A bumper sticker forced me to smile yesterday—not so much because of its humor, but more for the sense of perspective it provided. “I had friends on that Death Star,” it said. Somehow life’s problems don’t seem so big when they are compared to the big problems other people have, whether in real life or in the movies.
I’ve been in an emotional trough this winter and spring. Several things have contributed to this low, some under my control and others not. Most of them I’m not inclined to share at this time. But two specific events this week have tested my spirit. We speak of “first world problems” and compare them to the violence, poverty, hunger, disease, and abuse that other people endure every day in this world. I’m not asking for anyone’s sympathy. (Prayers are always welcome.) But today I’m feeling stressed and blue, and I just thought I’d share a few things.
Wednesday I had the oil changed in my car. Thursday when I started the car, the “Service Engine Light” came on. I happen to drive past the service garage on my way to work, so I pulled in there and waited twenty minutes for them to open. A young man looked at the car quickly, said that rain water had gotten on the spark plugs, and the car was good to go. I got to work and back and to school and back without any problem. Then, Friday the light was on again. (Don’t sing to me about Paradise by the Dashboard Lights. Dashboard lights are always bad news.) I didn’t want to lose another twenty minutes, so I drove to work, and then stopped at the garage on my way home. The manager didn’t have a mechanic to spare—they were all in the middle of big jobs, so he suggested I stop by first thing Saturday morning. I did that, and after waiting half an hour, I was told that there is a small oil leak by the cam. It will cost about $100 to repair and will take about an hour. I didn’t have that hour today—I am scheduled to work all day—but the mechanic said the car will operate safely through the weekend. So I will stop by the garage again for that repair Monday morning.
It’s stressful driving a car with a warning light ablaze. It’s stressful not knowing what is wrong and how dangerous it might be and how much it might cost. It’s only slightly better knowing those things.
But now the plot thickens. When I got home Friday afternoon, I was told that my youngest daughter was at one of those clinics that have popped up around the city to replace hospital emergency rooms. Details were sparse, but she had hurt her foot. So I drove to the clinic. Her foot was being X-rayed when I arrived. She had been at the final run-through for a play in which she was scheduled to appear Friday night and today. She had spent hours rehearsing with the cast, singing, dancing, assembling costumes. This was to be a really big deal. The last two years her love for live theater has grown, and this was to be her first time on stage in a show for an audience. Career plans may be in the works.
Anyhow, the mother of another girl her age had driven my daughter home from the rehearsal, and my daughter realized that she had forgotten her house key. No one was home, and the front door was locked. She told the driver and the daughter that she could get in through the back door. Evidently this has been done before; no one ever told me. Our house is two stories, with a deck on the back that enters the upper floor; the deck is surrounded by a waist-high rail. There is no stairway to the ground. But my daughter said that with a boost from the other girl she could get to the rail and over and then get into the house. (Yes—we often left that door unlocked, because I didn’t think anyone could get to the deck from the ground. That has now changed.)
Instead of getting onto the deck, my daughter fell and landed hard on her foot. Then they proceeded with what should have been their first plan: they drove to the mall where another of my daughters was working and borrowed her house key. When my daughter came home from work and saw how much her sister’s foot was swollen, she knew medical help was needed and took her sister to the clinic. I met my daughter there, and soon the doctor was with us after seeing the X-rays. He said that no bones are broken but there is soft tissue damage that will need two weeks or more to heal. Meanwhile, she is to keep off the foot—no sports, no dancing, and definitely no performing in this play.
My daughter burst into tears. I felt heartsick myself. The doctor tried to lighten the mood, but to no avail. As we drove home, my daughter repeatedly berated herself for doing such a stupid thing. Though I was tempted to agree with her assessment, I was a good father and spoke more kindly to her, saying that accidents happen and there will be other shows in her future and anything else that came to mind to try to ease her burden.
Again, these events are on top of other stuff going on that I may or may not share. In the grand scale of life it’s small stuff. In fact, as I was driving to the pharmacy to fill a pain medicine prescription for my daughter, I saw a car ahead of me pull to a stop. The driver then turned into a driveway, stopped and got out of her car. I saw her begin talking with an older woman who was wearing a sweat shirt and what appeared to be pajama pants. The older woman had a confused look on her face. My mind supplied the rest of the story—perhaps accurate, perhaps not. Mom has dementia and went wandering, and her daughter had to drive around town searching for her. Impulsive teenagers and their fathers have no monopoly on life’s problems.
I hope your weekend is going well. J.