When Life Totals You

The Fishtail

Charlie had explosive diarrhea in his car seat and Jody wrecked his car. The two are not linked. Everyone is fine. Charlie is not sick, just a random burst of intestinal activity. Jody is uninjured. It was a solo wreck. Evil Knievel gone wrong. They gave him a huge white pickup truck for his rental. He’s a happy man.

But here’s the thing: the car seat and the car are totaled. No amount of Febreeze or Woolite pet care carpet cleaner or industrial washing machine will get the goo and the stink of that really expensive and perfectly adjusted car seat. Jody’s car looks like the loser in Rocky. It’s missing its driver’s side mirror, the passenger side from nose to toe is a crumpled mass of metal—a papier mache cast off.

The Correction

I was handling it. It had been a pretty good week on the personal front, so I was cruising on happy vibes. When the car seat explosion happened (which Charlie thought was hilarious), I gently lugged him inside at arm’s length, bathed him in wipes, threw away his pants and socks, and then bathed him for real. I scrubbed and sprayed and de-gooed the seat as best I could. The next morning, I didn’t smell a thing. Victory was mine. And then halfway to dropping him off at school the sun came out, the heater cranked up, and the newly warmed air carried with it that deep and abiding poo smell that WILL NOT go away. One battle lost, but not the war.

The Tailspin

And then we had a weekend to take a breath. And then, par for the course for a Monday, Jody totaled the car. I was with Charlie at his speech evaluation with a specialist whose sole job is to recommend a speaking device for him. We left at 6:40 a.m. to get there by 8 a.m. The appointment was slotted to last 4 hours. Charlie was bored by 7:45 a.m. before the clock had even started. It was not a fortuitous beginning. However, once he saw the devices, he entered his Charlie happy place and I watched as language opened up to him, maybe for the first time ever. My heart was full. He’d found a voice…and then my phone rang. It was Enterprise asking me about a rental car. I laughed them off. Silly wrong number interrupting my Mommy-and-me moment.

Warming up with some low tech devices: books.

Getting to know his new voice.











It was not a wrong number. Jody called after we got home and filled me in. Apparently ambulances and firetrucks were involved. He was the star of the early morning traffic report. If he had called me from the side of the road with the smell of burned rubber and brakes and metal in the air and the sounds of sirens in the background, I would have been panicked. I would have cried and thanked the Lord that he was safe. But he called me from his office with his shiny white truck they had given him for a rental and so I skipped empathy. I went for logistics and I went for the kill.

How could you get in a wreck by yourself? What were you doing? How are we going to pay for this? What about the teeny tiny savings were are trying to feed like sad little starter fire? 

The Repair

Money worries always ruin the best intentions. Life totaled me. I was tired of temporary fixes and rebounds. I just wanted to sit this one out. It happens. I’m okay with it now the days have worn off. When Charlie was first in the NICU and then when he came home with the trach and then the g-tube and then the official diagnosis of CP I felt like every bit of news would end me. There wasn’t any me left. I was buried under bills and hospital supplies and developmental charts. But somehow time passed. Charlie outgrew the trach and the g-tube. He turned into a hilarious and beautiful kid and I didn’t melt under the pressure.

So maybe I’m thinking there’s no such thing as “totaled.” Maybe everything and everyone is salvageable. I mean, the car seat and the car will have to go, but maybe the people will stick around.


Thanks, Meg, for letting me rehash the week with a bit more perspective.