They say you don’t appreciate what you have until you no longer have it.
Take electricity for example. In August we lost power for several hours. It didn’t take long for my family to deeply appreciate the magic that happens when you flip a switch and the lights come on.
Apparently, the Universe deemed we needed another lesson in gratitude.
Ten years ago, my husband and his father replaced our aging water heater with a fancy tankless model. Like all Hval projects it was fraught with unforeseen complications. Namely, they couldn’t get the water shut off. But also like all Hval projects, it was worth the wait.
At the time, we had six people living at home, including four active boys. Showering had turned into a competitive sport. No one wanted to be the last one to shower because that’s when the hot water usually ran out. And God help the Mom who threw a load of laundry in while boys were bathing.
After our new tankless system was installed, Derek ran his hand over the compact, gleaming wall-mounted beauty.
“We’ll never run out of hot water, again!” he said.
For a long time, he was right. But a few years ago, the heater began making some ominous noises. We ignored them.
This summer the rattle turned to a roar that echoed all the way outdoors to the Great Gazebo where I sunned myself.
And then the dripping started.
Last month, Derek and I came home after an evening out, and Zach said, “Did you know water is coming out of the hot water heater?”
We did not know this.
After assessing the situation, Derek put a bucket under it.
Within days the trickle became a small but steady stream and the bucket had to be emptied with increasing frequency. We took to turning the water heater off at night.
“I think it’s the heat exchanger,” said Derek.
Then he did something unheard of in the Hval household: He called for professional help.
A plumber visited and confirmed Derek’s suspicion, and recommended replacing the entire unit. The estimated cost was the equivalent of sending one of us to Hawaii while the other stayed home and ate macaroni and cheese for a week.
“I’ll just replace the heat exchanger and I’ll do it myself,” Derek announced.
He watched a YouTube video about the process and ordered the part online.
“It’ll be here in less than a week,” he said.
Of course, that was the day the water heater quit all together.
Theoretically, one can live without hot water. You can wash your hands and your clothes in cold and our dishwasher has its own heating coils. What you cannot do is shower in cold water. At least I can’t.
The four of us scrambled to find bathing options while we waited for the part to arrive. We have a gym membership, so Derek and Sam took hot showers there. I could have done that, too, but I like more privacy when I get ready for my day. Thankfully, I housesit for snowbirds during the fall and winter, and hot showers and my office away from home were just a short drive away.
Which left poor Zachary (who’d let his gym membership lapse) to learn the military discipline of taking an icy shower.
“The key is to keep your feet out of the way of the water,” he informed us.
A chilly week passed before the part arrived. It had some complicated wiring, but Derek easily figured it out and hooked it up in record time.
He switched it on and waited. No rattle. No roar. And unfortunately no hot water.
“I think the dripping water fried the fan,” he said. “I’ll order a new one. It’ll be here in a couple days.”
We are a stoic lot, but the news was hard to take. Our combined groans sounded almost as loud as the defunct water heater used to.
On the appointed day, the fan arrived while we were all at work. Derek hurried home to install it. The rest of us watched our phones, anxiously awaiting word.
Within minutes a text arrived. “We have HOT WATER!”
Such beautiful words!
Zachary got the first shower. He’d earned it.
As for me, when it was my turn to luxuriate under the warm water’s soothing spray, I counted my blessings. Loudly. Just in case the Universe thinks I need any more reminders.
Contact Cindy Hval at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation. Her Front Porch segments air Sundays at 6 PM on Spokane Talks on FOX 28 Spokane. To see previously aired segments go to https://spokanetalksmedia.com/ and click the Front Porch tab.