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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Pumping the night away

The last four of my 2004 vacation days are not turning out the way I expected.

By now I figured that the weather would be much nicer than it was in early February, when we first got Haley's diagnosis of a rapidly-growing tumor on her lung. I also assumed that Haley would be in much worse shape - that perhaps it would be during these four days that we would need to have her put to sleep.

It hasn't worked out that way. To all appearances, Haley is in better physical shape today than she was at the time of her diagnosis. The X-ray picture tells a different story, one involving a steadily-growing tumor, but it has not had the debilitating effect we expected - possibly due to our hastily resumed exercise program, which may have allowed her to build up extra lung capacity in her good lung, buying her some additional time to live an active life.

The weather, on the other hand, is rock solid crap. It rained yesterday. All day. It varied in intensity, but it never stopped.

I monitored the situation anxiously all day yesterday - there wasn't much else I could do, 'cause it was raining too hard to take Haley for a walk and I didn't want to stray too far from home by car just in case the situation went bad in a hurry. But by 9:00 at night there was just the slightest sign of water starting to trickle in at the lowest parts of the cellar. I got the pumps set up - the one good one and the one that I thought I had broken back in January - but decided there wasn't enough water to start running them yet. (They need a certain amount of standing water to run or they will just shut down or burn out.) At 9:30, same story - but now South Park was coming on, the "Moop / Faith Plus One" episode, which is devastatingly brilliant. After the episode was over (signaled by Butters meekly saying "F**k you, Eric" to the Token-beaten Cartman) I checked again.

Somewhere in the middle of the episode, the floodgates had opened.

I fired up the pumps. The broken one was broken, so I only had one pump to work with. Fine, I kept the hoses in place and just began swapping around the single pump every 15 minutes or so, for nearly the next five hours as a region of particularly intense precipitation parked itself almost directly over my house.

It was around 2:00 in the morning that the weather radar indicated that the rain had moved out of our area and we would be in the clear. Unfortunately, it would be some time before the saturated ground around my house would give up its load of extra water, so I had to keep pumping, and keep pumping, and keep pumping. Finally at about 3:00 in the morning I decided in my sleep-deprived state that the rate at which water was coming in had slowed, the water was possibly beginning to recede, and the pump could damned well sit in a single location for an hour or two while I grabbed some sleep.

An hour or two later I woke up to find that the water had begun to recede and the pump had not burned itself out yet. I switched it around again and pumped down the less-critical side of the basement.

Today I spent washing bathroom rugs and Haley's bed - all of which had gotten wet - and the towels that I had used to sop up the puddles in the basement bathroom (including some beach towels which, I decided, were not expected to do much else throughout the year other than deal with the horrors of the New Jersey shore for a week at a time, so they really didn't have anything to complain about). I also swabbed everything down with a bleach-based cleanser - don't want to give mold and mildew a chance to form.

Haley and I went for a noontime walk today and I could hear the sound of pumps emptying out our neighbors' basements, so I wasn't alone in this. No more heavy rain is expected until the end of the week. That should be plenty of time to go out and get a new pump - assuming they aren't all sold out already.

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