“Come in,” I said “I’ll Give You Shelter From the Storm.”… if you clean my basement

I love having summer guests. This summer, I convinced my brother and sister-in-law  to come up for a long overdue visit the last weekend of August. Even though my husband and oldest son would be away on a father-son baseball road trip to Cooperstown and a double-header at Citifield, I welcomed their visit. Niagara Falls, a water walk in Stony Brook State Park and the Erie Canal were in my plans. Hurricane Irene, a flu-like virus, and cleaning my basement were not in my plans. But all of the above happened in one packed weekend.

I am apparently a negligent housekeeper.  It’s not that I didn’t clean before my family arrived. I scrubbed bathrooms and even dusted and vacuumed stairways and rugs. But, my undiagnosed ADD shows through in my cleaning. I miss a lot of spots. And I’d rather be gardening, reading, or writing than cleaning.

To my defense, my two children had just returned, laundry and all, from summer camp. We still had mountains of dirty socks and sleeping bags to conquer when the Cooper clan showed at my door on Thursday. And I still prepared a birthday party dinner for my nephew, planned a picnic for the next day at Stonybrook, and played tour guide again on Saturday at Niagara Falls.

Then, somewhere between the Maid of the Mist and the Journey behind the Falls on Saturday, I got sick. Once home, I surrendered myself to my bed and the mercy of the Cooper Cleaners.

Now, I know my brother and sister-in-law weren’t criticizing me at the sorry state of my basement. Glenn was truly concerned about the high humidity rate in my basement and my out-of-comission dehumidifier.  He was concerned because he noticed mold growing on some of my basement walls, and, well, my office chair, and the soggy condition of some of the contents of my downstairs pantry. And there is a cause for concern, as my youngest has asthma.

“When was the last time this thing worked?” he asked, as I lay in bed, about my basement dehumidifier.

I confessed: I cleaned it out earlier this summer. I vacuumed out the lint vent and the metal coils in back. But I hadn’t noticed if the dehumidifier was working in many months.

“How old did you say this thing was?”

“I honestly don’t know, bro.”

So, I pulled myself out of bed and off we went to the Home Depot to get me a new one. While we were there, my brother was also on the hunt for a backup sump pump. Hurricane Irene was battering the east coast. We were watching coverage of the storm’s progress all day, and he was concerned his New Jersey basement would become flooded. We got a dehumidifier, but no luck on what he needed. He checked Lowe’s too, and they were out of the sump pump as well. Apparently, people had traveled as far as Albany and Connecticut to get ones for their flooded homes.

Sunday rolled around. My family decided to wait out the storm at my place and not traverse the roads until Monday. That was fortunate for me,  because I became even more sick.

I spent the whole day in bed. When I rose, I went downstairs to find my dining room table  was filled with clean, folded laundry. I went further downstairs to my basement, to find the remains of the dirty laundry sorted in baskets. And my  basement floor had been swept clean.

AND: My brother installed my new dehumidifier and got the humidity level down to 65 percent.

I felt embarrassed and guilty that this was supposed to be my sibling’s getaway and they were instead holding down my household while worrying about theirs. I was eternally grateful.

And what was the payback? The Coopers returned to New Jersey, after being rerouted several times from the New York State Thruway and Route 17 to find they had no power.


Not because of Irene. Because a crazy old man who lived across the street, jealous that their side of the street had power and his had none, blew out a power transformer on the block with a shot-gun.

He got arrested, according to the news report. You can’t make this stuff up. It’s true.

Thanks for taking care of me, little brother and sister. A thank you gift is coming in the mail.

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a reporter and public relations professional for over 30 years, specializing in profile features and investigative longform writing. During my career I've profiled WWII Honor Flight Veterans, artists and musicians and have written on topics that range from environmental and gun control issues to Jewish culture. Click around on my writing samples plus read my blog on my personal life raising three kids over 27 years and three cities.

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