The sound of thunder woke me at 2:00 A.M. I thought I heard light rain on the roof, I hoped it was a bird or a neighborhood cat. I went to the computer to check the weather. “10% chance of rain”. I have read on social media that a city 30 miles away had received rain. The terrain in Southern California is so different that it can rain on one street but not on the block two streets over. I prayed that it wouldn’t rain over my house until my roof was fixed.
A strange windstorm visited California 2 months ago and decided to take off ¼ of the shingles on my roof. My roof is 42 years old so it wasn’t hard to do. The insurance company had paid for the damage but I had a large deductible and I was paying the rest. I hired a contractor and he began work. We felt so smug, he was on schedule. The roof was scheduled to be inspected by the city on Monday.
Nature heard the prayers of California in the worst drought in our history. We left Saturday morning for a funeral 130 miles away. We returned the next day. Inside the house the ceiling had collapsed under the weight of the water. My beautiful home looked like a disaster area. We stood horrified. The electricity in many of the rooms didn’t work and there was mud and water damage everywhere.
The contractor decided that it was not his responsibility to cover the roof. It was a freak storm and it never rains in Southern California in August and thus was not his fault. We never had windstorms in the summer so strong that they blow off roofs, uplift trees and take down telephone poles either. He profited from the unusual windstorm but wanted nothing to do with assuming any responsibility for the water damage.
Defeated and tired of arguing with two people trying to convince me to lie and commit fraud. I called the insurance company. Apparently there is an endorsement issued to all of their insured in 2010, which I never bothered to read. If the damage is due to poor workmanship or contractor error, it is not covered in my policy. Apparently my contractor realized that and came to cover the roof the day after the storm. So it was a slim chance that the insurance company would cover the damages and recoup their loss from the contractor.
I cleaned daily. There was no end to the Black swamp water that filled my home. Fortunately my washer and dryer worked because I washed endless loads of clothes. I wiped those nasty counters down more times that I care to admit trying to get the dirt and soot out.
I hired another contractor because life goes on. I had worked with this contractor 12 years ago while both of us were employed in the school district. The problem with making a poor choice is that you begin to doubt your judgment. They proceeded with the work and we passed the initial inspection. They started on the next phase and were halfway finished when the light tapping on the roof from rain awakened me at 2:30 A.M.
I prayer God what are you trying to teach me. It has been scorching hot with clouds overhead and less than 10% chance of rain and I hear rain. I prayed myself to sleep. At 3:00 A.M. I bolted awake, water fell on my face. The rain was coming in. My ordeal began. I paced the house for 3 hours checking for leaks and putting buckets and any container that I could find under the leaks. The upstairs area had drips of water but in the kitchen it was pouring. My mind flashed to the conversation with the new contractor “We have finished the downstairs and will start on the upstairs tomorrow”. I am sure that I heard those words. I didn’t go down and check for myself.
My daughter had received a certified letter from her doctor indicating that she might need surgery on Friday. I check the mail and saw the letter. My daughter didn’t want to open it and so I opened it for her. We agreed that we would go to the appointment together but my daughter would not agree to the surgery. I cared more about my child’s health than the stupid roof.
As I walked around the house moping floors, wiping counters and setting out containers, I considered going in the attic. I canceled that thought; there are electrical wires in the attic. Let’s not get electrocuted. My mind raced with thoughts of doom and gloom as the kitchen leaks made more noise. I texted the contractor and called several times and left messages.
I tripped over a wooden crucifiction on the stairs. I don’t remember seeing it or knowing where it comes from. It must have fell out of one of the containers. I don’t think that it was even mine, I don’t remember seeing if before. I wondered if God was trying to tell me something or maybe I was simply hallucinating.
Bobby the contractor finally called and said that he was getting the guys and they were on their way. I nervously waited and paced. The guys jumped out of the truck like the Cavalry. Some went on the roof and started banging. The ceiling guy came in the kitchen.
He calmly looked at me and said, “It looks like you can’t catch a break. We are going to fix you up. When it rains it pours” he finished as he looked up at the ceiling. This ceiling is coming down.” There is so much water that it’s bulging. Step back and let me clear the sink, then I will cut a hole above the sink and drain the water before I cut it down. “ I hurriedly grabbed dishes from his hand as he cleared the area and covered it with plastic. He took a box cutter and began to cut a hole, which allowed water to gush into the sink. “Looks like we got her right on time. “ Bobby rushed in and grabbed the other end of my ceiling and together the cut and pulled down my kitchen ceiling while I stood there numb. I can’t believe this is happening in Southern California, one more day and this roof would have been done. I couldn’t move.
James quietly began to throw the pieces of ceiling in the trash and I tried to clean the floor. We cut up boxes to put down on the floor to create better traction. I didn’t need anyone to slip in that muddy mire. Exhausted, I told the guys that I was taking my daughter to breakfast. I was tired. I couldn’t sleep because my bed was wet and I didn’t know what was happening to me.
My daughter and I went to McDonald’s to eat. As we enjoyed our breakfast and I drank my coffee, I blurted out “Whatever we have to do on Friday to save your life, we are doing it. I don’t intend to lose you. You are staying in this world”. Her eyes teared for a second and she nodded her head and looked away. “ Having another surgery doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you fortunate to have doctor’s who can perform procedures to save your life” She nodded and looked away.
“Look at me, do you think that I should throw away our house because I can’t get the roof fixed?” I asked. She looked at me thoughtfully. “This is the very situation that I wanted to avoid. The roof was old, the wind blew it off. I tried to replace it before the rainy season and before school started. I failed twice” I stated Does that make me a failure? Shall I forget the roof and say that I tried, so let’s just loose our house? Her face brightened. “I will fix the roof, no matter how many times it takes for me to get it right, your will have the surgery if needed and give your body time to get it right.” I told her. She looked relieved as we left.
When I got back, James was mopping the floor and cleaning the area. I didn’t expect this. I offered him a banana for breakfast, he seemed pleased and I got out of his way. My daughter came and told me that he was washing our dishes. As tired as I was, I needed to let him know that he didn’t need to do that.
James spoke in a quiet, soft yet firm voice. He assured me that cleaning up there mess wasn’t a problem. I asked him about himself. He had lived in the city longer that I had. He shared with me that he had endured a rough 5 years and this year was his exodus. Exodus was not a word that one hears often. He assured me that I would be having my exodus from this roofing situation soon. I could relax and be relieved of that burden of an unfinished house soon.
He shared with me that he was blind in one eye but he worked and did whatever jobs were available without complaint. I asked him if he had an accident or a disease that caused the loss of his sight. He told me that 5 years ago, he was serving time in prison. The prison had a right and someone threw a homemade bomb which split one eye and injured the other. He looked embarrassed as he showed me his wounds. “I shouldn’t have been in prison but I was, so there was something that I had to learn there ‘as he turned his body to the side to mop. I could see the tension and discomfort. “There were people you were suppose to meet there” I added “and so the conditions were set for you to meet them,” I stated quietly. He visibly relaxed.
I told him that I had been a Chaplain at the Prison. I shared experiences and stories. He became happy and animated. He shared his spiritual journey. Today was going to be a new beginning for him. He was going to get proper medical treatment and start seeing a therapist. “This year was his exodus, he could feel it and everything was going to turn around because he was getting help,” He explained excitedly as he washed dishes. I assured him that he was right and that his life was getting better, I could see it as well. As I thanked him for helping me and walked up the stairs, I saw his smile, and heard him say softly “I knew that I knew you, I recognized your spirit.” I smiled and walked up the stairs and looked at the cross on the file cabinet.
I don’t know where the crucifix came from. I think my grandson gave it to me 6 years ago as a Christmas present and I have not seen it since. I don’t know how it got on the stairway. I knew that I had seen the handprint of God. I checked the mail and got the letter that my daughter would have thrown in a drawer. We are going to the doctor’s appointment. We will take any recommendation that the doctor makes. I woke up in time to protect the upstairs from the rain. The kitchen was already damaged and the inspector would have recognized it. I have the money to pay for the damages. I won’t be able to go to Africa for the second time this year. I will go twice next year. I will skip some other things that I planned to do and save to pay off my car despite this setback. The house is still standing and being repaired. We are all alive. I am grateful.