There is nothing like a leaky roof to focus your mind, a focus sharpened when it happens over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Life is wonderful, devilish and predictable. Everybody has their share of surprises. The only question is when.

“I think you’ve got it,” yelled my 92-year-old mom. “The wind couldn’t possibly get underneath all those nails.”

“Yelled” because I was up on the roof nailing a 16-by-20-foot tarp to the green shingles in the hopes, soon to be retired, that I might stop the leak from the rainstorm — otherwise known as an atmospheric river — from pouring water into the bathroom and laundry room.

I knew enough not to spike the football before I had reached the end zone but I was proud of my work. My mom had recognized a job well done and was paying a compliment to her son.

I climbed down and as we stood there — mother and son — the wind shifted from north to south and a cyclonic blast ripped one side of the tarp off the roof.

Never talk about the wind. Never mention the wind, underestimate the wind or predict the wind. Stay quiet, humble and keep your opinions to yourself.

I wasn’t surprised that Thanksgiving included wind, rain and structural high jinks because it is potentially a wild event and 2019 lived up to that potential. You start by gathering a bunch of people who haven’t been together for awhile, throw in some alcohol and a lot of gravy, whipped cream and pumpkin pie and it’s surprising there isn’t a shooting.

We didn’t need one because we had a lively five-day Alaskan storm that poured into our downstairs bathroom and laundry room, soaking the walls and ruining the new paint job.

With challenges comes an opportunity for team-building and leadership.

“There is something wrong about a 65-year-old man on a roof during a rainstorm,” observed Sue. “Especially when he’s enlisted his youngest son (Thomas) and neither of them are experts in the field.”

She then suggested that we might sell the house. As is. As is with the blue tarps flapping mightily in the wind.

That last 15 percent

That was last Wednesday, the day that began with a 7 a.m. trip to the Lowe's on Columbus in order to buy three large tarps. There weren’t many left. When I went to pay, there were two blue plastic gallon buckets by the checkout stand catching water from their own leaks.

Thomas and I stopped 85 percent of the leaks; it was that last 15 percent that proved pesky, especially with the winter storms stacked one after another through the balance of December. I’ve learned something about rain, rain and how to attract it. No need for divining rods or elaborate rain dances, all you have to do is have a leaky roof and it will rain from now until the mushrooms come up.

Repair time

A week later, here is where we are: Smartly clad (why does yellow say, “I’m here to help”) workers from 911Restoration are tearing down one-third of the ceilings and walls in the laundry and bathroom in an effort to locate the leak(s). A large fan is blowing 90-degree air into the rooms to dry the remaining walls.

Last night, during the current storm, I had two leaky roof dreams. Turns out, when I woke up, I found my dreams had come true.

Life of pie

Thanksgiving was good. Sue switched things up and made pumpkin pies with a gingersnap cookie crust. Life happened too, which was almost comforting.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at or 661-395-7279.

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