Adios, April! Hello, May(hem)!

Helen Baldwin avatar

by Helen Baldwin |

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April brought with it more than showers in the water department.

Our son Matthew and his family visited our daughter and son-in-law, Katie and Paul, on Easter weekend. Besides the beach, they had access to a nearby swimming pool. As our granddaughter Clara, 6, dipped her toes into the pool, she urged her mama, Jill, to “Come live the dream!”

The travelers returned home on Easter afternoon. They were on the verge of washing clothes when they discovered there was no water. The plumber determined it was the pressure tank; if they could wait until the next day, they would avoid the “holiday rate.” Since they could flush, albeit sparingly, they’d wait.

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On Monday, April 18, the pressure tank was replaced. The following day, Clara’s school was closed because there was no hot water.

Afterward, all was calm … for a week.


Matthew called around 5 a.m. on Tuesday, April 26. Jill had been abruptly awakened earlier by a ruckus she couldn’t identify. In a stupor, she sprinted to check on Clara and our grandson, James.

Once her feet hit the water flooding the kitchen, she called for Matthew. They watched water run into the kitchen floor vent and rushed downstairs to what had been my mother’s apartment until her death barely two months earlier.

Matthew reported that part of the ceiling in the apartment had caved in, with more looking ominously close to following suit. As I hurriedly got dressed enough to check things out myself, my head exploded.

Mom could have been there!

But she wasn’t!

What about all of her things?

They’re just things!

What about all of the cassettes and CDs of her musical recordings? The notes she’d written about her compositions? Her stories in the file cabinet I hadn’t yet pulled out?

Get your shoes on and see for yourself. No matter what, she is safe.

At that, I was actually eerily calm.


Our family learned about SMA when our third baby, Jeffrey, was diagnosed at 8 weeks in July 1997.

Despite fervent prayers and experimental attempts to thwart the progression, SMA continued its wrath until a scheduled consultation with a pulmonologist about a potential treatment. It couldn’t hurt, and it was truly the last card we had.

The consultation did hurt and sent Jeffrey’s decline into a free fall. Our home health nurse learned about the ordeal and promptly contacted hospice.

SMA’s devastation picked up steam. Ruthie, my wonderful assistant in the kindergarten class I taught at Brockman School, made a surprise visit a few days later to see her “adopted” grandbaby. I noted at the end of the day that things had been calm. “Eerily so,” I jotted down.

That was the calm before the storm. I wasn’t sure what my calm in anticipation of seeing the flood damage in Mom’s apartment meant.


Looking at the collapsed ceiling where Mom had walked so many times was chilling for obvious reasons. As the chances of her being there so early in the morning were slim, however, that wasn’t the most horrific “what-if.”

That came almost instantly. I imagined her in bed, awake, as was often the case, or awakened by the terrifying commotion, her limited vision not enabling her to see what was going on, and then her figuring out that the ceiling was crashing. And not being able to do a thing.

That “what-if” remains unbearable.


The two weeks since the flood damage occurred have been a blur. Insurance adjusters, clean-up crews, noisy, hot fans, and teams packing up items for temporary storage became the norm.

There were surprisingly few losses of items. Mom’s recliner, the blue chair I always sat in, the keyboard I used when Mom and I played together. Her computer, full of family pictures and her music, was also deemed a loss.

While repairs were made, the remaining items would be packed and transported to the restoration company’s storage facilities in Charlotte, North Carolina, two hours from us. I quickly gathered Mom’s recordings, notes about her compositions, and her stories from the file cabinet.

What a relief.


Late last Friday morning, Jill texted that because of an approaching severe storm, school was dismissing shortly. She asked me to please get James.

“THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!” James squealed as I picked him up early. On the way home, he mentioned Mother’s Day. And that was when I realized in horror that I had completely overlooked something in the apartment: my folks’ ashes.

Almost immediately, I started chuckling. Knowing Mom, she had a hand in the apartment saga. She treasured it but wanted Matthew and Jill to put their own touches on it. Here was their chance.

As for Mom’s not “nudging” me to remember to get the ashes? This adventure to the big city is her first trip with Dad in 16 years. She wasn’t about to miss out.

Even if they had to sneak away.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


Karen G Baucom avatar

Karen G Baucom

I finally found time to read your story. As always, enjoyable, humbling and entertaining. Maybe the first two water incidents were just a warning. Sometimes our losses come back to us in mysterious ways and we need to keep an eye out for the little signs before the big sign hits us in the head.

Helen Baldwin avatar

Helen Baldwin

Thanks so much for reading and taking time to comment, Karen! If only we had crystal balls... although I'm pretty sure it's a good thing we don't :)


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