Water, Water, Everywhere

This is probably the hardest post to write so far, since the topic still upsets me so much. But this post will likely be one of the most helpful —if I process through it successfully. “Successfully” for me is to go back to situations in which I did NOT yet know that Denny was heading into dementia, and then forgive myself for being cranky.

The following scenario repeated itself one time too many:

My cell phone rings. It’s husband Denny. “There’s a whole lot of water on the floor in the bathroom and hall.” My stomach sinks. I race downstairs and drag out our wet vacuum and start in on the flooded hallway leading up to the bathroom. There is also water in one of the bedrooms off the hallway. That bedroom, called “The Green Room” by our family, was no longer a bedroom, but was being used for storage.

When my daughter Emma came to stay with us for a time with her little baby, we put all her stuff in boxes and all the boxes in The Green Room. BOXES! OMG. Boxes will get soggy! I drop the wet vac in the hallway and run into The Green Room. I need to move EVERYTHING out of that room to get to all the water. I start pulling items out, shoving boxes onto counters in the downstairs kitchen, hoisting empty luggage onto the top of the old should-have-been-discarded clothes dryer in the furnace room. I pretend I’m a Muscle Man and carry furniture up to our main floor. Need to get everything out of the water quick! I decide in split seconds what had been taking me years to decide whether to keep or not. “Okay, time to throw this out!” –and then complying with my orders, drag newly condemned pieces up the back stairs to the alley for discarding. All that takes me about half an hour.

Then I start wet vacuuming The Green Room. That room was christened such because of an old greenish wallpaper that must have been applied to one wall when the house was first built in the 1950s. We painted the non-papered walls with bright white and lime green trim. Denny and I laid new white tile down on that floor when we were determined to make it work as one of the kids’ bedrooms “back in the day”. I think that tile had green specks in it as well. Anyway, I am glad at this moment that I am dealing with tile–not carpet! I finish getting most of the water up from that room, then return to vacuum the hallway. Then I take a deep breath…and turn myself rather dramatically in an “about face” to march into Denny’s bathroom.

Okay, it’s time to tell you about Denny’s bathroom.

Denny’s bathroom isn’t just a bathroom. It had become Denny’s world. In his dementia, he felt safest when he was in a small space surrounded by the things he needed/wanted. So, a bathroom is perfect. This bathroom was small. Grandpa had indented the wall and built in shelving to the right of the commode. And in front of “the seating area”, Denny had stationed a small brown table upon which he placed his laptop. And mouse. [COMPUTER mouse, thank goodness! There will be a post in this blog about my real mice experience as well, just you wait!] And about five Zip drives. And on the lower shelf is a bag of opened popcorn, spilling out onto the flooded floor (no wonder the mice, right?!). And all the computer wires to his computer and speakers and mouse are hanging down in the water. I could have gotten shocked and died, walking into that. And that would have been a blessing, I am thinking at this moment, because then I wouldn’t have had to clean it up.

But since I am still very much alive—painfully alive—I take everything out of Denny’s bathroom, trying to find places to temporarily store items, since all the mess from The Green Room claimed most available dry space. Then I track back into the bathroom and wet vacuum the ocean of water away.

All the time this is going on, Denny is in a panic because he can’t get back into his “safe space” until I clean it up. So I’m feeling the pressure. And I’m cranky. We later call that part of me “Cruella”, but that’s another story you can dread reading about in an upcoming post. Maybe I’ll time it with Halloween next fall. Anyway, I send Denny up to my bathroom, which will have to do until I get his area cleaned up.

After wet vacuuming everything and emptying the wet vac a zillion times (I do exaggerate I know, but I’m trying to get my overwhelmed self duly expressed here), I finally fold up that nifty, irreplaceable invention of a wet vacuum and place it back in the shop. And then I return to the three crisis areas with towels and a hot pan of soapy water. And an old pillow for my skinny boney creaky knees. And I hand scrub every inch of The Green Room tile, the hall room tile, the bathroom tile. Then I dry it all up with towels.

I am exhausted. I creak my aching back up into standing position. I retrieve everything from their hastily-contrived destinations to return to The Green Room. I don’t put anything back in Denny’s bathroom, since we need the plumber to come see what’s up. Or maybe to see what went down…or didn’t go down?

So, it’s been three hours since I started this horrific project. I drag myself upstairs to put pans, towels, and cleaning stuff away and call the plumbers. Then I amble back downstairs to look things over…and stop short.

→ → → → The bathroom door is closed!!!!!!! ← ← ← ←

My heart beats a little too fast and loud. I run to the bathroom door and knock, though I’m sure my beating HEART preceded me and should have reverberated through that door as well. “Denny?!!” I hear him answering from within, and my panicked voice yells out, “What are you doing in there???!!!” “I’m going to the bathroom,” he answers. “NOOOOO!!! Stop right now. Don’t flush, whatever you do, don’t flush!!!” He says, “Why?” “Because we just had a flood! If you flush again it will flood again before the plumber can look at it!”

This is a problem in dementia, because the dementia-ee doesn’t know what just happened. His short-term memory goes first. But, OH!!! I didn’t tell you that I didn’t KNOW Denny had dementia yet. We didn’t get that diagnosed for another YEAR. So at this present time of ignorance, I am angry that Denny didn’t know any better. He calls out, “I have to flush.” I say, still in a panic, and listening hard to make sure he isn’t flushing, “DON’T FLUSH!! That will flood us again! Please don’t flush! Come out of the bathroom now, PLEASE!” He finally comes out, and I send him up to the other bathroom.

So we did get the plumber there and we did get things fixed up. But, as I said earlier in this awful chapter, this scenario repeated many times. The plumbers were so sweet and never commented—just did their work each time they were called over. And we all kept thinking it was the plumbing and that the plumbers needed to roto-root out further to the back alley. We had those persistently patient plumbers over FIVE times in one year. I am not exaggerating in that sentence (although I admittedly exaggerated elsewhere to get my point across). But I finally figured something out that seemed to work to head off this unfortunately common event: I put a note on Denny’s shelf next to the commode that read, “Flush often during doodies.”

We didn’t have a “flood” since… Well, we didn’t have a flood from bathroom issues. But wait until I tell you about The Rare Laramie Flood of 2022! You won’t have to wait long, cuz here it is!!!—-


This was indeed an unusual event. And I should know, since I was born in Wyoming and lived there most all my life. So for those who are ignorant as to Wyoming weather, get this: in dry ole’ Wyoming, we’re excited if we get a 5-minute rainfall. We were more likely to get a 30-second rain blow-through. In that latter common scenario, the wind would take the rain somewhere, but it didn’t seem to ever drop it on our sad dry sod.

But on this particular day in 2022, Laramie was the hapless recipient of a torrential downpour that wouldn’t stop, increasing in intensity with each passing minute. The water was coming down so fast and hard that it was flooding over our little Wyoming curbs, erasing our sweet Wyoming red front sidewalks. The rain was flooding our backyard. (And I was hoping my little doggie didn’t have to go outside to potty!) And the downpour was SO LOUD! I took pictures of the outdoor flooding and sent them on my phone to my daughters down in Colorado. Teresa calls immediately and says, “MOM!!! Go downstairs and get ready with the wet vac!” I replied, “I was just down there, and everything is dry.”

She repeats forcefully: “MOM!!! You know it’s going to come through The Green Room. Go get the wet vac and stand there and wait, cuz you know it’s coming!” So I headed down the stairs, and before I got to the bottom of the staircase, I heard a big “Whooooooooosh”…. as the water came literally rolling across the floor toward the hallway from those window wells. I stood in the entrance to The Green Room with the wet vac and stayed wet vacuuming in the same place for quite some time, since the water was coming so fast. And the wet vac kept filling up, and I’d run it to Den’s bathroom to empty it in the toilet and then run back to the green room. This was about a year later than the first flood. And by this time, we knew Denny had dementia.

Denny was in his bedroom and came out, heading to his bathroom. He said, “Whatcha doin’?” I had learned by this time that he mirrors my moods, so I put a huge smile on and said lightly, “We’re having a flood! I’m wet vacuuming like crazy!” He said, “You sure are working hard! —to which I said with an even bigger smile, “Thanks for noticing!!” He happily went on his way to the bathroom, aka “refuge room”. He was SO CUTE and oblivious to what was happening. I treasure THAT memory in my mind.

In Case You Are Wondering…


If I were you, I would imagine you are wondering why it took so long for me to realize that Denny had dementia, ESPECIALLY since I had dealt with THREE previous family members and their dementias. My next post will answer that for us all. Please return next week!

Repeat Flooding

Also, do you wonder why we kept getting flooded in that house? Well, I CERTAINLY WONDERED THAT TOO!!!! In this last flooding case I covered in this post, the water kept coming. And I noticed water coming down the walls in our stairway underneath the skylight. And I kept wet vacuuming. And then I heard on the radio that we may have more storms the next day. So I decided at that moment in time that I never wanted to go through this again. So I changed my clothes and drove straight down to Ace Hardware. I bought special sealing caulking to put around the skylight. And bought every window well cover Ace had remaining in stock. None of them fit our weird-sized window wells nicely, but they would do. I put a large heavy rock on each one to make sure the covers wouldn’t blow off. And I wondered, “Why didn’t anyone ever think to put window well covers on those windows in all the years since Den’s dad built that house in the early 1950’s?”

So I called my husband’s sister to ask for some history. She says the house did have problems with water percolating up through the floor in the basement, since the house was not too far up from the land water table. Consequently, her dad (Grandpa) had three sump pumps installed, in order to keep the basement dry, which solved any flooding issues they had while she was in that home. She said they never had water in the window wells flooding the areas I mentioned. So the weird weather I experienced in that house was NEW weather for Wyoming.

A Wrap-up for You

I want to summarize this whole post. I didn’t know Denny was going into dementia during the first house flooding. But it seemed like all of a sudden, I was needing to deal with problems I never had to deal with before. I had not been mentally or physically prepared for all that ended up on my plate in those years. I was working two jobs already, and coming home to difficulties like this with the house and yard and a husband who was changing and not able to help as he had previously. And then even my little DOG was starting to have dementia-like symptoms.

During COVID in 2020, my boss sent me home with my computer and office equipment so that I could do my work from home. That time was an eye-opener, since Denny was not the same guy I had known since our marriage in 1980. After that year, I decided I was going to need to retire from my wonderful University of Wyoming job so that I could address whatever was going on with Denny. Something wasn’t right. Upcoming posts will take us down that road of discovery. Thanks for joining me as I move forward…by going backward!

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