Sunday, February 19, 2006
My life growing up.
A cool breeze of air rushed across my face and sent chills over my entire body. Winter was coming soon. I had hated winters at that house. At times, it was unbearable. I awoke many mornings able to see my breath in the air. The older the house got, the colder it got inside. We only paid $25.00 a month for rent, so the landlord never made any repairs. If there were any repairs to be made, my father would make a whole-hearted attempt, but it was often lacking in completeness. He had attempted several times to repair the roof over two added on bedrooms that had been built on before we moved in. The one that was mine began leaking so severe that eventually my father gave up and let it leak.
My bed and things were moved up onto the original bedrooms flooring, near my sister's bed. My father bought four large pieces of plywood and nailed it to several 2'x8's that separated the two bedrooms. As the rain continued to fall inside the room, it rotted away the floor, causing it to sag in the middle. One night during a heavy downpour, it finally gave way and came crashing down.
When it did, my sister and I felt the floor in our part of the room drop a little near where it was blocked off. The next heavy rain it began dripping water near the foot of my sister's bed. We placed a bowl under the leak to catch most of the water. Within a year, the bowl had been replaced with buckets, pans and anything else we could find that held water.
When the buckets neared the top, day or night we were to empty them down the toilet or into the bathtub. My sister couldn't lift the bigger buckets, so it was left up to me to empty them; which at times needed emptied 2 or 3 times during a bad storm. We had to re-arrange our beds several times to stay dry as new leaks started. It finally got to a point where we were moved as far away as possible, but water would still splash onto the corners of our beds. At first we made a good effort at trying to keep the floor dry, but year after year, it became more and more of a losing battle. The floor beneath the leaking began rotting and sagged heavily when walking in the area. When I complained about it, I was told I needed to empty the buckets more and not let them overflow.
At the age of 13 and on the 3rd day of steady rain and being completely exhausted from empting the buckets of water all day and night, I gave up and let the rain pour in. I covered my head to block out the noise and to stay dry. When the buckets began to overflow, I ignored them and tried to sleep, but I was quickly awaken by the shouts of my father telling me to get up and empty the big bucket that was under the main leak. As I stumbled out of bed, over to the bucket, my left foot stepped in the middle of the floor where it sagged. It was an area I had avoided stepping in; now I knew why. My left foot went through the floor up to my knee and the bucket of water splashed across the floor. My father, watching, shouted at my sister to get up and help clean up the mess I had made, and then he walked off and went back to his dry, warm bed. After pulling several splinters from my leg, I helped my sister clean up the water as more was steadily coming in. We put the bucket under another big leak and just let the rain run through the hole my foot had made. I didn’t blame my parents, I blamed myself. I felt it was my fault that things were the way they were.
Year after year, the rain continued to make the holes bigger and bigger. In the winter, I could feel the brisk air coming in and blowing across my nose as I would attempt to sleep. With the holes in the floor, roof, and only plywood as walls, it was near impossible to sleep. Many mornings I awoke to see my breath hanging heavily in the air. My sister would often be asleep on the bathroom floor near the small stove that heated the bathroom trying to stay warm. My father would begin whipping her and shouting at her not to do it because she was going to catch herself on fire. As cold as I got, I stayed in my own bed, freezing and wet, to avoid being hit or getting yelled at.