As the noon hour smothers Tallahassee in a thick and wooly blanket of gray cloud that drenches the city as though a giant had just pulled a wet garment from a wash basin and held it over our collective heads, I can’t help but feel calm and relaxed. My ease, I’m sure, is accentuated by the fact that over the last few days, I’ve felt the tiniest hints of dread and depression seeping their way into my life via some cracks that recently appeared. Not that many months ago, life felt bleak and despairing. Physical ailments were all too common in my family, and our newly acquired van was proving nothing but a troublemaking rapscallion of a vehicle. At that time, I felt more hopeless and helpless than I could remember ever feeling as an adult. The last few months, in contrast, have been blissful. The wife and kids have, overall, been healthy, and even the less-than-perfect van has failed to give us any serious trouble.
But all that changed a few days ago. Eddie got a fever, which wouldn’t be so troubling if he hadn’t started talking a lot about his surgery. Why would he bring that up? Is he feeling something? He then started complaining about his side hurting, but only occasionally. He even started walking all hunched over, just as he did after his surgery. He claimed he didn’t feel pain and was just walking that way because he was worried that his side would hurt otherwise – but I wasn’t sure whether to believe him. Was he feeling pain but scared that he would have to have another surgery if he admitted as much? And then, yesterday, my wife drops me off at school and heads toward the store, where she plans to do some shopping and then return to pick me up after class. Instead, I get a text message during the class I teach, informing me that the van started smoking and Melanie has parked just a few blocks from the school. Melanie later told me that the van was smoking so much that she couldn’t really see out of the windows, even though the temperature gauge inside the dashboard looked normal. I ended up having to accept the gracious offer of one of my students, who was staying after class to ask me some questions about the class material, but who offered instead to drive me to a gas station to pick up some coolant and then drive me to my abandoned van. (Melanie had taken the kids to the library, which quite fortunately, was just around the corner.) With Edison and the van both breaking down, I felt like I had been thrown back in time eight months. And I didn’t like that at all.
I’m happy to report that the van is now at the mechanic (its second home), and I’ve calmed down enough to recognize that whatever’s wrong is probably not going to be a huge deal. I assumed the van was leaking coolant, because I had filled it with coolant about a week before it started smoking, and yet the coolant was basically gone when I went to rescue the vehicle. The coolant enabled us to make it home without too much trouble, but by the time we were getting to our apartment, it was smoking a bit again. Still, the mechanic, whom I know personally and trust, validated my assumption that the coolant was leaking. Should be fixed within a few hours, whatever that might require. (A new radiator at worst, but still fixable within the day.) Meanwhile, Edison has been acting totally normal – by which I mean healthy, since it’s hard to tell anymore what’s normal.
So, at this very moment, I am at peace. I have recognized a lot of blessings over the last few days, amidst all of this. And when all is said and done, the most important things in my life are safe and well. That’s what matters.