Saturday, January 22, 2011

If Not For My Goddaughter, I Might Have Been Killed!!!

Note:  For anybody who has read this story earlier and now notice changes in the first part, it was because I had heard Michelle tell this story quickly and had remembered it incorrectly.  Originally, I'd thought that both girls were in the house, but Julie (Michelle's older sister) had gone to Indianapolis with their mom and dad, so Michelle was alone in the house when this happened.
There are many ways in which my telling of this story might begin.

One way might be to tell you a story that I didn't know about my almost 33 year old goddaughter Michelle until she told it to me this past Wednesday--something that happened to her when she was a child.

She had gone somewhere and wasn't expected back home anytime soon, so her mom and dad had thought nothing of locking the house when they took her older sister, Julie, to Indianapolis.

However, Michelle had decided to return home unexpectedly.

When she found herself locked out, she decided to enter through one of the windows.

In order to reach the window, Michelle climbed onto the gas meter--not realizing that this action had done some damage to it that created a gas leak.

Michelle has an extra-sensitive sense of smell, so she began to realize that there was an odd odor coming into the house from somewhere, but she was too young to realize what it was.

She began to feel very drowsy, and the next thing she knew was being surrounded by paramedics and other emergency workers.

When her mom, dad, and sister had arrived home, they were met with the strong odor of gas and called for help.

Inside the house, they found Michelle unconscious.

Thankfully, they had arrived on time before Michelle had ended up dying--if not from inhaling the gas into her lungs from the house exploding into flames!!!

When Michelle learned--and understood the significance of--what had almost happened, the odor she had been smelling made a deep and permanent impression on her brain.

Fast-forward into late 2009 or early 2010. . .

Michelle and her family were still living in Muncie at the time but had been doing some house hunting in Anderson and the surrounding area in order to find a place to live that was closer to Nestle where her husband, Allan, had recently gotten a job (July of 2009).

While they were over this way, they decided to drop by for a visit.

Due to a leaky roof and deteriorating door, my enclosed front porch (which still looks beautiful from the outside for the most part) had turned into a bad joke, and Michelle wanted to make repairs for me.

I told her that money was tight so, as much as I would like something like that, I would have to take a rain check on it. 

She responded that money wasn't an issue and that we would work something out.

She also was wanting to put in my handicapped-friendly shower and do a few other things around the house.  However, she needed to take care of some things for her own family before she began.

The winter of 2009-2010 was a rough one.

In February of 2010, Aunt Kate (80 years old; blind to some degree since birth and totally-blind for at least thirty years; widowed since late December of 2002 and living alone even before then when Uncle Don went to the nursing home; and dealing with Parkinson's) suddenly found herself without the help on whom she had depended.

It turned out that one family who had helped her were housebound, without either a car or phone (the last being shut off due to not being able to afford to pay the bill).

Another regular helper had suddenly received the news that her sister (who lived close to 1000 miles away) had taken seriously-ill and needed her help.

In her rush to leave, she had forgotten to tell Aunt Kate that she wouldn't be available.

There was my mom and me, but we were also housebound due to the weather not agreeing with some of our physical conditions.  In fact, we were also snowed-in (as in not being able to get out even if we were physically up to it until we decided to pay for snow removal, and, with money being tight, we couldn't be having this done all of the time).

We stayed in touch with Aunt Kate by phone and tried to get some help for her.

We didn't know this at the time, but it would turn out to be the start of a long and winding journey that took us to when Aunt Kate passed away on August 13 and, in some ways, beyond.

I won't go into everything here, as I want to get to how Michelle ended up not only saving my life but, also, the lives of several others, but, in short, it has been a very busy and challenging time for us.

The same can be said about Michelle.  One of the changes that she and her family went through in the autumn of 2010 was making the move to Anderson.

Instead of buying a house at this time, they signed an 18-month lease on a house in order to give them more time to get familiar with Anderson as a place to live so that they could shop at leisure for just the right permanent home.

Michelle and I have plans to start making repairs to my house within the next couple of weeks or so--starting with replacing the kitchen sink (which is an even worse joke than the front porch).

A combination of busy schedules and lack of funds have stood in the way of this endeavor until now.  While my mom and I still don't have the funds ourselves, we're expecting some to arrive soon.  Michelle has some resources to help us out in the meantime.

Originally, however, we had hoped to start working on the enclosed front porch in 2010--which included expanding it.

This meant that the gas meter would have to be relocated--and it was on November 12.  It's very easy to remember this date for two reasons:  

It was Stuart's birthday, and I thought that it was pretty neat that I was making progress on my place right on the birthday of Chicago's Snake Charmer.

The next day would be Jaylee's birthday--and she was the daughter of the friend who would be reconnecting the meter to the house with a long pipe, once the meter, itself, had been set up.  I had gone to Zinszer's to pick up some cookies as a birthday present for her.  Due to conditions not being favorable for me to get out a few days before, I had hurried to get the shopping done while Ed was still there doing his part.

Ed's part, of course, had absolutely nothing to do with the moving and installation of the meter, itself.

Because my mom and I had been struggling to keep afloat ourselves and to continue paying off expenses related to Aunt Kate, even the moving of the meter had been delayed past when I'd originally hoped to do it (in late summer or early fall), and this was a busy time of year.  

It was getting towards winter, so the gas company had a lot of assignments to get done quickly before the weather got to the place where they couldn't.  

I had been told that it might be as much as four weeks before they could get to my job, so I considered myself lucky when I found out that they would be able to get to me in about half that time.

Now, I was all ready for the concrete to be laid, which would be the preparations needed in order to not only extend the porch but, also, give me an enclosed carport and walkway leading to it just in time for winter!

Unfortunately, before Michelle, Allan, and other members of her crew had the chance to lay the concrete, the ground alternated between being too wet, too cold, or both to get the job done.

This would have to wait until spring.

When I told Ed that it looked as if the pipe leading to the house (which was, originally, going to be encased in a protective shell, both in the area where the extended porch would be and in the area between the porch and the trees where I was going to place a wildflower garden in hopes of luring hummingbirds and butterflies) wasn't going to be covered beyond the protective wrapping that he had put on it, he reassured me that--unless something happened like somebody jumping up and down on it--it wasn't in any danger of busting.

Of course, I was very relieved to hear that news.

And this brings us to yet another place where this story could begin:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kevin Smith--who had already served us well as the Mayor of Anderson a few years ago--has decided to run again!

One of the ways he's raising funds is to sell delicious and inexpensive lunches to anybody wanting to drop by Republican Headquarters.  Not every day, mind you but frequently.

This past Wednesday was such a day.

Had the weather been dry, my mom and I probably would have picked up Pinky, and the three of us would have headed up there so that Pinky could have picked up three carry-out orders. 

However, it was typical Indiana winter weather--and, perhaps, even more "typical" than average.

Bud--who would have usually been the one to run errands like this for us--was staying over in Noblesville with his significant other and her kids for days on end instead of commuting back and forth to Anderson.

Not only did we want to participate in Kevin's campaign lunch but, also, I had some Aunt-Kate-related business needing taken care of as well (delivering a document).

I really felt funny about sending anybody out in this weather, but I decided to call Michelle, as I knew that she got out and about in relation to her kids' activities.

Michelle would tell me later that she was having mixed feelings about going out, as she'd actually had no personal need to go out and was feeling all warm and cozy sitting inside.

Had I known this at the time, I never would have called her up.

As it turned out, it was a blessing (an understatement) that she did decide that she wanted to help us out and that it wouldn't be that much trouble for her.

She went right from her house to Republican Headquarters to pick up the lunches--and she got to meet Kevin and was very favorably impressed with him!

Then, she drove out to deliver them, running an errand for Allan while she was out our way.

She dropped off my mom's lunch first and, then, came down to drop off mine.  She was going up to take care of some things for my mom while I ate lunch and finished preparing the Aunt-Kate-related information.

However, she smelled a familiar-and-unwelcome odor.

She informed me that I had a gas leak and should call my gas company sooner-than-immediately.

I did this while she returned to my mom's place.

They sent somebody out in no time flat and had given me instructions over the phone not to get near to the meter until it was checked out and, if necessary, repaired.

Part of the instructions were that I wasn't to make any phone calls and I was to leave the receiver off the hook after the person at the gas company finished talking to me.

I asked if they would call up to my mom's and tell Michelle not to come back down.

I don't know if they did or not, because, when the gas man arrived, she drove back to my place while I stood in the doorway making waving motions to stay away.

She must not have seen them because she kept coming down, parked, got out, and started walking towards the house.

I told her to go back, but she kept coming and asked if anybody had checked things out yet--to which I told her that the gas man hadn't gotten out of his truck yet.

When he got out, he asked who had reported the gas leak, and she told him that she had--and he told her that he didn't smell anything.

At that point, he was skeptical and thought that, perhaps, she had smelled something else, but she insisted that the odor she'd smelled was definitely natural gas (which is, actually, odorless, but an odor gets added to it so that it can be smelled should there be a leak).

I was under the impression that it might be in the pipe (that is, that it could have cracked somewhere due to the way-below-freezing temperatures), but the man--through spraying water different places (which resulted in bubbles just like passing gas in a bathtub or swimming pool does)--found that the leak was right there on the meter, itself, and had been caused by the bolt being very loose.  He was shocked at just how loose it was.

He decided that he'd better go down in the basement to turn off the water heater and furnace while he fixed it.  I shut off the thermostat in the house.

To make a long story short, I was very fortunate.

One of the people installing it back on November 12 must have gotten distracted and hadn't tightened it securely enough.

This meant that there had been a gas leak going on for over two months!

Michelle told me that it was a wonder that something hadn't blown up during that time saying that the gas seemed to be lying close to the ground, and who could tell how far it had spread.

Not only had I been in danger of dying in a house explosion but, also, my mom and other neighbors!

In this kind of climate, she said that the explosion might have even affected places as far away as Mennard's, which, as the crow flies, isn't even a mile away.

She said that people need to make themselves familiar with the odor of a gas leak--and that anybody installing a meter and otherwise working with gas needs to be sure that all parts of the meter and related pipes need to be secured.

In short, this was a disaster waiting to happen, and I had been blissfully unaware of it!