Cold case

So Kates awoke this morning, looked at our thermostat and discovered it was 56 degrees in our house.

She tried bumping up the heat, but got nothing. The furnace kicked in, but there was no heat.

Thus, the first sight I saw this morning was Kates standing over me and tucking Phoebe into our bed beside me so the little one could complete her slumber in warmth … It’s something of a miracle Phoebe was hardly affected by how cold it was in our house. We don’t wrap her in blankets, just her pajamas. And everything was fine when Kates and I went to bed. We were wrapped cozily in our sheets and blankets.

By the time Kates left for school, I was out of bed and getting myself ready for work. I put on multiple layers of shirts and sweats, and bundled Phoebe just the same.

All the while I’m freaking out about how we’re going to solve this latest dilemma, let alone afford it.

I got Phoebe to daycare and reported to my office. I spent much of the day chasing the latest developments in a story I’d been following all week about a woman who drove her car into the lake and hadn’t been seen since.

I also secured an appointment with a heating contractor to come look at our furnace tomorrow morning. Our thinking was Kates and I wouldn’t be able to afford any repairs until then (translation: payday) and our friend Laura had graciously invited us to spend the night at her place.

But before I left work this evening, I got an e-mail from my uncle that triggered a deeper urgency. It read:

Make sure your pipes don’t freeze.

That was followed by a couple frantic phone calls from my parents. And when I drove home tonight I said a heartfelt prayer.

Inside the house, Kates and Phoebe had been home for about 45 minutes, and they were still in their coats, smiling, laughing and playing on our living room floor.

I promptly opened the phone book and started calling for help … I had left about a half-dozen messages when I connected with a man who obviously was running his business out of his home. A child answered the phone, and when the man picked up I could tell he was fumbling for a piece of paper and something to write with while I presented our furnace’s symptoms … He assured me he would gather his tools from his shop and be at our place in a few minutes.

About 20 minutes later a scruffy, well-traveled looking man appeared at our door with a much-younger man, who I later learned was his son. Both were dressed in grungy clothes, as though they’d been fighting with furnaces all day. In fact, the man told me, they were heading to another job after he was done at our place …

I led them to our furnace and immediately the two men knelt down in front of it like they were meeting an old friend. They conversed in their own mechanical language and began taking a part the furnace, exchanging tools and wiggling their hands through its crevices and wires.

Within minutes, they had the diagnosis. The flame sensor and the igniter needed to be replaced … Better yet, this guy promised he would charge me $180 for that parts and labor, and knock off the service charge. That $180 was as much as one contractor wanted to charge me just to take a look at the thing! And for the record, none of the other contractors I left messages for ever called me back.

I told The Man he had a deal and he and his son went to work on the repairs while I ran upstairs to tell Kates our prayers had been answered. Actually, we'd found an angel.

In another 20 minutes or so, they were finished with the repairs and started up the furnace for a test run. It kicked in, and orange flames started fueling the house with warmth. I think it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen.

As the men packed their things and we exchanged paperwork, my words of thanks hardly seemed adequate. And still, they seemed just as grateful I had called them … I escorted them to our door and assured them we would keep them in mind for future repairs. The fact our air-conditioner needs to be replaced was on the tip of my lips, but I held back.

I shut the door behind them, backed away and did a little dance in the living room.

Then we went to a hockey game. Where it was about as warm in the arena as it had been in our house.

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