It was Monday night. The car had broken down that afternoon — it was a whole ordeal — and I’d finally lain down in bed. Matt burst into our bedroom and said, “We’ve got water coming into the house!” I got up and headed to the basement. Sure enough, the bathroom floor was soaked, as was the carpet in the bar and the laundry room floor. We looked at the damage, mentally tallying up the cost to fix it. A few days later, I told my father.
“Was it a lot of water?” Dad said.
“Yeah, it soaked the bathroom floor, the rug in the bar and the laundry room floor,” I said.
“Oh, well that’s not that much. My neighbor, in DiNardi’s old house, had a basement three feet down from ground level. It flooded and they had four inches of water in the basement. He had to pump the water out and put in a sump pump. Then he had to get a generator for the sump pump in case the power went out. Big, big job! You don’t have to do that,” he said.
“Well, Matt cut away the sheetrock and found a crack in the foundation, and a hole in the outside wall,” I said.
“Well, a crack in the foundation’s no big deal,” he said.
“We have to have the foundation guy fix it before more water comes in and ruins the rest of the wall,” I said.
“So you can clean up the water easily? Don’t do anything. Just wait and see what happens.”
“Dad, there’s a hole in the house too. We’ve got to fix that. The whole job will cost about twenty thousand dollars,” I said, ridiculously hoping he’d offer help.
“That’s too high. Get another bid. They’re taking advantage of the hurricane on the East Coast and jacking up the prices. That’s too high.”
“Dad, it’s a local company.”
“They all take advantage. Get another estimate. My neighbor next door had water coming into his house and he hired a bunch of Spangoli from the Home Depot parking lot and they dug out around it and put in a drain. The whole project cost him two thousand dollars. You don’t even need that much done. Do you really have to fix the hole?”
“The hole is there because there was siding underground. All the wood rotted out and now there’s a hole. We have to dig it out and fix it, yes.”
“They have sealer at Home Depot. You could do it yourself.”
“We’re gonna do it, but we can’t just use sealer. We have to use concrete blocks,” I said.
“Is it a big hole?”
“You could fit a shoebox through it easily.”
“Oh, well, when he puts the concrete blocks in, he’ll have to seal it. They have sealer at Home Depot.”
“But I wouldn’t fix it right now. Just watch it and see what happens,“ he said.
“Okay, Dad,” I said.
“Okay, be talking to you.”
My husband shook his head. “See what happens?”
“Well, that’s what he would do because he wouldn’t want to pay money for anything. I’m sure if he had a leak and it kept leaking, he’d just mop it up each time and forget about it. I mean, shit, he’s got mold all over his house and he won’t even admit it.”
He called again two days later. “I’ve been thinking about your house problem, and I want to tell Matt he can get sealer from Home Depot.”
“I know, Dad. You told us. But it’s not just a broken seal, there’s a hole in the house, and dirt and water are coming in and building up behind the wall. Well, until we cut away the wall, anyway.”
“You should get another estimate. Twenty thousand’s too high. My neighbor dug a trench around his whole house. He hired Spagnoli from the parking lot at Home Depot, and it only cost him six thousand. Tell Matt to do the digging himself.”
“He is doing it, Dad.”
“How much water is it?”
“It collects about half an inch in the framing and soaks the floor in three rooms.”
“That’s not much. Just vacuum it up. Let me tell you, I’ve had water coming into my basement since the day I bought the house. I just clean it up. And in the winter, the ground freezes, so it doesn’t come in. Just watch it. Once the ground freezes, it won’t come in anymore.”
“The ground doesn’t freeze here, Dad.”
“Well, then just watch it. It may stop by itself. You know the neighbor across the street had to put in a sump pump because his basement’s three feet below ground level and his job only cost him three thousand, without the sump pump.”
“Well, Dad, they said they have to dig a huge trench and they can’t bring in an excavator, because it would collapse the retaining wall. So they’d have to do it by hand and that’s what would cost so much.”
“Oh, please, the fact is, Neil across the street did it for three thousand. Your estimate’s too high. Get someone else to come in.”
“We called several other companies and they haven’t gotten back to us. This is the only reliable one, plus Matt’s boss used them on his house and highly recommends them.”
“They’re too high. Have Matt do the digging and get another estimate.”
“Okay, be talking to ya.”
“The ground will freeze?” my husband said. I’d had my dad on speaker.
“Well, that’s the way he thinks. It might cost money to fix, so he vacuums up the water and that’s that. And the next owner, me, will have to deal with all the mold and the rest of the fallout.”
He called the next day. “Did Matt dig it out yet?”
“No, Dad. He’s been digging, but he has to go to work during the day, and it gets dark here at 4:30.”
“Oh, well, tell him to get some Spagnoli from Home Depot.”
“He’s right here, Dad, talk to him.” I handed my husband the phone. He told my husband about his two neighbors, the Spagnoli and leaving the water leak alone, and he urged him to get another estimate.
We called my husband’s mom that week and told her what happened. She offered to take out a mortgage to help us with the cost of the repairs. That’s how normal parents respond to their kids’ crises. Not once did my dad offer to help.
My father called again to tell my husband about the Spagnoli. My husband rented a tiny excavator and dug out a trench. My Dad called almost every day to ask how far he’d gotten. Four weeks and twenty phone calls later, my Dad was talking to my husband and mentioned he had money “put aside” should we need help with this. Shocked, my husband thanked him a few times.
I know enough about my Dad to know that the offer didn’t rise out of his head. It’s another case of someone telling him the right thing to do. I’m sure he told someone at the senior center and he/she told him he should offer financial help. Just like when my dad said he didn’t want us to entertain him during his visit – he only wanted to see the grandchildren. That didn’t come from him. He couldn’t even keep their genders straight. He called my son “she” up until and during the visit. I also know the grandkid thing didn’t come from him because he spent Thanksgiving with my BFF’s family and, asked repeatedly about the grandchildren, he continued to spout neighborhood gossip with her parents, his former neighbors.
He hasn’t mentioned helping us since that initial offer, so I don’t know if he will remember it. It wouldn’t be in his nature to mention it again, anyway. I’m sure he’s hoping we don’t ask for the money, but we will. This is a once-in-a-lifetime offer, and we plan to take full advantage of it.