote more than one kind friend. And for a few days, I was. Gone was the place that had held so many cherished memories — the quiet moments and shared experiences that turn a house into a home.
“I can’t deal with this,” I thought last Saturday as I stopped by to pick up the mail. I stood on the front porch for a long time, willing myself to open the door.
I felt profound sadness as I walked through the gutted house. Some of our water-crinkled books still lay sprawled on the floor, amid heaps of broken lath and plaster. Electrical wires dangled lifelessly from the ceilings, and strands of twisted conduit jutted abruptly out of the walls. “It will never feel like home again,” I thought as I surveyed the rubble.
“But at least we have insurance,” continued my inner monologue. One by one, I counted our proverbial blessings: At least it wasn’t a fire; at least we had saved our valuables; at least we can rebuild; at least no one got hurt …
The more “at leasts” I amassed, the luckier I felt. Our insurance company had responded within an hour, putting Esteban (and our stuff) in a hotel. They’d brought in abatement experts. They’d hired a demolition crew, and they were helping us find a long-term rental for the three or four months it would take to rebuild. And they’re helping us rebuild! So many displaced families are denied the joy of writing that sentence.
Today I got our water bill. It’s for $223.02 — much less than the $1,000 or so I expected, and an utter bargain for the 34,408 gallons of water that gushed through our home, from the second story to the basement.
There will be more to this story, of course. Grief isn’t a linear process. It ebbs and flows; it comes at you in circles, and in ways you don’t expect. And rebuilding isn’t a linear process, either. There will be obstacles and unforeseen costs and frustrating delays.
Yet through it all, I hope I will remember this: I can’t always choose what happens, but I can choose how I respond. Tonight I’m responding with heartfelt gratitude to the many dear friends and kind professionals who have helped me and Esteban cope with a profound loss.
All will be well.