Sunday, February 23, 2014

Who Left the Faucet Running???

Here's a poem that surely applies to fathers everywhere:
The Immutable Laws
by Maxine Kumin

Never buy land on a slope, my father declared
the week before his heart gave out.
We bit down hard on a derelict dairy farm
of tilting fields, hills, humps and granite outcrops.

Never bet what you can't afford to lose,
he lectured. I bet my soul on a tortured horse
who never learned to love, but came to trust me.

Spend your money close to where you earn it,
he dictated. Nothing made him crosser
than wives who drove to New York to go shopping
when Philly stores had everything they needed.

This, the grab bag of immutable laws
circa 1940 when I was the last
child left at home to be admonished:

Only borrow what you know you can repay.
Your mother used to run up dress-shop bills
the size of the fifth Liberty Loan,
his private hyperbole. It took me years

to understand there'd been five loans
launched to finance the First World War,
the one he fought in, the war to end all wars.

What would this man who owed no man, who kept
his dollars folded in a rubber band,
have thought of credit cards, banking online?
Wars later, clear as water, I hear him say

reconcile your checkbook monthly, and oh!
always carry a clean handkerchief.
I've always looked for my father's approval. Growing up, I felt satisfied that my skills at least somewhat mirrored his - my interests in school were more aligned with math and science than with the arts (like my engineer father, I always believed). We shared the books we read. I remember planting trees with him, and spent at least some time helping him around the house. When I checked for my car keys before slamming the car trunk shut, he nodded in approval.

Years later, when Dad was in rehab after his stroke, I helped Mom install a hand-held shower head in their bathroom. Plumbing had never been my forte, so I was pleased that we managed this before Dad returned home, and anticipated his congratulatory comments. Alas, no praise was forthcoming - a change in his personality or demeanor that I attributed to his stroke; I mourned the loss of that approval.

I ponder all this today, as we do something that would most likely horrify Dad: We are running the tap in our small bathroom continuously, at a pencil-sized stream. We are doing this all the time. Around the clock. Non-stop.

Why are we doing this? A recent Gazette article asserts that this is the worst winter for frozen water pipes in 35 years. Because of this, the Kalamazoo Public Services Department has issued a "strong warning," asking that residents run a tap constantly, to prevent frozen water lines.
Normal frost depths in the Kalamazoo area are 1 to 3 feet, but this year the frost line has reached 3 to 5 feet deep, according to Ritsema. He said city officials are anticipating frost to yet reach deeper into the ground, since temperatures warmed some this week and are expected to dip below freezing again next week.

"A lot of the thawing occurs from the top down," Ritsema explained. "We project this potentially going into April or May before we're out of the woods with respect to services not freezing."

The city is asking that all residential customers, including those outside the city limits, with a water service line of 1 inch in diameter or smaller run their water to one faucet in a stream the width of pencil.

Notwithstanding this information, and this excellent pictorial explanation, it is all I can do to keep myself from running into our bathroom to turn off that faucet. Letting it flow continuously just seems WRONG. (I can picture my father shaking his head.)

And we might have to do this until MAY? Surely not. Surely it will warm up before then.


  1. What a lovely bittersweet tribute to your dad.

    I have water running, too, and I hate it.

  2. I thought this was a lovely tribute to your Dad - who sounds very much like my own in fact. I've also inherited his hatred of a dripping tap over winter, although still have a long way to go before I have all of the skills he spent a lifetime honing. Thanks for sharing this post.

    Levi Eslinger @ Capital Plumbing