Surviving life’s harrowing challenges

It was a harrowing experience, but I am so thankful that I have a fierce, brave warrior of a wife who able to face down one of life’s toughest challenges and emerge unscathed, if not even stronger.

The ordeal began when she left our house around 5 in the morning the other day to deliver our son to school. We feel it is best to get the kids there a couple of hours early to learn how to fend for themselves in the cold, heartless streets that await them.

Ha! Little horrible parenting humor there. She was taking him to school that early because he was leaving on a three-day field trip with his class, and I can only assume the school decided that if the kids were going to miss out on several days of classes, they should at least have to serve a penance to earn it.

I had arisen early as well, to serve as Chief Oatmeal Maker, as well as to provide unnecessary encouragement in the form of such comments as, “Y’all need to go. Check the time. Let’s go.” I’m a big help.

My wife and son headed off to school and I, as is customary with Chief Oatmeal Maker duties, slogged my way back up to bed, hoping to grab a few more hours of sleep before having to get up.

A few minutes later, I heard the door open. I groggily climbed out of bed and started to make my way downstairs, most likely to offer more helpful observations on what time it was. But then I heard the door shut and a car start up and leave, so I went back to bed again.

A short while later, I learned that my wife’s van had begun behaving oddly. Namely, when you pressed the gas, it would rev the engine loudly and then deliver a loud “WUMP!” noise and slow the engine down. She had returned to get my car, which did not make WUMP! noises.

My son made the bus on time, and my wife was back to the house shortly thereafter. She informed me that her transmission was dying and that the van would most likely have to be driven to a nearby river and sunk. Or something like that. I was still kinda sleepy.

We got our daughter off to school, and then made an appointment to bring her van into the shop. I drove the van, as apparently my wife was OK with me driving a vehicle that, at any moment, was likely to burst into flames.

We dropped the car off and I drove her back home before heading into work.

But we have not reached Mt. Peril yet.

As I pulled into the office, my phone dinged with an incoming message. It was an e-mail from my wife: “Did I leave my phone in your car?”

I looked down in the floorboard, and there it sat — her lifeline to the entire world. And now she sat at home alone — no vehicle, no phone. Just the internet and e-mail and Facebook and an entire shopping center about a half mile from our house. STAY STRONG!

OK, in fairness to my wife, she was fairly nonchalant about the whole thing. She did send an e-mail back that said, “Well, respond to any texts I get and e-mail me if you need me. I’ll be working.” So you can feel the terror in her nonetheless.

I diligently served as her texting secretary for the day, and even resisted the urge to be fun or cute, which, when responding to someone else’s texts, is rarely ever fun or cute.

I made it home that evening, and my wife was happy to be reunited with her phone. When I handed it to her, she said, “Oh, thanks.” My guess is she was just doing a yeoman’s job of not breaking down in tears and thanking me profusely for returning her everything to her. I am not sure I could have been as stoic as she was, as my phone is an integral part of my world communication. But, alas, she is strong. And I am but a simple Oatmeal Maker.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C., and now lives in Charleston. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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