(Or Another Adventure of an Earthling)

In my last post, I wrote about that all change is for the better, it’s all good, and what we go through as we go through change. Lest you think this must be a long process, let me assure you that you can go through the entire 6 stage cycle in a few minutes, especially if you call on your Angels for help! Let me tell you about my day yesterday and see if you agree.

Walking has been my exercise of choice during this pandemic. It’s good for mental as well as physical health. Our route changes daily to be more scenic, and last Saturday I upped my game to actually go for a hike. That meant trees instead of asphalt, some hills up and down instead of flat neighborhood sidewalks, and trees instead of open skies overhead. It also meant 3 miles instead of 1 or 2. It was all good, except that Bo, my almost-14 years old Beagle, who has a history sometimes of overdoing it and getting sore, to the point of limping and stopping climbing steps or jumping on the couch. Such was the case by Sunday afternoon, after another morning neighborhood walk of about 1-1/2 miles. By Monday morning (yesterday) I decided to give him a break; we would walk later in the day after I ran some errands, and we’d keep it limited. Little did I know he would get the entire day to rest up.

On Sunday I brought home Saffianna, my camper, to give her a long overdue bath. Who knows when we will be able to make our next trip but she still had dirt and smashed bugs on her from last fall. In less than a half hour, I had gone to the storage lot where she stays in our subdivision, hitched her up, and had her parked in my driveway. I use a wash-and-wax combo cleaner, and Saffi looked so good when I got done, I decided to give the truck a quick wash and shine her up, too. I thought about doing the car, but ran out of energy in the hot sun. As it happened, early on in the camper washing, I bent over to pick up the scrub brush off of the ground, and my cell phone slipped out of my pocket and hit the concrete. Now, my phone is dressed in a purple Otter protective case, and she did not shatter or even crack or get a ding. But she did get a headache apparently, and after a few flashes and shudders, she was done for. I could not revive her, and she is a model that does not have a removable battery. I tried everything, including asking the neighbor for help. So I was incommunicado for the rest of the day. I figured I would go on Monday and see about having her fixed or get a new one. I was too tired to try and put Saffianna back in her space at the lot, so I left her in the driveway overnight, and in fact, the dogs and I slept out there Sunday night, our first night of the camping season. Kevin used to say that sleeping in the driveway was akin to “kissing your sister,” and he refused to do it, but the dogs and I usually did the first night of every camping season. So we Kissed Our Sister Sunday.

In the morning we actually slept in until almost 8:30. Must have been that fresh air! I started some online research into new phones, and was shocked that the decent ones cost upwards of $500 and some are over $1000. So I hunted down Kevin’s old phone and put it on the charger, figuring that at least I could have my number transferred to his phone and I could use that until I could decide about a new one. Maybe I could find one cheaper on E-Bay or even at Wal-Mart rather than Verizon. It was about 11:30 when I was I was ready to go get the camper hitched up and returned to the lot.

I noticed that the truck seemed to hesitate a bit when I put it in gear to back up, but maybe I imagined it. Then when I put it in Drive, it hesitated again. It was like I was still in Neutral. But then it was fine, so we took off. The woman who lives on the corner of the roadway that goes to the storage lot, Till is her name, was out in her yard, and I stopped to talk with her a bit on my way in. Then I went on my way to the lot. The road is narrow but a pretty little lane, gravel and dirt, bending to the right past a tree on the edge and then through more trees, about a quarter mile or even less to a locked gate on a 12′ tall chain link fence that encloses the lot, which is surrounded by more trees. Lots of them. It’s one way in, and the same way out. I wish I had a picture to show you, but remember, I had no phone.

I pulled up to the gate, put the truck in Park, and jumped out to unlock and open the gates. I got back in, put the truck in Drive, and backed up. Wait! What?? WHOA!! I looked at the shifter to make sure I had put it in Drive, and it was. I put it in Park, and then back in Drive to make sure. We backed up a little more. No! This was not good. In case you don’t drive a vehicle, Drive is supposed to be forward. Same thing happened with 2d gear. There was no way I wanted to drive backwards out of that lane, around a curve, between trees. Backing up a trailer in a straight line when you have to is hard enough. And I had no reason to go backward. So I used the tried-and-true method that works on computers: I turned off the truck to reset it. Then I tried to restart it. But I guess the truck knew it was in Reverse instead of Park and would not start up. So there I sat. Thinking, focusing, replaying it in my mind. Trying not to cry…because crying is what I do when I am lost, helpless, alone, frustrated, scared, or just feel like it.

I had no phone to call anyone for help, and in these days of Contact lists on our phones, I don’t even know anyone’s phone number. Like, not anyone. And the only mechanics I know anyway are my brother in law and nephew in Minnesota, so that wasn’t going to help. Even if Kevin was alive, he wouldn’t have known what to do. I asked the angel him anyway to help me out of this jam.

I usually just grab my driver’s license to dash over to the RV Lot, but this time, intending to go shopping afterward, I had my purse and wallet with me. Which means I had my AAA card. And not just any old AAA plan, I pay the premium for AAA Plus RV. That’s what I would do! If I had a phone. So I walked back to Till’s house to see if she would let me borrow hers. A quick call and I was assured someone would be here in about 45 minutes. Great! I had a plan. Till offered to make me a salad and have lunch with her since it was now 1:00. We were barely washing out hands when a vehicle drove by toward the RV Lot. Could it be AAA already?? I hustled down the lane. Alas, it was Rob, another tenant of the Lot looking to access his trailer. Luckily, he had work to do on it first, so he wasn’t in a hurry to get in. Which he couldn’t do, since my disabled truck and trailer were blocking the only way in. I explained my situation, and he said not to worry. I was headed back toward Till’s house when she met me on the way. AAA had called back and someone was already on their way. Well, of course! I had Angel Kevin on duty!

It wasn’t but a few more minutes and a tow truck pulls up. I explain things to the driver, but he looks at me and asks how he is supposed to tow my truck if he can’t get to it. I told him I didn’t know, that he was my AAA “roadside assistance” solution and he should tell me the plan. I told him I had explained the situation when I called in. He asked me to start the truck, and when I told him I couldn’t, he got in himself and tried it. It still did not start, of course. He played with the shifter a bit and then got on the ground near the truck (but not under, which is significant) and took a quick look, said I probably had a linkage that broke, and to call back AAA and tell them I needed a mechanic, not a tow truck driver. I took a deep breath as he drove away. Breathe in for the count of four, hold it for the count of eight, breathe out to the count of seven. Repeat. And then back to Till’s house to use her phone again. I whispered to Kevin that I needed a Plan B, pronto.

I explained to AAA what the tow truck driver said, that I needed a mechanic. The woman told me they don’t do roadside work. I said I have the Plus package, and my card says Roadside Assistance right on it. She says that means they can bring gas to me, or jump my battery, or give me a tow, but that’s it. Breathe in to the count of four, hold it for the count of eight, breathe out to the count of seven. No thanks. But since I don’t have a phone of my own, could she please look up a number for me? She gave me the name of a possible mobile repair service, and as a backup, I asked her to give me the number for the automotive service place I take my motorcycle and the truck for annual state inspections. I have not had to have service on any of my vehicles since Kevin has died; he always made those arrangements when needed. I decided to try “my” place first. Luckily; the mobile repair place is no longer mobile anyway.

Once again, I explained the situation, but first I had to compose myself. I was feeling disstressed, pressure in my chest, an increased heart rate. I told myself to observe” what was going on, inside me but the overall matter of my situation. Just be factual. Describe what happened, what you tried. Observe, and report. That helped me calm down a little. They said this couldn’t be fixed roadside, if this really was the problem, and the man I was speaking to, Brock, offered to call around for me to some of his “sources,” and see if he could come up with a solution. My usual reply to an offer like that would be, “I don’t want to put you out,” meaning it seems like quite an imposition to ask him to do that for me. I’m not very good at accepting help. At least I didn’t use to be. But I have learned that when people offer to help, they want to help, so there is no harm in letting them help. I accepted this angel’s offer. By now, Till has told me to keep the phone as long as I need it , gave me the PIN# in case it locked up, and even brought me a portable charging unit in case it got low on battery. Another angel. Deep breaths.

My next call was to the RV Lot Captain to let him know in case he got calls that it was me blocking the lot. I got his number from Brock, who graciously looked it up for me. Luckily, Raymond was on his way to the dentist but wasn’t there yet so he could talk to me. He offered to park my camper in its spot if we could figure out how to get the truck out of the way. Our call was interrupted by Brock calling back to say that he had a tow truck on the way, and the driver, Aaron, would likely be able to help me out, that he had been told the situation. As I waited for Aaron, Christine, Raymond’s wife, now showed up with a bottle of water for me and to offer some moral support. Rob, though, had already brought me one. What great people (angels!) in my neighborhood!

It’s now a bit after 2:00, and Aaron shows up. Rob has left to go get a lug nut for his spare tire but said he’d be back in less than an hour, and if I need him to move my camper once the truck was dealt with, he, too, could park it for me. Aaron, though, is another angel. He checks out the shifter, says my linkage is shot, and crawls under the truck. Then he tells me to start the truck but to keep my foot on the brake, since he wants to go home that night. The truck starts right up. He had manually put it in Park, and now puts it in Drive. Telling me to still keep my foot on the brake, he crawls out from under the truck and directs me to drive forward to wherever I usually go and to position the camper for backing up. Voila! The truck goes forward! I get to my back-up spot, Aaron crawls back under the truck and maneuvers the gear into Reverse. Now, while I am holding the brake down and have the emergency brake on, Aaron climbs over me into the driver’s seat and I slide out. My record for backing Saffi up into her assigned spot between two other units is 38 tries, going forward and backward, and that is a LOT of crawling under the truck for Aaron, so he is going to back the camper up for me. Which he does in one try. I unhitch the camper, put down the tongue, disconnect the battery, and get back in the truck. Aaron now crawls under the truck one last time, puts the truck in Drive again, and tells me I can drive forward. In fact, I am going to drive it straight to American Pride Automotive, and he will follow me. First, though, I have to stop at Till’s to return her phone. Aaron will shut and lock the gate so I don’t have to get into Park and Drive again.

Till hears me coming and comes to greet me at the lane. I tell her I am off to American Pride Automotive down the road, and she offers to follow me and bring me back home. I am almost in tears again at everyone’s generosity. I accept, and our little parade takes off. When I get to American Pride and walk into the office (yes, I have my mask on), Brock – whom I have never met – welcomes me with “Glad you made it!” I told him I’d give him a hug if I could, and he says he’ll take a rain check. Aaron says he will just add his bill to the American Pride one once they fix the truck. Everyone is so understanding that I want to cry again. I thank them, and get into Till’s car to return home.

The day is not over. Luckily (notice how lucky I am?!? All those angels are hard at work, but we’re not done yet), I have another vehicle (actually two if you count the motorcycle). I go into the house, let the dogs out and round them up again, and grab Kevin’s old phone that has charged up sufficiently by now that it turns on. I head out again, this time to Verizon. My old phone is not salvageable, and Kev’s old phone turns out to be an AT&T phone, not serviceable on Verizon’s network. Chris patiently shows me a few options, and $400 later, not including the protective screen sheet and case or the activation fee and cost to transfer my Contact list, I am on my way with a new phone. I am exhausted and not in the mood to do battle with any more the germs at a grocery store. Anything I need will wait another day.

I quickly call my friend Dee to let her know I am back on the grid again with a new phone. It is about 5:00 now and I tell her I think I am going to get curbside take-out Mexican and put my feet up. I then shoot off a text to my kids and my siblings to let them know I have a phone again, having yesterday Facebooked them to let them know I couldn’t get calls. My phone rang in my hand, a startling sound, my first call on the new phone (with an odd ring tone I will have to change). It is another angel in the form of my friend and neighbor Sandy.

Sandy is a gem. We share an interest in writing, play Bunco in the same group, go to lunch monthly with other women in the neighborhood. She is the one I call if I am out of an ingredient and in the middle of baking something. When I need to borrow a blender, she adds in margarita glasses. When I have fondue on game night, she brings extra forks to make sure there are enough. Her son Brandon helps me out with the dogs when I want to take off for a day, and her grandson Gentry loves to love on my dogs when he visits her. So I happily answer Sandy’s call. Here is the entire conversation:

Sandy: Have you eaten supper yet?

Me: Nope.

Sandy: Are you hungry?

Me: Yes.

Sandy: Are you home?

Me: Yes.

Sandy: Good. I am on my way. Be there in 5. I have something for me and you’re going to like it.

Five minutes later, Sandy pulls into my driveway. I tell her what an angel she is, and she asks if I’ve had a bad day. I think to myself You have no idea, but actually, it wasn’t all that bad; it was just exhausting. She said, “I wish I could give you a hug instead of you having to hug a tree. Here.” And she hands me a red gift bag, in which is a pint of homemade chicken salad Brandon has made, with craisins and pecans, and another bowl that contains chicken wings in Brandon’s special homemade lightly spicy barbeque sauce. Yummy!

Sandy with Brandon’s leftovers for me

I wondered how in the world Dee could have gotten word to Sandy so fast for her to bring this, but of course, it wasn’t Dee at all. I think Kevin was still on the job. Sandy and I visited for a few minutes, and she left. I enjoyed the tasty bounty. That boy can cook, I tell you.

I put on Netflix and the cuddled with the dogs for a while. We were all in bed by around 9:00, thankful that after all the day’s drama, no one got hurt, not even by harsh words or sarcastic retorts, which I am too good at sometimes. I was grateful for everyone who crossed my path that day, for the angels that helped me through all 6 stages of the change cycle in record speed. Let’s review, shall we?

Stage 1, Loss. I lost my ability to drive my truck and my independence without my phone. I felt helpless and did not know what to do. Stage 2, Doubt. I resented AAA lack of roadside service, although that driver did identify that my shifter was my problem. I was skeptical that this would be resolved easily or quickly or cheaply, or that I could get the right help without being in the way (literally) for others. Stage 3: Discomfort. I surely felt like I was the one who was stuck in neutral, anxious about what this would mean in terms of ability to use (and trust) the truck mechanically. Stage 4: Discovery. I anticipated the help from the second tow truck driver, and looked forward to a resolution. I had come up with a plan, and the plan was working. Stage 5: Understanding. Aaron confirmed the shifter linkage was broken, and I gained confidence as he manually put the truck into gear. I was able to drive forward and trusted the truck would get me to the repair shop. I was ready to take on the cell phone replacement task. Stage 6: Integration. I am satisfied that the truck is where it needs to be, and grateful that having this happen here at home saved me from being somewhere along I-40 on my way to see my kids or in a remote campground. And I have a new working cell phone. I was generous with my appreciation for all the angels who showed up to help. And now I am ready for the next “change,” which is likely to be the hit to my checkbook when I get the bill, but it’s only money.

An interesting bit of background. Last fall our our Thelma & Louise trip, both Dee and I had a little trouble with the shifter. We thought it was because of where I had placed the trash sack, such that we couldn’t really see if we were in Drive or not if the truck didn’t engage in gear. That has been an ongoing thing I didn’t pay enough attention to. Also, my cell phone had been slowly fading away anyway. It was needing to be charged up sometimes twice a day, even when it had a full charge in the morning. Response time was also slow when trying to access messages. More warning signs that I ignored.

But, in fact, it’s all good! I got my stimulus check recently, so I will have the means to pay this piper. I was able to accept the generosity of my friends and even to strengthen my connection to them and to my community. An expression I learned recently is amor fati. It’s a Latin phrase that means a love of fate. It’s a mindset that you take on for making the best out of anything that happens. It’s my new favorite motto, and it has proven to be a concept that I find is very useful. It’s not just a stoicism, it’s a productive point of view. I have one tattoo, and I’ve said I’d never get a second one. But I’m thinking now… maybe ….

It would go with the one I already have, which is based on Gibran’s philosophy of life going forward, which you can read about in a previous post.

All in all, I’d say yesterday turned out to be a spectacular day. I got to meet so many angels and to really experience me being me, and a better version of me. I think I handled it well, all things considered.