Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Keeping It All In Perspective

Yesterday, while going to pick my daughter and her friend up at school, I stopped by Trader Joe's to pick up a couple of things. I parked on the street to avoid their nightmarish parking lot. When I went back to the car, I couldn't get it started. I'd had problems with it before-- I knew I needed to put a new battery in it, and the battery cables were horribly cheap, shitty ones. To make matters worse, the cable to pop the hood snapped a couple of weeks ago-- I was praying that I could wing it a couple more weeks until I could bring the car to my mechanic. Alas, my luck had run out.

Fortunately, yesterday was not too terribly cold (today is), so we walked home from school. This morning, I took Kim's car and drove Mel to school and Kim took the el to work. I went by the car and tried to start it one more time. No luck. I dropped a key off with my mechanic's guys and told them what was going on. I knew the car was going to have to be towed to be worked on.

I got a call a while ago. New battery, new cables, oil was low, new $150 hood cable, and some sundry light bulbs and electrical connections. My heart sank. We are already behind on so many bills.

I was comforted a little remembering that I'd picked an extra shift up last night from a sick co-worker, and that my friend Carol had asked me to pick up several shifts over the next couple of weeks while she vacations in California.

Then I started counting my blessings. I have two terrific teenaged kids that still seem to like to spend time with me. I've got a lovely wife whom I just celebrated a fourth anniversary with. That same wife got a job in November after five months of unemployment in a field that is not doing a lot of hiring right now. The government subsidy to COBRA extension of medical benefits was about to run out. And I keep in mind that I literally won the lottery-- that the highly-regarded (and relatively inexpensive) nursing program I got accepted into last year takes fewer than 1/3 of its applicants-- there are far more applicants than slots. They have a lottery to determine who gets in. And finally, I realize I am blessed because I love the field I'm going into and am doing well academically.

It's funny how life sometimes reminds you to keep it all in perspective. While I was doing some stuff around the house, right after getting the bad news about the car, I had the History Channel on as background noise. I realized that they had a show about the December 2004 tsunami.

I've mentioned before that my old friend Dobie has made the decision to move back to Chicago. He and I had lost touch with one another after he moved to Arizona, then Asia.

When we were in college, he and another friend, Larry, and I roomed together the summer of 1984. At some point that summer, Dobie asked a favor-- he asked if I would teach him to swim. In the South Side Chicago neighborhood he'd grown up in, the local pool was inhabited by gang members, and wasn't a safe place for a kid to be. Consequently, he'd never learned to swim.

We started going to the pool at Lantz Gym, at our college. I'd never taught anyone to swim-- I had to remember back to when I'd taken swimming lessons. Over the summer, he learned to swim.

As I mentioned, in the mid-nineties, he and I lost touch, until I tracked him down in 2005 by correctly guessing his email address, after I'd read in our college alumni newsletter that he was working as a teacher in Singapore.

Not long after we continued our friendship, via email, I discovered that he'd been on vacation in Phukat, Thailand on December 26, 2004. He'd taken up scuba diving at some point. He was scuba diving when the tsunami hit the shore at Phukat.

He told me that he hadn't felt a thing-- that one member of the diving group said he'd felt a little pressure wave, but that neither he nor any other member of the group had felt anything. When they got back to shore, they came upon a horrific scene. The least of it was that the cabana they'd geared up at was gone. There were hundreds of dead and dying people in the town. He and the others spent the day helping who they could. Dobie came upon a kid who'd been separated from his parents. He was able to repatriate the boy with his parents, who had, happily, survived.

My friend survived the worst natural disaster in history-- 230,000 people were killed-- because he knew how to swim, and he'd randomly decided to go scuba diving for that particular hour or two that day. Thanks to that little miracle, he and I have been able to renew our friendship. So instead of sweating about a few hundred dollars, I'm going to count my blessings and realize that nearly everyone who reads my blog is dealing with these things and more in their lives. As my mother says, "This too shall pass."


SkylersDad said...

Was your friend interviewed about that on the Today show? Because I remember hearing the story of a couple who were diving that sounds just like that!

Churlita said...

Exactly. That's the best way to look at things. All that little crap adds up and can really suck, but it isn't tragic. it's all stuff we can get through. I always say I'm lucky that I had such really bad stuff happen to me when I was younger, because it gives me excellent perspective.

I hope your car is all better now. I know how bad that stuff stinks.

Erik Donald France said...

Blessings, indeed. Good luck on car problems -- they always suck, if not as badly as a natural disaster.