I don't know what it is lately with my appliances, my house, my pets, etc., but it seems like one little trial after another. This time, it was my car. I'd been noticing some stains on my driveway the last few days, some sort of fluid but not oil. It seemed like it was coming from my car, but I couldn't be sure because a lot of Ethan's friends come and go, and most of them drive beaters--though my 2002 Nissan Sentra is probably older than any of theirs.
I kept moving my car to different quadrants of the driveway and watching for new stains, but I couldn't catch it leaking. I made a mental note to take the car in soon and then forgot about it.
When I dropped Ethan at school yesterday, I noticed that the car wasn't warming up. In fact, even after 15 minutes of driving, it still felt like the heater was blowing cold air. I switched it to the vents on the dash. Sure enough, cold air was coming out. No, wait. The passenger side was blowing warm air, but the driver side was cold. I jiggled the temperature knob back and forth several times, hoping it would fix itself, but no luck.
I found this highly ironic because my friend Lizzette had just commented on Saturday when we went to dinner that it was so nice having a car with heat. Her heater isn't working. And now mine wasn't. Had she jinxed me?
Last night after Celebrate Recovery, I notice that both vents were now blowing cold. Darn it! How much would this cost? Maybe I could just live with it. Ugh. Two more months of winter.
The next thing I noticed was more alarming. The temperature gauge on the instrument panel was pushing to the top of the normal range. In fact, I could see the needle slowly rising. Crap. It must be the radiator. How much would this cost?
My stomach tightened. I wasn't worried about paying for the repairs; thanks to Dave Ramsey, I have a fund for that. No, what concerned me was whether it might be time to sell my faithful old car. I've held onto it for 13 years now, and it has been so reliable. It looks pretty pathetic because the paint is wearing off in spots, but it runs beautifully and gets great gas mileage. My plan has been to keep it until Ethan finally gets his license--if he ever does--and then pass it on to him. I don't see any point in having two cars if I don't need them.
But I don't want to sink too much money into a car that probably is worth less than $2000. So I figure if I have a major breakdown, I'll have to part with it and buy Ethan something else. The tricky part is, where do I draw the line? A thousand dollars? Fifteen hundred? Given this car's amazing track record, doesn't it make sense to put a little money into it? It's had only two other breakdowns in 188,788 miles (the alternator, both times). What if I buy something else that is less reliable?
These were the thoughts tumbling around in my head as I pulled into my driveway, with the needle now pointing to the H.
I also wondered how I would get Ethan to school this morning, and how I would get the car to the mechanic. I figured I needed to put water in the radiator, but I'd never done that before. A glance out the window told me that Neil, my 30-second hero, was in town. I knew he'd be happy to help with the car and with transportation, but I didn't want to bother him. For one thing, I didn't want to take advantage, and for another thing, I remembered my friend Gentle's encouragement to take this single life as an opportunity to learn some new things.
I was very, very tempted to text Neil, but I didn't. Instead, I prayed. I asked God to work everything out, to guide me through this and to take care of me, just as he had done with the plumbing problem the week before last. (Remember? A $110 plumbing bill? Whoever heard of that?) I told God that even if the answer was getting a new car instead of fixing this one, I would trust His timing.
I decided that I would put water in the radiator myself, and I would ask my friend Kim to take me to the mechanic today. I also called my ex-husband Bill for advice--a total of three times. With his help, I figured out how to open the hood--I knew how to pop it from the inside, but not how to unlatch it--and also the timing of pouring in the water, turning on the engine, and pouring more water. I did all that this morning in time to get Ethan to school right on schedule. I was feeling almost as proud as I'd felt when I fixed the garbage disposal by myself, two days before the plumbing incident.
That lasted about four blocks, until I noticed that the needle was rising toward the H right before my eyes. "I don't know if we can make it to school, Ethan," I said, just as we pulled up to a four-way stop.
"Hey, look. It's Tin!" Ethan replied, pointing to the car on our right. Sure enough, it was his old middle school friend, whom I hadn't seen in years. If you've been reading a very, very long time and have a prodigious memory, you may remember Tin as the one who enjoyed (!) helping Ethan dispose of a dead cat we found in our yard. He's also the one who helped Bill and Ethan fell many of my beloved trees when we got the pool.
|Ethan and Tin, 2009|
"I bet he could take you to school," I said, pulling over to the curb.
"No, Mom. Don't-"
"I'll try to flag him down," I said, rolling down my agonizingly slow driver's window. (That window motor is on its last leg. I need to get that fixed.)
Whew! The window rolled open just as Tin drove by. I waved wildly, avoiding eye contact with Ethan, who had probably sunk down to the floorboard by that point.
Tin slowed his car to a crawl and rolled his passenger window down, "Good to see you," he called politely as he passed.
"CAN YOU TAKE ETHAN TO SCHOOL?" I screamed--because he was a few feet past us by now.
He stopped, and I pulled up alongside. "My car is overheating. Can you take Ethan to school?"
"Sure," he said with a smile.
"Oh, thank you so much."
As I turned back for home, I marveled at God's goodness. In all these years, even though Tin lives just around the corner, we've never run into him on the way to school. Well, not since the days when he walked to school. Surely God had sent a ride for Ethan, right to the very corner where my car was overheating, right at the very moment we arrived. What are the odds?
Kim graciously agreed to follow me to the mechanic, even though she is frantically studying for a physical therapy licensing exam that's coming up next week. We had the most lovely talk on the way back, which continued as we lingered at my driveway.
Now this next part is pretty ironic. Who do you think texted me about my car repair just a few minutes later? I'll tell you. It was Neil. He was helping his friend Wade at the shop, and when he saw my car of course he had to tease me. He told me it was a cracked head, and it would probably cost $2000 to rebuild the engine. I figured he was kidding, but I replied that it must be time to get a new car. He said yes he was kidding, and it should be less than $500. I said, "Good."
Several minutes later, he said, "You don't owe anything."
Again, I thought he might be kidding. But he wasn't.
On the way back to the shop, I told Kim the whole story. I told her I believe all of the things that happened to me today were evidence of God taking care of me, a direct result of my prayers last night, when I turned everything over to God.
"Whether it was God or it wasn't," I said, "I believe that the biggest blessing God has given me is my friends. You are such a blessing, Kim. Not for the things you do for me, but because you are such a good friend. I'm so thankful."
"Aww," she said. "I'm not such a good friend."
"Oh, but you are!" I said, my eyes a bit moist.
Back at the shop, Wade informed me that the problem had been a leaky hose. He had checked all the other hoses, and there were no other problems. He handed me the keys.
I cleared my throat. "Um, Neil said there's no charge. Is that true?"
"Yes. You don't owe anything."
I thanked him profusely, and Neil also. And then I drove my 13-year-old car home with joy.
I'm still pinching myself. Whoever heard of a free car repair? That's even crazier than a $110 plumbing bill! I realize it was a very minor repair, but surely his labor was worth $50. And I'm sure he must have added antifreeze as well.
I pray God blesses Wade richly for his kindness. And Neil. And Kim. And Tin.
To borrow a phrase from my friend Gentle, I have to say that God really knocked my socks off today. When I texted the whole story to my dear cousin Jenny this afternoon, she replied, "You are blessed, woman. Your God is good."
Yes, I am. And He is.