The drive was a dark twenty minutes from her workplace to our home. Post Christmas and New Year’s was evident by the lack of twinkling pretty lights I had enjoyed looking at on this stretch just a few weeks ago. While she sat in the back catching up on her social media, I glanced at the clock to see it was twenty to ten. I pondered what I should do first when I got home. The laundry was partly complete with some items still in the wash when I left and some in the dryer. The dishwasher was calling my name to be emptied of its clean contents. But, there was the lure of the lateness of the hour and the end of a full day which usually meant pajamas, a snack and a couch cushion that had my imprint on it.
All of this thinking led to other thoughts. Why had her Jeep Liberty blown up on her just a month before she finished school in December? The head gasket could have held itself together just a tad bit longer so she could finish, start her new job and figure out what to do next. However, that is not how life presents itself at times. On November 11, she experienced a rather thrilling ride home with a temperature gauge rising out of control. She made it safely, but the next day we took it to a local shop.
After the car was gone for about thirty minutes, the phone call came asking if we could meet with the mechanic. I knew while I was driving back that generally easy news is delivered over the phone and an in person explanation meant trouble.
We were escorted into the back where many cars hung suspended and the smell of oils and solvents penetrated the air. Or was that my fear? I am not sure. A young man with a clipboard approached us and said,
“You really have two choices. She has a blown head gasket, so we can put in a refurbished engine which will cost $4,000 or a brand new engine for $8,000.”
I think we both experienced a gut punch simultaneously. This was the first vehicle she ever owned and it had seemed so reliable with its four wheel drive in the winter over the past two and a half years. Just minor tiny fixes here and there had been required but nothing she couldn’t manage.
“Do you have $8,000?” I asked her. “How about $4,000?” I was hoping that the mechanic would actually hear what I was saying and how crazy I thought he was for even telling us such a thing. The car had 175,000 miles on it.
She silently shook her head. I knew she was feeling just as frustrated about the whole thing as I was. She had taken nearly all of her hard earned savings and put it toward a short term college course so she could move ahead in life. A good decision that now seemed to be rewarded with a punishment.
I thanked him for his time and exited. I didn’t get out the door before the guy at the front desk tried to tell us to apply for their credit card offer and put the entire expense on it. I didn’t thank him for his time, and I got back out into the parking lot as quickly as I could.
Because I wanted to be sure we had both heard the correct news, I took the car to another shop that following week. It was determined that the car did indeed have a blown head gasket, and the work would be roughly over $3,000 for repair. We parked it in the garage, as if putting it into hospice, with its terminal diagnosis.
I would find myself walking by it on the way to my car often wondering why. It looked so nice on the outside, so why did it have to betray her? To make the situation sting even more was the fact that she still was making payments on it. So, to sell it meant she had to find a buyer who would give her enough to pay off the loan so she could walk away free and clear. Our choices were limited by lack of finances, and nothing seemed to give us any freedom from the problem.
Thus, began my chauffeuring service so she could finish school and get to work. This also entailed car pooling to stores so she wouldn’t feel so trapped in the house without transportation. All of this was transpiring during Thanksgiving and Christmas which can always bring a mad rush to shop, prepare the huge feast, bake and shop some more. At other times of the year, my time isn’t as constrained, but this was the height of hectic.
So, on this dark January night, as I drove along contemplating all of it, my wonderings of why became more prevalent. I pulled into the garage and we both got out at about the exact moment. Now it was nearly ten, and winter had set in. It wasn’t below zero, but a crisp twenty degrees generally sends most into the house quickly. However, I saw her turn her head and say something about a dog. Then, I saw her crouching down just outside the garage in the driveway.
I looked toward the sidewalk and saw the most beautiful retriever come to a screeching slide as she tried to heed my daughter’s call. I joined in saying,
“Come here! Come on!” I got down low as well so the dog would see that we would mean her no harm. She did that belly crawl type walk where a dog wants to keep running but they are so enticed by the command to come, they can’t help themselves. Then, she sprang into action and ran right to my daughter.
“Does she have a collar?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she answered as the dog was excitedly wagging its tail and trying to lick her face. I reached down and found a collar to hang on to. Just as I did, I heard a slight wheezing sound.
“Oh! Hang on to her! Oh! Please! OH!” The dog heard this too and tried to wiggle her neck out of the collar, but I knew that trick and grabbed on tighter with both hands. Obviously, she wasn’t out for a relaxing evening stroll with her owner.
I saw a short woman puffing out quick breaths as she tried to get up our driveway. It was like she was running and not making much progress. The sidewalk was slick so she was also trying not to fall.
“OH! You caught her! Hang on to her!” She was trying to breathe and talk so it was hard to understand her. I pulled the dog into the garage with the woman as my daughter ran and shut the garage door. At this, the dog happily took off to investigate the entire garage while the woman slumped over my car in sheer agony. I put my hand on her shoulder and said,
“Breathe. Just breathe. She is okay now.” Then, when she looked up, I said,
“Hey! I know you!” We hadn’t seen each other for awhile, but I had walked by her house many times during warmer weather and we would talk. I had gone to a couple of her garage sales as well during my twenty-four year residence in the neighborhood.
“Well, hi!” she said and hugged me. While doing so, she gasped,
“I am so glad you two came along! I have been chasing her for awhile. She got out and wouldn’t stop running. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was starting to panic.”
She draped herself over my vehicle again as she caught her breath. I told her to inhale and relax. Meanwhile, her dog was running around happy as could be.
“We took her in last July from a family that couldn’t keep her anymore. The lady had cancer and her husband couldn’t keep the dog, so we are all still adjusting.” I watched as the dog bounded around so full of life for her young age without at clue that she had nearly given the woman some sort of attack whether heart or asthma.
It was decided that the owner would sneak through my house, go home, gather up a leash and return with her car. While she was away, my daughter sat on the steps waiting. I saw the dog sit down next to her, look her in the eye and give her an enormous slurp from her chin to her hairline. We both laughed. It was like the dog knew us her whole life and had strolled over to casually say hello.
This may sound odd, but in that second, I knew deep in my heart that my late night pick up and all of its hassle had a point. Normally, when I pull into the garage, I shut the door and go inside. If my daughter would have gotten done any earlier, that woman and her dog would have been out running the neighborhood in frigid weather. It was as if on cue, we had returned to help out a neighbor who was struggling. The grander picture began to fill my thoughts that I am not here just for the sake of myself. Things occur for a reason, and if I would just stop overthinking it or fighting with myself about it, all of it would eventually make sense.
The dog was answering some of my ‘why’ questions from my drive home.
The woman retrieved her retriever, thanked us profusely again and drove off safely back to her residence.
That night served as a small anchor as more days passed with no answers regarding our dilemma. I would conjure up the image of the dog kissing my daughter’s face just to help myself believe that there is a force who loves me completely and cares for my entire household. Freedom comes when you are given a hint of something that is divine in nature. If you can be given the gift of having the ‘why’ question answered, it makes the traveling through the pain easier at times.
As of this writing, a solution has come for my daughter and her car. After much mental turmoil, I decided to send an email letting someone know of her plight. I am not one to ask for assistance with my girls as we generally can figure it out ourselves. To be honest, I think all of us should have some balance with that. If someone offers to help you, then don’t feel guilt or ashamed in taking the assistance if you need it. And, if you feel led to ask for help, then just ask. I have found that this actually brings the giver a blessing in return.
My intent in sending the correspondence was only to verbalize and get out on paper what she was going through. In turn, I received a response where my daughter’s car will be restored for her to alleviate the burden. Did I know this when I wrote what I did? No. At no expense to her, an attempt is going to be made to see if the Jeep can be salvaged to its former state. (Yes, I am still on the floor from fainting from hearing the news of this because I wasn’t expecting that or seeking it.)
I am learning that asking others for help, and allowing God to use me to be someone else’s helper is the ebb and flow of life. Knowing that you are loved by your Creator makes it possible during a bleak time to stay strong, live a life with meaning, and help you to keep, restore and sometimes retrieve your liberty.