I heard the hissing immediately. What the hell was happening? I hopped out of the car, and looked down. A woman walking her dog stopped. “It’s your tire,” she said. “It’s not good.”
She wasn’t kidding. There was a 2-inch slit in my tire and it was completely flat. “Shit, shit, shit!” I said, staring at the tire.
Austin’s baseball game was starting in 5 minutes. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to a 2-hour second grade baseball game with a 4-year-old in tow, but at least it gave me time. I walked up to the game. “My tire is flat,” I told the parents who had assembled for the game. Immediately, everyone was on their phones, looking up the closest tow truck and seeing if AAA would answer their phones. My friend Katy settled her kids and then came over. “Reynolds can change it,” she said, gesturing towards her husband.
“Really?” I said. I’m sure there was desperation in my voice. “Sure,” she said, and he walked over.
“Do you have a jack?” he asked.
“Um, I don’t know,” I said. “Shawn changed the tire a few times, but I don’t know if there’s a jack in the car.”
Shouldn’t I know if there’s a jack in the car?
He walked over to the car, and together we assessed the damage. There was a jack in a hidden compartment in the back. He took out the manual, and went to work. “Go back and watch the game,” he told me after a few minutes. When I paused, he said, “really. I’ll finish this in just a few minutes and be right over.”
It took a while, and he ended up missing a big chunk of the game. By the end, he was drenched in sweat and had more dirt on him than our baseball-playing boys. “God, thank you so much,” I said to him as he returned to the game.
I wanted to stay after the game and take my friends up on their offers to drive me to a tire place. But I had an appraiser coming, and I had to return to my house. For a number of reasons, I have to file an estate tax return. Okay, no biggie, I thought. But no. It involves getting account statements from January for everything with Shawn’s name on it – including accounts that are now closed. My entire Friday afternoon had already been taken up by the logistics and I was nowhere near done. In addition to all of this, my house had to be retroactively appraised as of January, and thus the appointment.
The appraiser arrived. He knew that my husband had died, but the look on his face when he saw me was one of total shock. (Bet you didn’t think the widow answering the door would be me!) He recovered quickly, however, and went about his job looking at the house. Claire and I retreated upstairs.
At the end of the inspection, we stood in the hallway. “Do you have a separate HVAC system in the attic?” he asked.
“Um, maybe?” I said. “I think we might, because there are two different systems. But I’m not totally sure where it’s located.”
“We don’t!” Claire shouted from the other room. “Dad told me that there were only chickens in the attic.”
The inspector and I both laughed. The things kids say! But you know what else I was thinking?
I love that Claire remembers that her dad used to say things like this.
Anyway, somehow the inspector figured out whatever it was that he needed to know. I was no help.
Then it was off to the tire place. My friend Beth offered to come along, and when I pulled up to the shop, an older man came out to help me. He had so many questions.
“How old are the tires?”
“How many miles are on the car?”
“When was the alignment last checked?”
My answer to every question was “I don’t know.” I could tell I was looking like an idiot. “My husband did all of this,” I said, as some sort of explanation. “He died in January so I have no idea how to answer your questions.”
His face changed. “I’m so sorry,” he said, looking up from underneath the car. I saw the look in his eyes, the one that said, “you are so young.”
But you know what? He gave me great service, and knocked down the price on almost everything for me. Later, I texted my sister, “well, I played the widow card all over today. Even at the tire place. But I guess I might as well get cheaper tires if my husband has to be dead.”
“That would make a great blog post title,” she wrote back.
I guess it would, I thought. I mean, my life was basically a disaster this weekend. I mostly held on because of the kindness of my friends. But at the end of the weekend, I was left with the feeling that things were spinning out of control and even total strangers were feeling sorry for me.
That night, as I sat in my house and tried to figure out how I was going to get the kids to all of their activities the next day, I got a text from my friend Purva. She had watched Tommy for much of the day. “Hey, I know you had a rough day,” she wrote, “but I wanted to tell you that Tommy was absolutely wonderful. He’s funny, chatty and bright. He’s a reflection of you, Marjorie.”
My tires are still going to cost a small fortune. I have a 2-hour phone call scheduled for today with the bank about the estate tax. Embarrassingly, I played the widow card more than once this weekend.
But I made it through. Some people pity me, I know that. Maybe they should, and sometimes in moments of weakness, I let them. But the people who surround me on a daily basis – the ones who watch my kids and patch my tires and pour me an extra glass of wine at the end of the day – those people are the ones that matter.
And they think I’m doing okay.