Miracles are in the Eye of the Beholder

Miracles are in the Eye of the Beholder

Sometimes things really don’t work out according to plan. Our plan for our Friday night was simple, head to the local toy store to buy birthday gifts for our daughter’s friends for back to back Saturday parties, head to our local Y for a family swim and then home for Friday night tacos, since we missed out on Taco Tuesday this week.

What do they say about best laid plans? Well the gifts were purchased without incident and the swim was lovely. My daughter and I reached the lobby of the Y to find my husband chatting with a woman at the front desk. Which if you know my husband even a little is nothing out of the ordinary. But when he saw me his face changed and he said,” My phone and car key was stolen.” And the night went downhill from there.

I must stop here for a moment and explain that in all my 47 years I have never had anything stolen from me. I have travelled, many times alone. I have lived alone in new places where I knew no one and never had a thing taken from me. So when the kind woman behind the desk at the Y gently asked my husband if he saw our car on the screen of her computer and he said quietly,” No”. I had a strange, out of body experience that I truly cannot put into words.

As the reality sunk in that someone had indeed taken our car key and taken our car, the other reality sunk in that I had put my wallet in the le between the seats to keep it safe and now it clearly was anything but. My hands started to shake and I firmly believe as sure as I am sitting here typing that if the police had walked in with the perpetrators at that very moment that I would have tried my best, all 5’2” of me, to knock them flat. My flight or fight adrenaline hitting more the fight than the flight. My mind haphazardly fluctuated between anger and worry like a child bouncing all over a trampoline. My husband, calm as though someone had only taken his favorite baseball hat, spoke with the police officer and the Y staff as they all tried to catch images on the security footage. I paced, I mumbled, I fretted. I watched the footage with a pit hollowing out my stomach, feeling violated and angry. It becomes a whole new animal when you watch someone walk through a parking lot, holding out your car key waiting for your car to respond and then watch as two men you don’t know help themselves to your car and take off. When our daughter realized her precious blanket, the one she was wrapped in after she was born was gone with the car she turned into a puddle. Her tears flowing and her small body shaking with a sadness only an eight year old can feel at the loss of something so precious. And y anger seethed into parental rage.

But here is where the small miracles began.

First, if my husband had been fretting, and pacing and mumbling as I was we probably would not have gotten very far. My husband’s ability, even when things are going very badly, to find some humor or some way to connect to the person he is with is a gift. The police officer who was helping us was a handsome young man who easily fell into conversation with my over conversational husband who wanted to know all about the officer’s tri-Athlon training while I wanted to know all about how to get my wallet back. At "the look" but he was concentrating on concentrating on not really thinking a bout our stolen car and my now stolen wallet. It is a gift he has.

Even as we watched the surveillance tape as the two young men found their way to our car and hopped in and pulled away, my husband could watch with a certain amount of detachment as my own blood boiled and my hands knotted into fists. Of course there are times in the moment when I would like to change him because it would be nice to have someone fret or at least mumble with me but the truth of who he is and why I love him is this balance of his complete optimism and my skepticism. Miracle number one.

Part way into all this drama, I picked up my phone to call our boys and let them know we would be home a little later than we thought, Iand saw a text from a friend and texted back that we were stranded and our car had been stolen. And here was miracle number two.

She and her daughter were right around the corner. They were at our side within minutes. And the rest of their night was shot helping us. Her humor kept me from completely losing my mind and helped our daughter from losing hers. They shopped for make-up and had pizza while my husband and I worked with the police. Her husband picked up my boys and brought them to their house and everyone was safe and taken care of.

The police found our car within a short time. It was less than a mile from where it had been taken. It was not damaged and the thieves had even had the courtesy to pull up the emergency brake.

I said many four-letter words over and over and at one point the officer helping us looked me in the eye and said, “Breathe out. This really could be so much worse than it is. Most cars don’t end up found.” And really, he was right. Miracle number three, we were all safe. Our car was found, with the emergency brake courteously pulled and not a scratch on it. Yes, the Precious blankie was safe in the back seat. Yes, they stole my wallet and my glasses which created an enormous hassle but really, we were all okay.

After a fit full night sleep and a good cry the next morning, I came to understand that all I had to do was move forward. What was done was done and nothing I could do now would change what had happened. I was scheduled to go to a retreat with, as my husband respectfully refers to them, the church ladies. I emailed our retreat coordinator to let her know I may not make it. I felt overwhelmed and violated. My spirit was defeated, deflated and defiled. A retreat didn’t seem like a plausible activity for the day. My husband, on the other hand felt it was the only thing I should do. “Go be with all those ladies who make you feel good” were the words that came out of his mouth but what he was really saying was, “If you hang around here and cry all day we might have to get divorced.” After a nice hug from my Pollyanna husband, I pulled myself together and gathered my daughter to get her to the sweet little a friend’s house on my way out of town. About a half mile from our house, I realized I had left the directions and told my daughter we had to turn around. I apologized that she would be a few minutes late getting to her friend’s and said, “Sorry kiddo, some days are just better than others.” To which she responded, “Well today is already better than yesterday since yesterday our car was stolen and today we have it back.” Miracle number four, a child who is more profound than her mother could ever hope to be.

When I finally made it to the retreat I was greeted with a cheerful chorus of “Karen!” I felt like Norm walking into Cheers. The greeting was genuine and warm and nearly brought me to tears, which they are all used to anyway. I was enveloped into a cocoon of “been there, done that”being one of the younger women in the group. So sympathy and empathy abounded and buoyed my weary spirit. Miracle number five.

Our retreat was all about finding joy. Well how do you find joy when someone has stolen your car and your wallet and caused you anxiety and distress? You find it because you realize that what you have is so much more than a car and a wallet. That your life isn’t about those outside things but that your life is about giving and receiving. Spreading joy and creating joy. My life is so much more than what those young men took and so much more than what they must have. Their own lives being so empty that in that feeling of desperation they felt the need to ransack a hybrid Subaru filled with juice boxes, graham crackers and a well-worn blankie. There is more they need than what we had to offer.

After the retreat, I met my husband and our children at a favorite restaurant. We were there early and the waitresses were preparing for a small birthday celebration. A short while later a few well-dressed women came into the dining room and were soon followed by a couple more beautiful women and a women and a man who was celebrating his 50th birthday. He came into the dining room with some difficulty using a walker. His smile spread across his face like a sunrise on a sweet summer morning. Well what man wouldn’t be grinning from ear to ear to be surrounded by beautiful women on his birthday.? My husband watched the scene unfold with a palpable envy. I called over to the table and wished the man a happy birthday and then told him my husband was looking quite envious. The birthday boy smiled another amazingly large smile and one of the women sitting near him said,” Well he can’t give out his secret.” I hate to be the one to tell her but the secret really wasn’t a secret. He was obviously a wonderful person who drew wonderful people to him. Miracle number six, witnessing good people in the world.

As I drove home with my daughter in the back seat she told me what a scary day Friday had been. As a mother, a parent, you never want your child to feel fear. You want to protect them, build a bubble over them so nothing hurts them. But there is a world beyond their boundaries that isn’t always pleasant, predictable, or perfect. It is okay for them to learn this, in fact it is necessary. So what I told her was this: “Life is full of people who aren’t very nice. Sometimes they aren’t nice because they have had a hard life. But there are more good people in the world than bad. Think of all the wonderful people who helped us and continue to help us. We focus on those people and we are thankful for them. Life is full of people who bring about small miracles, and we will see them as long as we are paying attention.” She smiled and said “Mommy, you’re pretty smart.” Miracle number seven, my best one yet.

Piper in nap mode with her precious blanket circa 2012

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