“Key FOB not in vehicle,” read the dashboard as I pushed the ignition button.
Since it was time to get the kids to school, I hadn’t a minute to lose. As an aside, when I say “it was time,” I mean it was time. I have about a billion alarms set on my phone to keep me on track — 8:16 weekdays: “Kids in car;” followed by 8:24: “Leave house.”
So when I was unable to carry out the directive issued by my phone, my stress went up immediately. I patted my coat pockets. No keys.
“Ahh,” I thought, relaxing, “No keys, no worries.” You see, I always keep a key stashed just outside the house for just such an emergency. So off I sauntered to my secret hiding spot, confidently feeling around for the object that would get my day back on track.
But I couldn’t find it. And then I had a flashback to that moment a week before when my mother-in-law, who was babysitting, had asked to borrow one so she could take the kids out for a bit.
“Sure,” I said, walking outside and grabbing my stashed emergency key. “Here you go.”
So here I was with two kids who needed to get to school, while I needed to make my meeting with Kate. First, I scoured the garage to see if I could find another spare key — I could swear I’d left one lying around there somewhere. Then I gave the doorknob a malicious look, thinking I could make quick work of it with a sledgehammer. That is, until I considered dealing with the aftermath of repair. I even tried to take the thing apart for a few minutes, but gave up quickly. I have no future as a burglar.
“Ok, ok,” I thought. “First things first. Get the kids to school.”
“Kids, strap on your backpacks. We’re walking. Isn’t that cool?” I said.
“Not really,” said my little one, Parker. “Maybe if it was the summer it would be cool.”
Luckily the school is only about a 10-minute walk, and so we traipsed up one side of the hill and down the other. I walked them in, arriving about three minutes late.
On my way out of the building, I saw a neighbor who had been equally tardy that day. He laughed at my story and gave me a ride home. “At least you’re halfway through the week,” he joked.
I’d already texted Kate about my situation and told her I was working on getting to Nutley. I really, really hate missing appointments, so I was determined.
One more option, I thought, and I know it’s a good one. I called my retired father-in-law Charlie.
Seeing my number on the caller ID, he answered with his usual good-natured, Italian-accented, “Hey Antony, what’s up?”
“Hey Charlie,” I said, “What are you doing?”
“Nothin,” he said, almost with contempt at his boredom. It was the exact word I wanted to hear.
“I locked myself out of the house and my car keys are inside too. Can you come up and let me in?”
“Sure. I’ll be there in half an hour,” he said.
And with that — or rather, with his arrival, to be exact — Charlie had once again saved the day. And to make the point even clearer, the next day he came up again when I needed him to watch Parker, who was out sick from school, while I produced a webinar.
You see, my in-laws are amazing people. In the almost 15 years I’ve known them, I don’t think they’ve ever said no to any type of request.
I can pretty much attribute my mother-in-law’s overnight babysitting as the reason my wife and I are still married. When you have small children, a night out to dinner followed by the ability to sleep in the next day (as she gives them breakfast) is worth more than gold. And she’s done that dozens of times.
And so on that day when Charlie was watching Parker, and he told me he’d been feeling bad, sick, and old, and was kind of depressed about it, I got to thinking about how much I truly liked Charlie, and how lucky I was to have the support of his wife, Terry. And then I kind of got depressed thinking of life without them.
What has made them so special? Their amazing generosity and selflessness, and their tremendous willingness to be available whenever possible. Their eagerness to say yes to any request and their love of family. And when I get to thinking about all their great qualities, I think how great it would be if I could be more like them. Hopefully I’ll get more time to study them so I get it just right.