I realized this weekend that something in me has changed for the better. The way I experience situations that might have once seriously shaken me up has changed. I suppose I’ve gotten tougher, but I find that peace and sometimes even clarity of focus comes into play when there is some sort of minor upset. Everything is deal-able. I’m talking about in my own life, the main life, the one I’m living most of the time, away from Mesa Verde.
I guess what might have once seemed major now seems minor. It’s not that minor that my car broke down this weekend in the middle of the busiest two weeks of summer, and on the hottest day. But in the slightly bigger picture, it’s not that major. These surprise upsets happen to everyone. Lord knows I’ve been in this situation before, in a car that won’t start. What I noticed differently this time was that once I recognized the inconvenience of it—we had been on our way to a birthday party and it was immediately clear we had to abandon the mission— I decided it was impossible that God would let another bad thing happen to us in the middle of everything else. Instead of seeing it as a curse, I quickly decided it was most likely a hidden blessing, and I started looking for clues.
I was able to get the car moved to a parking space after too many tries with the ignition. Immediately I was thankful that if I hadn’t stopped on our way out of town to help a friend last minute, the kids and I could have been many miles up the freeway before the car sputtered out. It was SO hot yesterday and we live by the beach, I image the heat on the inland freeway would have been brutal, especially since it took a good hour and a half before the tow truck arrived. Another blessing was that we had parked right outside a Rite Aid, so we went straight in for ice cream and air conditioning before calling for help. See how well I prioritized? Ice cream first! This store happened be just up a couple blocks from my girlfriend Kirsten, whose kids are good friends of Maki and Justine. I called her, thinking she probably wouldn’t be home. But she was and she was free! She drove up to pick up the kids and promised she’d bring them home later in the day, whenever I was ready.
Now I’ve had this finicky electrical problem with my car for years. On really hot days it can stall at a light or have a false start when I turn it on. But all it seems to take is a fresh turn of the key and it drives again like nothing happened. I’ve taken it to various mechanics, but they can’t replicate the problem—or find it. Lately, I’ve noticed it has started happening more often, and it makes me nervous with all the long drives take to see Vernon. (I do have a gold AAA card, just in case.)
Since it took so long for the truck to arrive, I had plenty of time to think about my options: Ok, car needs fixing. It’s most likely going to be expensive. If it’s too expensive, will it be worth fixing? Can I sell it? What can I afford? How much do used cars even cost these days? As I sweated in the shade, I took at look at Craigslist. Nothing very interesting there, but it helped me get an idea.
When the tow truck guy finally got the car chained to the ramp, he said: “that’s a good car.” That surprised me, as its not in the best shape. He also thought it would be a simple fix. I’ll find that out tomorrow when I take it into a garage. “If you want to sell it, sell it to me.” This surprised me too…although I do have a business card of a man who followed me off the freeway to a grocery store once to tell me that he was interested in buying if I ever sold it. Weird that there would be such interest in innocuous old mini-vans. I took the tow truck driver’s number just in case.
Shortly after I got home, my dad dropped by to see how he could help me. We hashed out my options together and took another look at Craigslist, just for research. “What kind of car would you want,” he asked. I didn’t know…just something smaller, something zippier, that I would actually enjoy driving since I do so much of it. With just the three of us, there really isn’t a need for all those seats. I’d be happy to get better gas mileage too. “I don’t know…maybe something like a Mini Cooper?”
So we looked it up and there was a really great-looking one in my price range. After a short discussion, I called the owner up and arranged to look at it Sunday morning on the way up to see Vernon. Apparently, I called just minutes after he’d put up the ad. He told me he only posted it as a whim, not putting much thought into it.
Kirsten and Marc not only came by with the kids later, but Marc left me his Volvo as a loaner for a couple of days, so I was able to go look at the car this morning. Edgar, the owner, had taken great care of it, and I liked it, as did the kids. So I left him a down payment and will pick it up later in the week. By 10am I’d bought a car. I also have been in contact with the tow truck driver about his purchasing my old one. See, I knew the car problems yesterday would turn out good things somehow. I just didn’t realize what a big good thing it would be. I’m so happy that that time wasn’t wasted worrying or being sad. I didn’t make time for that. See, I’m learning.
What I like most about the new car is that it looks like Vernon’s old helmet. The one he was wearing that night. It went the way of the Vespa, in the impound lot, and I never saw it again. But a couple months ago, when some visiting women came to pray for Vernon, they asked God to “return to the family that which had been stolen.” Vernon perked up: “What’s been stolen from us? What’s been stolen.” Nobody had the heart to tell him what they meant. But that thought came back to me when the kids and I discussed how the car resembled his old helmet. Maybe that’s part of what is happening here. Anyway, the kids and I are discussing whether we should call the car “The Helmet.”
I’m grateful for the whole experience yesterday and today, even the uncomfortable parts. And looking for the blessings throughout made it an enjoyable experience as well. There was no space for anger and fear. Just wonder and possibility. And gratitude.
“Our real blessings often appear to us in the shape of pains, losses, and disappointments; but let us have patience and we soon shall see them in their proper figures.” Joseph Addison