Friday, July 28, 2006

The Gremlin in the Tire

The other day on my way into work, I heard a strange, clunking noise coming from the back of my van. Since all of the kids were at home with our nanny, I knew it wasn't a toy bouncing off one of their heads. I listened longer to determine that it wasn't getting worse and then did what any other rational person would do. I turned up the radio. Because if I can't hear it, there isn't really a problem. I drove to and from work the next few days and carted the kids around town for several of the weekly errands. Increasingly, the clink, clank, clunk got much more noticeable. It sounded like a gremlin was rolling around under the left side of the car. The radio was almost to full blast, and I could still hear the noise. Although, the kids screaming did help in disguising the enemy. I went round and round in my head debating when and how I should tell Chris. He has been under a lot of stress recently at work. This I can understand. Especially because his performance over the next few weeks will be a determining factor of our financial well-being for the year to come. Since I know what kind of an impact this will have on our family life, I've been desperately trying to keep the drama on the homefront to a minimum. He's the most amazing , self-sacrificing man I've ever known and keeping his burdens low is one of my loyalties as a wife. I handle the finances, and it wasn't that taking the van to the shop wasn't an option. It would just be more economically sound for us to wait a few more days. Plus, the van was making a similar noise a few weeks ago. I swear it just disappeared one day. No big deal, I rationalized. I'd tell Chris about it this weekend and make an appointment for Monday.

Grace's birthday was Wednesday. That evening we all jumped in the van to pick up Grace from Vacation Bible School and take her to the mall for her present. Oblivious that the van was hammering like hail on a tin roof (the radio thing really works) we took off down the block. We traveled no further than four houses away when the questions began. "What is that? Do you hear that? How long has it been like that?" Then came the accusations. "You've been driving like this? That doesn't sound good. I'm not getting on the highway like this. You've driven our children in this?" And finally, "When were you going to tell me?" Not wanting to start a feud, I answered as simple and nonchalant as possible. We rode in silence, well, except for the obnoxiously loud clangs, the rest of the way home. Once we pulled into the driveway, Chris got out to "take a look." That's code for mess around with some stuff until I break something else because I'm the most un-handy person ALIVE. No, not really. But close. I sat quietly in the van taking long, deep breaths to calm my nerves. I felt like I was sixteen again being lectured by my dad for letting the gas get lower than one-fourth of a tank. A few minutes later, Chris got back in the van. We backed out of the driveway and went down the street sans clunk. We drove all the way to school before speaking to each other. As we parked, I finally asked how he fixed it. Chris stared at me emotionless and said, " I tightened the lug nuts. Everyone was loose. The tire was inches from flying off. Do you understand what that means? We could have died!" I felt my heart swell up in my throat and fought back tears as I went to get Grace from her class.

Later that night after the kids were in bed and the household chose complete, I broke down. Tears pured out of me like a flood gate had been bulldozed over. I sobbed uncontrollably as I apologized for not telling him about the van sooner. Chris took me in his arms. "I'm not mad at you. I know why you didn't tell me. But nothing is more important then my family. Nothing. I couldn't live without you and the kids. I don't know how I would have gone on if something happened to you." From there Chris went on to express his fears of losing me and professed his undying love for me and complete devotion to our family. Somewhere in the words he spoke, I realized I was the luckiest woman in the world.