Jack, our second son, was born in 2005, and he was born with spina bifida, in which the spinal chord is in “communication” (as the surgeon said) with the air. Unless treated, the spinal chord would get infected, and he would be permanently crippled or die a painful death. Naturally, we chose surgery, and he came home from this ordeal a week after he was born, a miracle of modern medicine.
The very night he came home, the refrigerator broke. In it was three months’ worth of staples that Deb, my wife, had prepared during the summer so that we could eat. We didn’t have a storage freezer, so this was a crisis. I called the landlord.
He picked me up, and I could tell he had had about twelve to fifteen beers that evening, but he was a kind man nonetheless, so we drove around to all his friends’ and relatives’ houses picking up ice chests. The food was saved. I told him I wanted a new refrigerator. He agreed.
The next day he showed up at the house bearing a very old refrigerator with a giant gash in the left side of the exterior. He had gone to the used appliance store and bought this harvest gold-colored beast, a living relic of an extinct appliance past.
This ordeal, though insignificant in its own context, was the last in a long series of uninterrupted family traumas, including career changes, deaths in the family, and sickness. The refrigerator experience broke Deb.
Flash forward to 2015, ten years later, after thousands of dollars spent on hospitalization, therapy, and counseling, not to mention submitting to some rather uncouth machinery to zap those bad feelings away. We’ve settled nicely into a stable instability, if you will, as my about page says, “several vocational irons in the fire.” We have our own house now, so we don’t deal with alcoholic cheapskate kindly landlords anymore.
Our stainless steel refrigerator bought new from Sears in 2006 started leaking last night, but it was a rather simple fix; the part is on order, and I can swap the leaky valve for a new one in less than ten minutes. I’ve already practiced with the old one.
After I practiced, I came out from behind the refrigerator wiping my hands, with a self-satisfied look on my face, I’m sure, because I was satisfied with my self and with YouTube, the giver and teacher of all appliance repair. “Well, Deb,” I said. “That should do it. Nothing to worry about.” But Deb was nowhere to be found.
“Where’s your mother?” I inquired of my 12-year old.
She rarely goes upstairs because she stays downstairs near the nursery to take care of the baby’s needs. So I went upstairs to find her, and, lo, there she was, in the grip of a terrible panic attack.
“The refrigerator broke,” she said.
“What?” I asked.
“Don’t you remember the last time the refrigerator broke?” she said.
“Oh yeah,” I said. “But this time I’m taking care of things.”
“You need to drink a six pack to get things started,” she said.
Droll, very droll, my love is, even when she’s suffering from a panic attack. I told her everything was all right and to just lie down for a while, and let me know if she needed anything. After a while, she came downstairs, a little worse for the wear, but seeing the refrigerator in good working condition, she relaxed a little more.