Working a second job wasn't what I had expected of life at age 46 but my business had gone through a real rough spot so I jumped at the chance for some additional income, even if it was for just a few weeks. The 80+ hour work weeks grew old quickly.
It was a cold Sunday evening when I made my way to my car on the far side of the frozen parking lot. The temperature couldn't have been over 10 degrees. Exhausted, I fell into the driver's seat and turned the key - click, click, nothing. Again - click, click, silence. I turned on the headlights to confirm what I already knew - the battery had breathed it's last. I pulled out my cell phone and called Steph. Within a few minutes I could see the profile of her Land Rover in the distance.
The daylight was gone and I worked with a flashlight propped in the engine compartment, busting my knuckles and dropping tools as I wrestled with the battery leads which had been welded by time to the terminals. At last I conceded defeat. We rode home in silence as I pondered my predicament and dreamed of ways to inflict the worst kind of revenge on that sad excuse of a conveyance I reluctantly call "my car". I knew that a hundred buck battery would immediately double the value of the old crate.
Back home, I picked up the phone and called my dad. At age 84, he has Meniere's Disease which gives him perpetual vertigo so he's not able to do mechanical work; but of greater import, he lives in North Carolina and I in Ohio. My dad is a retired aircraft mechanic and as my mom always said, he fixes a screen door as if it has to fly. He talked me through a checklist of items and apologized for not being near enough to fix it for me. I could hear the genuine sorrow in his voice. As dads, we always want to be there for our kids.
So, armed with limited mechanical ability and a few things to do, I drove back and quickly got the car started. As I parked it in the garage, I decided not to worry about it until the following weekend. Three times that week I got a call from Dad asking for a status report on the car. He was worried to death that I might not be able to fix it. Finally, the next Saturday I got about the business of buying another battery and installing it. Much to my chagrin, the car still wouldn't start.
Back on the phone, I went over the entire process with Dad and he quickly determined what I had done wrong. I'm sure he was thinking, "Hey doofus, you have to clean the leads with a wire brush and use contact jelly to make a good connection." To his credit, he never said it and within 15 minutes, the old beater was running.
A few hours later I was wandering through Walgreens when my cell phone rang. It was my 21 year old son, Brad. "Dad, I've got a problem with my bank account." Suddenly, the helpless feelings began to creep over me. Brad lives in Indiana, not close enough for me to be there in a few minutes. I was really sad I couldn't be there to resolve the problem for him but I gave him a list of things to do (since I'm more familiar with banking than cars) and off he went. 30 minutes later I called him back to see if things were straight now - no answer, voicemail. Every 15 minutes I called until I finally got him. Situation solved - he had followed my advice and was back on his feet.
Middle age is a busy time of life. It's fraught with worries and responsibilities that I could never have imagined when I was 25. Sometimes the pressure is downright overwhelming. But as I reflected on the events of the week, I realized that this might be the best time of my life - I get to be the man in the middle.
In generations past, men worked hard and died young. It was a rare thing to see one's dad get old and sons grown to adulthood, all at the same time. This time won't last forever - in fact, it may not last for long. I'm resolved to make the most of it and that's as close as I come to making resolutions of any kind.