Weathering The Storms

 If you're a homeowner you most likely own a ladder, an implement of disaster, a necessity for every do-it-yourselfer. I own one of these devices - a twelve-footer - given to me by a neighbor.

 Normally, only things within my reach are in danger of destruction. With my ladder, however, I can cover a twelve-foot radius. Within this radius can be found many breakable items: windows, cars, power lines, and neighbors.

 I once had the misfortune of living in a mobile home. Older mobiles, like the one in which I lived, had metal roofs; a source of many headaches. Constructed with two-foot wide strips of aluminum and pieced together with folded seams, they are prone to leaks. In the winter the snow builds up on the low sloped panels. Heat lost through the poorly insulated roof causes it to melt during relatively warm days. Water trapped under the snow seeps into the seams. At night, when the temperature drops, the water freezes and forces the seams apart. This continues all winter long. By spring you're living in a sieve.

 During one particularly nasty spring storm, one with high winds and heavy rains, my daughter approached me, "Dad, there's a leak in my ceiling." She grabbed my hand, "Come on, Dad, hurry. It's a big leak." I hesitated. The first ball game of the year was on TV. How bad could it be? It was probably just a small drip.

 She pulled me down the hall and into her room. "See, dad!" She pointed at her ceiling. "Look!" She wasn't exaggerating. The water poured though the ceiling in a steady stream, splashed on her desk, ran off onto the floor, and soaked her carpet.

 "See, dad. I told you so." She stood with one hand on her hip and her head tilted to one side, a miniature of my wife, proud she'd proved me wrong. She was right. I needed to fix this right away. "It's OK, honey; I'll fix it for you." I said as I headed for the door.

 I slipped into my rain gear and glanced out the window. I could think of several places I’d rather be than up on the roof. The wind threw the rain against the windowpanes in sheets. The water running down the glass distorted the swaying trees and reminded me of looking through the heat rising from a campfire. I looked longingly at my chair, the beer on the table beside it, the open newspaper, and the ball game on the television. I sighed and thrust my feet into my boots.

 Outside the wind-driven rain hit my face like hail. The storm roared through the trees, blew my hat off, and caused my raincoat to flap behind me like a cape. I shielded my eyes with one hand and leaned forward to keep my balance. I trudged to the shed, opened the door, and there it was, "The Ladder." In my hands I could feel its evil power radiating up my arm like the red line of an infection.

 The wind pushed and pulled at its length, and twisted me sideways as I battled my way back to the house. I propped the ladder into position and returned to the shed for a can of tar and a brush.

 From the roof I could see white caps on the waves in the wind-churned cove. They sped down its length and crashed against the rocks at its head. The road, which wound around its shoreline, was littered with debris, tossed there by the force of the waves. I spotted my hat tangled in the upper branches of nearby tree. Tomorrow it would be gone, carried off by the storm, never to seen again. The rain beat down on me, plastered my hair to my head, and made my glasses useless. I slipped them into my pocket and crawled to where I thought the leak might be. Near the edge of the slippery roof the wind blew up my backside and lifted my raincoat up over my head. It snapped in my ears like a flag on a windy day and covered my eyes, blinding me. To a bystander I must have looked like an umbrella turned inside out.

 On my knees, I waved my arms in circles and battled my coat back into position, but not before the cold rain had soaked my shirt, gluing it to my back. In control again, I located the leak and plugged it with globs of black, sticky tar, as water ran into my eyes and dripped from my nose. It wasn't the best of patch-jobs, but it would do until the weather improved, and I could do a permanent repair.

 I tapped the top back on the can of tar and relished the thought of a hot shower and a cold beer. A gust of wind, the strongest one yet, made me drop flat to keep from being blown over the edge. There was a scrapping noise behind me, and I turned in time to watch the ladder slide from view and crash on the ground below. "Now, here's a fine mess!" I thought to myself.

 "Honey!" I yelled for my wife.

 "Honey!" There was no response.

 "Georgia!" I screamed. Still no response.

 I knelt and pounded on the tin plates until my hands were sore, but there was no sign of rescue. My wife could be excused for her inattention; she wasn't ignoring me. The fault lay with that slab of tin called a roof. When the wind blows, as it did on that day, it causes the panels to rumble and bang, making a noise like a dump truck passing over a large pothole. In bed at night, you can track each gust as it rattles the panels one-by-one along the length of your home. It will start at one end, crash by over your head, and roll like thunder to the other end, making you wonder when you'll have that long-wanted skylight.

 On this particular day my screaming and banging blended nicely with the natural sounds of a mobile-home, and my attempts to be rescued were just one more instrument in an orchestra of sounds. Georgia did eventually get worried about me and came to the rescue. She laughed with water streaming from her face as she propped the ladder back in place. “You idiot!” she said, when I was safely on the ground.

 Later that evening, after several well-deserved beers, it was easy to laugh about the ordeal, but at the time humor was the furthest thing from my mind.

 That day reminds me that life often throws us a storm. We can’t let it beat us. We have to put on our rain coats, lean into the wind and trudge forward. We can beat the storm, if we work hard to stay on our feet. Of course, there will be times when the wind will blow us back a few steps, as if we were carrying a ladder, but when it lets up a bit, we’ll slowly make our way forward. Storms don’t last forever. They blow over, and the sun comes out. When it does, we’ll be able to sit back, relax, and maybe even laugh.

 We have a choice: lean into the wind or hide in the closet.

 Me? I’m a leaner.

~ Michael T. Smith ~

[ by: Michael T. Smith Copyright © 2005, ( -- submitted by: Michael T. Smith ]


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