The age-old belief about the rule or power of three held true for me — but not in a good way.
The three incidents that disrupted my otherwise pleasantly, stressful, single parent existence were a bug-infested couch, a leaky water heater and a busted air conditioner.
If it weren’t for my father, I don’t know how my son and I would have survived them!
Couch with unwelcome guests
For several years, a portion of my basement had essentially been a dumping ground for various items from tools to broken bikes.
Even though the basement was finished when I purchased my house in 2012, it was in desperate need of work. The entire basement, which consists of a laundry room, a large room, a mudroom, a small room and a half bath, could definitely benefit from some rehabilitation, but I decided to focus on the large, main room — for now.
In the main room, the walls, a sickly yellow, were pocked with small holes from darts that had clearly missed their target. On the ceiling, a suspiciously large, reddish, splatter stain conjured stories of a bizarre murder that could have taken place there.
The floor was just odd. One half was covered with a light beige carpet, complete with stains and ground-in dirt. The other half was painted red. Yeah, red.
Overall, the large room in the basement was not inviting, so Joseph and I confined the majority of our activity to the first floor.
Being generally confined to my house for several months during the pandemic, I found myself compelled to address the elephant in my basement. I began to envision the large room as a place for Joseph and his friends to hang out, but it needed to be outfitted for human habitation.
First, new flooring was installed.
Next, the walls and ceiling were painted.
Then, the furniture.
A sectional couch seemed like the perfect fit for the space. Its large size would carve out a cozy television and gaming area; rounding out the other half of the room was a used pool table my father purchased.
Unfortunately, a new one was definitely cost-prohibitive for my tight budget.
My boyfriend, Lewis, and I scanned Facebook Marketplace for a few days until we discovered a sectional couch at a price that I could afford. It was midnight blue and complemented the orange table I bought from a consignment store.
The large room in the basement was finally ready for Joseph and his friends on Halloween. It gave them the privacy and entertainment they needed. Mission accomplished!
However, habits are difficult to break. Joseph and I remained on the first floor, leaving the basement’s main room largely uninhabited. In an effort to incorporate that room into our lives, we moved the Total Gym exercise equipment downstairs where Joseph preferred to work out — and was eventually injured.
During one of his exercise sessions, Joseph found the bugs. Yes, bugs!
Bugs on the floor.
Bugs on the couch.
Dead ones. Live ones.
The bugs could have been either or both, because they are similar in appearance. Also, for Joseph and me to speculate that they could be bat bugs made sense. The borough where we live has one of the largest bat populations in Pennsylvania.
But, maybe, we have a bigger problem than bugs — maybe, I have bats in the walls?! What the hell?!
Regardless of what they were or where they originated from, the couch seemed to be their home base and it had to go — immediately.
My father raced over and he, Joseph and I dismantled the sectional, dragged the pieces outside and placed them in front of the house for the garbage collectors to remove.
Then, we cleaned the entire floor and sprayed bug repellent along the trim.
Fortunately, none of the bugs made their way to the first floor and none have been seen in the basement since their initial discovery.
Now, the large room in the basement is a nicer version of a dumping ground. One day, I hope to transform it into a welcoming, livable space.
Water heater with a leak
In my basement’s mudroom, which adjoins the main room, stands the water heater, a noble appliance. As its name suggests, it provides the invaluable service of heating the water circulating in my house.
This sentinel against unexpected, cold showers in the morning replaced an older one that died a year or so ago.
I don’t know anything about water heaters, but if the appliance is new, it should work properly, right?
For all intents and purposes, the heater was working well. Hot water was flowing to my shower, my sinks and my laundry.
However, I did notice the tank was leaking a bit from one of its pipes, so naturally, I put a small, plastic container under it to collect the water. My father noticed my little water collection operation and asked that I keep him informed about the situation.
As the months passed, I made it part of my weekly routine to check the container and dump the water in the nearby toilet.
Once a week became twice a week then every other day.
You see where we’re going here?
The heater’s drip became a drool!
Water was pooling on the floor at the base of tank instead of collecting in the container. My father’s immediate response was to bring over a wet vac that I used to suck up the water — on a daily basis!
Ever since I could remember, my father has always enjoyed the challenge of fixing things whether he accomplished that end or not. Many appliances have gained a new life while others have been on hold in perpetuity.
Would the wet vac be the solution for my water heater debacle?
Would I be sucking away forever?
Or until the heater just explodes or suddenly dies?
First, it’s bugs; now, it’s the water heater! What the hell?!
Unbeknownst to me, my father was discussing my leaky water heater situation with his brother, a carpenter and home renovator. They realized that a piece in the tank was defective and needed to be replaced. The cost for the new part? Less than $5!
My father described how he discovered the problem and commented on how plastic could never substitute for metal in this part. I was just thrilled that I didn’t need to buy another water heater!
Air conditioner no more
Purchasing an old house comes with its own unique challenges. As such, no two old houses are the same.
The previous homeowners of my house invested in appliances that operated for decades. At first, they seemed magical! Unicorns in the world of machines!
Unfortunately, they weren’t mystical creatures, just remnants of a different time of manufacturing and industry standards.
One by one, I watched them slip away, my dishwasher, my washing machine and my water heater. New appliances replaced them, ones that are more energy efficient and technologically advanced, gradually updating my home into the 21st century.
However, one system that seemed unstoppable was my heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. Through my house’s network of vents, it pushed cool air in the summer and hot air in the winter, all day, for months end, with only a break here and there for a cool spring or fall day.
For nine years, my HVAC worked without a problem until a month ago.
One evening, I heard an odd, screeching sound coming from the ventilation portion. Over time, it got louder and was joined by a weird, grinding sound.
Again, my father came to investigate and discovered the motor for the fan had to be replaced. With a new motor in place, the fan was humming along.
Crisis averted, right?
Oh no, not at all. Another one awaited me.
A week ago, my house felt rather warm. With my hand next to the vent, I failed to feel any cool air.
Did the motor die again?
The outside air conditioning unit had dropped dead and at the perfect time! The temperature had reached into the 90s and stayed there for several days.
Needless to say, I was sweating my ass off, but I knew I would eventually acclimate to the heat — and I did. Sleeping at night and working during the day at my house were manageable but not sustainable. My son could not tolerate the heat at night and slept at my parent’s house.
After a few days, I had had enough. No amount of acclimating was going to combat the intensifying heat. My house felt like an oven!
My father helped me with the purchase of two window air conditioners — at a discount! One was installed at one end of the first floor and the other one at the other end. To encourage the cooler air to circulate, the doors between the various rooms are open.
My father and I discussed the cost of replacing the HVAC and decided to hold off until money could be saved for this investment. He also wanted to research HVAC providers and installers for the best deal.
In the meantime, two rather noisy units hum along daily. Aside from the cool air blowing through my first floor, the units are saving me money because they use less electricity — a lot less!
If the rule of three applies, I should be finished with this cycle.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to handle the next one — with my father’s help, of course.
On Thursdays, I share a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent.
Starting the summer of 2021, my son, Joseph, is writing a monthly column titled In My Son’s Words where he describes his experiences as a teenager and as a child of a single parent.
Twice a month, instead of a personal post, I put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally.