Car Trouble

“You got a car, you got car trouble.”

I think it was my Papa who first said that.  But I heard my Daddy say it many, many times over the years.  Usually followed by that sigh of his.  And the acceptance of the inevitable.

And it’s the truth, isn’t it?  Eventually, something will go wrong.  And it’s rarely when you’ve planned for it ahead of time.

This afternoon, following an appointment, the littles and I went to the big craft store to pick up some gift bags and other small things for holiday festivity’ing.  We left in good spirits and headed out into the misting rain and a nip in the air that hadn’t been quite as chilling when we walked into the store.  We got to the vehicle, unlocked it, loaded up, and were ready to head out.  Only the vehicle wasn’t.  I turned the key.  All kinds of blinking lights on the dash and distressing sounds and then…..nothing.

Well, that’s new.

Actually, it was new to this vehicle. But not new to me.

My Daddy knew his way around a vehicle.  He had to, considering we never owned a brand new vehicle.  He could usually diagnose and often fix what ailed a vehicle.  And when he couldn’t he knew a good mechanic whom he trusted.  “I’m bringing it over, so I reckon you can make your next payment on your car,” he’d tell the mechanic.  It usually was something significant if Daddy took it to the mechanic.

In that moment of realizing we were stranded, I became a sixteen year old girl again.  Needing my Daddy to come fix things.  Everything.

And the feeling of missing him was so overwhelming.

Not just for fixing my vehicle, but for fixing me.  He knew how to calm me down.

I used to joke that when things went awry, I did what all good southern girls do, I called my Daddy.  This grief of not being able to do so was not a six year old grief–suddenly it was raw and new.  All over again.

Unable to fix it myself or call my Daddy, I did the next best thing.  I called the Fella, who did what needed to be done to get to us as soon as possible.

Which he did.  But being he was finishing up work and we were all the way across town, it took a little bit.

I took the littles back in the store so we wouldn’t be sitting in a cold vehicle.  We window shopped and then went back to the vehicle when he texted that he’d be there in a few minutes.

Two things went wrong.  First, it hadn’t occurred to me until we were walking out in the parking lot that I have electric locks.  ELECTRIC.  Battery needed.  UGH.  Also I have one of these weird keys now that isn’t really a key so no way it’s going to unlock a door the old-fashioned way.  I looked it over and over as the cold set in and I started shivering, again regretting that I hadn’t gone back in the house when we’d set out and gotten a jacket.  I saw a little piece that could slide from one side to the other.  I figured it was the key (pun intended) to solving my problem, but none of us could figure out how to free the key that I was certain was hidden inside.  I even texted my law student, who is studying for first semester finals (all the good thoughts needed, by the way), who assured me that yes, sliding that thing would reveal the key.  Ummm, okay, sure.  But no.

That was when our Fella pulled up.  Before I could tell him that the slide thingy wasn’t working, he had a key revealed and was unlocking my door.  Okay then.

The rest of the story is long and wears me out thinking about it again–two different jumpstarts, a stalled vehicle in the middle of the road, Leroy bringing tools from his house (which was closer) so he and the Fella could install a new battery, having the alternator checked and cleared, and two hours later…..I was on my way home in my vehicle.

The littles had stayed in the truck with their Daddy, so I had the rare moment of driving by myself.  I belted out music from Cooter’s program that I had enjoyed so much, and I sang, and then a sad one came on, and I realized I was finally just then defrosting, and I bawled at a stop light because Daddy and…..I just miss him.

It was beginning to get dark as we finally headed back home.  Not even 6 pm.  (Whoever’s idea this getting dark early is, you are off my birthday list!) It wasn’t dark dark, but the light was dimming.  I knew my vehicle was running–I was driving it for goodness’ sake, but I had this fear that my headlights weren’t on.  It wasn’t dark enough for me to tell if they were yet, but I knew they needed to be on so others could see me.

Good gravy.  So much to worry over in this life, isn’t there?

It occurred to me as I searched for signs that my lights were on (besides the light on my dash indicating such–it’s been telling me my brake is on for the past several months–sorry–NOT) that this is how it is when things take a turn we weren’t expecting.  When things start to go south, we don’t know, we can’t see that our own light is there.  That we are still shining out for others to see.  We doubt that we are doing any good.  Sometimes it takes pure darkness setting in before we realize that our lights are indeed still shining.

And by then we’re so tired from worrying over it all.

Friends, your lights are shining.  I see them.  If you doubt it, come sit by me, and I’ll hold your hand and tell you stories about the laughter and joy and light that was and will be again.  And I’ll tell you how your light has blessed me.  Encouraged me.  How your light has been what I focused on through the tears, as I cried through the grief and sadness and pain.

Your light is a gift to this world.  And even when you can’t see it, the rest of us can.

May it shine forevermore.

But if your battery ever needs recharging I wish for you to have someone–a Daddy, a Fella, a friend, a sister, a Leroy,  a stranger–there to help bring it back to its beautiful brilliance.

Shine on, friends, it won’t be long and the days will be lighter and brighter again.

Love to all.

headlights in the dark

By Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon (Route 52 Snow Storm) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

CatBit and Clover

Beautiful fields of clover all over.....

Beautiful fields of clover all over…..

This time of year in middle Georgia, there are these beautiful fields of clover interspersed with the tiny purple flowers that will eventually take over.  I think the clover is precious, as it is only in season for a short while, and it reminds me each year of the story of the CatBite.

I was probably six years old because I remember Mama still toting my baby sister around.  We had a cat, I’m thinking it was Josie.  We couldn’t have her as an indoor cat because we found out my middle sister was allergic.  Bless her, I think Mama and Daddy originally got the cat to cheer her up because she was sick so much when she was little.

I liked to go out on our little back porch and play with the cat.  And with chameleons too, but that’s another story.  I can remember Mama warning me not to bother Josie while she was eating.  Ahem.  Well technically, what I did was not BOTHERING her, I was only trying to help.  The cat food was so pretty, in those little star shapes.  So I put one on my finger and held it out to her.  She took the piece in her mouth and ate it.  Cool.  I tried again.  I’m not sure how many times I did this before Josie took bad aim or I moved my finger at the wrong time.  This is when the CatBite happened.  I don’t blame Josie.  I only wish Mama hadn’t blamed me.  I was hurt, and I was in trouble.  Not a good combination.  And to top it all off, after Mama called our pediatrician, I was hurt, in trouble, and on the way to get a tetanus shot as a precaution.  (I think it was a tetanus shot…..if that doesn’t make sense, let’s say it does and move on, deal?)

Because our pediatrician then was in Macon, Mama loaded me and my two sisters in the Little Blue Car, and we drove through town to the interstate.  Just as we started onto the entrance ramp to I-75, the car broke down, and Mama had to carefully pull over to the almost non-existent shoulder.  I am not sure what exactly was wrong, but it wouldn’t go.  Not an inch.  I am sure Mama had to take some very deep breaths.  Not an ideal place to break down.  At all.  The only plus is that Daddy worked on the other side of the overpass at the USDA station.  This, my friends, was in the day way before cell phones or bag phones and just after the dinosaurs.  The funny thing is, I don’t remember how it was resolved.  The picture in my mind’s eye is of the car sitting on that hill.  And the clover.  As I stood next to the car, the clover at my feet and far beyond was so breathtakingly beautiful.  And when you look at it up close, it’s amazing how all those tiny little parts go together to make up this field of scarlet.  A work of Art.

I am sure that the car was fixed and we were on our way, because that’s how Mama rolled.  She got things done.  But the two things that stick out from the memory of all of this is the sight of that pretty cat food star on my finger and the beauty of the scarlet against the vibrant green of spring.

There’s really nothing to learn from this story tonight. Except maybe don’t feed a cat on your finger…..and even if you tell your young’uns don’t do it, you might want to double check to see how that’s going.

But wait, there is this.  I’m thankful that when I look back at the TRAUMA of being CatBit and of the Little Blue Car leaving us stranded,  I do not recall a moment of fear or worry.  What I do remember is the joy of being with Josie, and the happiness and comfort that the vision of clover brought me then.  It still does each year about this time.  It takes me back.  For that I am truly thankful.