I knew, of course, that yesterday would be a hard day. Days when we see Chickadee for family therapy are hard, because she is not exactly what you would call pro-therapy. Things are better—so much better—than they used to be there, really. There is no longer screaming and throwing things, for example. But I’m pretty sure that if she had the option of passing on this particular exercise, she would. Sadly, she’s not in charge and we cruelly demand that she be tortured with our attempts to restore a workable family life (because we are monsters).
The fact that we parted with her angry at us over the weekend was on our minds, too. So: It would be hard. We knew. She’d seemed recovered, on the phone, but it’s hard to tell.
The good news is that the session itself wasn’t too bad. One of the things I really like about the family therapist is that she’s an equal-opportunity bullshit-caller, and although Chickadee maintains that she dislikes her (probably due to her absolute unflappability and also that she is not buying what my darling daughter is so often selling), the fact that I’m the one being chastised nearly as often as my kid is slowly winning her over.
[In case you're curious, allow me to summarize the lesson being hammered and re-hammered into my thick head every single week: Dear Me, please stop trying to shield your kid from the cruel world or fix things for her and just let her fall on her face so that you can both realize it won't kill her.]
It was okay; fine, mostly, until the end, but the end is nearly always awful, so that wasn’t unexpected, either. Should I ever think about writing a book on the experience of having a child in a residential treatment center (which I won’t, ever, because I don’t even like experiencing it now, and purposely reliving it AGAIN through writing just seems like masochism of the highest order), it would have to be titled something like One Thousand Terrible Goodbyes (which is so cheesy, I know) because no matter how often you see each other, every time you leave, it’s without your kid. And your kid is going back to a locked unit. And everyone thinks, “Wow, hey, I don’t know if you noticed, but THIS REALLY SUCKS, like, every single fucking time.” (Maybe I should just call my hypothetical never-to-be-written book “Hello, Captain Obvious!” Pretty much the same thing.)
Whoa. Sorry, small detour into bitter, there. I took my eyes off the road for a sec.
So! We got out of there in one piece. We headed towards home.
There is a McDonald’s conveniently located right before we get back on the highway, which is handy because it’s a long drive home and we are often all adrenaline-d out by the time we leave. Translation: we require coffee, and that’s an easy/cheap way to get it. We were sitting at the light to turn onto the road where the McDonald’s is—and the highway ramp is—discussing said desire for coffee when… the car stalled.
“What the heck?” said Otto. He is eloquent. He’s also a man of action; he tried to restart the car. It didn’t start. He turned off the AC and tried again. And it still didn’t start.
And then… the light turned green.
I don’t know if you’ve done a lot of driving in Atlanta, but it turns out that people get really pissed when you’re stuck in traffic and your car dies. Go figure.
Otto put on the hazard lights and popped the hood and got out of the car and started doing various car-guy sorts of things (I don’t know, I was too busy imagining some aggravated city driver running him over in a fit of road rage) while people honked at us. Eventually it became clear that we’d need to push the car off the road, but of course we were on a slight incline (of course), and Otto couldn’t push it himself and I had to steer and AGAIN I was back to visions of him being run over, and finally the guy stuck behind us helped Otto push and we got the damn car off the road.
There was more tinkering and poking and prodding—Otto can pretty much fix anything, so I sat there helpfully saying things like “I BET YOU CAN FIX IT”—and finally he concluded that… the car was dead. Probably the fuel pump.
We have AAA, and it turns out that they’ll tow you up to 100 miles, so the fact that we were 90 minutes from home wasn’t the enormous catastrophe it could’ve been. It also turns out that if your car dies in a major metropolitan area instead of in the sticks, you don’t have to wait for three hours for a tow. In fact, Otto called and it was less than ten minutes before the truck showed up. In no time at all we were on our way.
An interesting role reversal took place on our way back home. Ordinarily I am Chicken Little to Otto’s Buddha. Don’t get me wrong; when the car first died I was all BUT OF COURSE IT DID, complete with high-pitched hysterical laughter of I-may-just-lose-my-crap-here. But my frustration was fleeting, because really, the truck showed up so quickly and it was such a relief that we could be taken all the way back to town under our coverage. Plus the driver was a total sweetheart. Otto, meanwhile, was busy berating himself for thinking it was okay to take his car all the way to Atlanta. He’d just been thinking how reliable his car has been for a vehicle with nearly 200,000 miles on it, and now look what happened. He was so sorry! He should’ve known better!
I finally had to tell him to chill out. Lemme count how often that has happened in the 22 years I’ve known him, hang on. Yep, one hand with fingers left over, easy.
No one got hurt. We didn’t get into an accident. We didn’t have to leave the car in Atlanta. We didn’t get stuck for hours. Monkey was actually spending the day with Mario AT OUR HOUSE so it was just a matter of calling Mario’s mom—who was totally just chilling out with a book and the dog on our porch—to let her know what was going on; no biggie there. She was even gracious enough to pick us up from the garage once we got back. Heck, even the rain held off until it was all over again.
Really, as catastrophes go, this one was easily managed.
And then I walked into the house, said hello to my son, then turned right back around and hopped into my car to go pick up boxes at the UPS Store. As I loaded up the continuing evidence of your generosity I realized that as fragile as I feel, a lot of the time, resilience is somewhat inevitable. Is anyone maimed? Or dead? No? Carry on, then. Nothing to see, here. (I did tell Otto later that night that the real tragedy of the day was that I hadn’t gotten my much-anticipated coffee that afternoon, and I think he cracked a smile. Probably he was just humoring me, but whatever.)
Moral of the story: Try not to have your car die in the middle of city traffic, but if you must, I recommend having had such a crappy year in general that it just seems like a minor inconvenience. You’re welcome.