I had no idea where to begin. I was still in a state of disbelief. I was trying not to judge, but I admit it was hard. The overwhelming question in my mind was how anyone could live like this. I also wondered how it could get this bad. I decided that answers to these questions weren’t going to help me right now with the problem at hand.
The sink was plugged.
It was hard to only focus on this. The overwhelming conditions surrounding me made this next to impossible to do. I simply had to look past this and focus only on the plugged drain. It was the only way I could see out of this mess.
I asked Ms D for a flashlight that I needed for looking under the cupboard and to use in the basement to check out the drain. She said she had one but wasn’t sure where it was. There was no way I could imagine trying to find a flashlight in this mess. I decided to go back to my shop and get my own.
My business partner, TJ, said he would come with me to help me find the flashlight. So, we left the house telling Ms. D that we would be back soon.
Once we got outside we walked towards our shop in total silence. Disbelief was still the overwhelming feeling.
Neither of us was sure we still wouldn’t suddenly take to being ill and have a case of the dry heaves, or worse yet, start throwing up within eyesight of Ms. D. My partner asked the question that I knew was coming, but for which, I wasn’t sure of the answer.
“What are we going to do?” he questioned.
After a moment of thought I said, “Nothing.” He retorted in a voice of disbelief, “What? … What do you mean nothing?”
I answered, “Just that, nothing.” I tried to explain to him that this wasn’t the time to ask why or to react. It was time to be calm, not to judge and to just do the best we could with what we had to work with. “That is a start,” I said, “We will go from there. There is no road-map for this problem showing us the way, but we will find the way, for her and ourselves.”
I have no idea how or why I said what I did, or how I had the strength or discernment to do so; none.
We got the flashlights and returned. I tried to open up the sink cupboard doors but there was so much in front of them and they were so pack full of clutter, I couldn’t. After considerable time moving a lot of stuff I was able to gain entry to the drain below the sink.
There were signs that the sink had been leaking for some time. There was evidence that the floorboards had started rotting out. I needed to go down to the basement to investigate this further.
I was not prepared for what I saw.
Not even in my wildest imagination could I image how bad the things at which I was looking could be. The smell was overwhelming. The sewer and drain had backed up and there was a substantial puddle of sewage on the basement floor next to the floor drain. It was clearly from the toilet. I almost lost it right there. I have no idea why I didn’t. TJ couldn’t even come further down than the top of the steps. He left for upstairs.
My experience from doing sewer-work for all those years taught me how to deal with the smell. I also knew that the gases could be dangerous so I needed to immediately open up the windows to air out the fumes.
While airing out the basement I went back upstairs and told Ms D what I had found. I also asked how long she noticed the drain backing up and if she had noticed the sewer smell. She told me that the drain had been acting up for a few months but that she just added Drano ever day and by morning it was better.
I nodded. What else could I say or do. I explained that I would have to get a professional plumber to come in as the problem was a way bigger than I could handle. She appeared very reluctant at this development. I explained that it had to be done due to the the health-danger. I told here that I would help get it cleaned up because I didn’t think any plumber would come into the house in this condition. I insisted that she not add anymore Drano, and to conserve on the use of water or so it wouldn’t keep backing up. I told her that I would be over early in the morning and we could decide then, how to best proceed. She acted very relieved,but I could see she was visibly shaken, upset, and ashamed.
I reassured her everything would be alright. I had no idea how, or if this was going to be the case, it simply was the only response I could give at this time. However, I think it was as close to a bold faced lie as one could get. I simply had no idea, whether or not, if things were going to be alright. I just acted as though they were.
I simply went on faith.
I didn’t sleep a wink. In my mind, I replayed ever possible scenario to this problem. In conclusion, the only thing I could come up with was that she was in over her head and that she needed help. I decided that she was suffering from some type of illness besides depression. I was also very concerned about her continued welfare. If the city found out about this, they would surely condemn the house and make here move out until it was fixed up and cleaned.
This was going to be no small task. What had I gotten into?
The next morning I returned to her house with a plan. I told her that we needed to help her get things back in order. I didn’t blame or point fingers. I merely offered solutions.
She, in a quiet voice replied, “I realize things got out of hand. Since the death of my mother I have battled terrible depression and have been under a doctor’s care for a long time. I just kind of gave up, I guess, and shut out the whole world.”
The tears started to roll down her cheek. I never said a word and let her continue talking. She explained, as she had done many times in the past, that her mother had been her best and only real friend. When she died she was truly left alone but couldn’t adjust to the loneliness. She told me that she gained over 100 pounds, became depressed and withdrawn. She had just stopped living for all practical purposes. She was taking over twenty-nine different prescriptions. She didn’t even know if they were working. In fact, she thought they weren’t very effective and had randomly quitted taking some of them to see if she would feel any better. It had been over six years since she had anyone over to the house. Since her mother’s death, she hadn’t been in her bedroom. She merely closed the door. Every once in a while she would open it up long enough to shove in some more stuff.
She then began crying and reached out to me and pleaded, “Please help me, don’t give up on me. I will try harder; please don’t leave me alone!”
Looking her in the eye, I responded, “We are here for you, to help you. We aren’t here to judge you. This situation is what it is, but it’s soon going to be in the past, it’s a new beginning starting today. We will not abandon you or leave you. We will help you the best we can and know how.
But secretly, I wasn’t sure how.
I simply was on auto-pilot.
Some might call it faith.