Thursday, I dragged a sick dog and three kids to the vet's office office in the midst of the Thunderstorm. I had one of those "should I really be doing this?" moments. It was a crazy dash to get the over-due library books into the car ahead of the rainstorm. Then I struggled to arm the troops with correctly sized plastic raincoats and spiderman umbrellas. None of those precautions had much effect since the dramatic rain soaked everyone as I struggled to find the seat belt buckles which are buried deep under a mash of three car seats in a single back seat.
When we got to the vet, it was similar chaos. A small baby to keep dry, a jumpy dog, two pre-schoolers who are not the most reliable in taking directions in crowded parking lots. I decided to leave the stroller in the car. A mistake I had to correct when the receptionist mentioned a 45 minute wait. That would be 45 minutes with 3 kids + a dog in a gigantic tempting pet warehouse. (Our vet hospital is inside our local Petsmart).
All my effort to get us to the vet during Thursday's free office visit hours seemed wasted. The dog's suspected UTI meant we had to pay the office visit fee. She needed $90 of antibiotics and expensive dog food. The worse part, is that Alex was beyond feral during the long wait inside the vet's office.
There's the point of motherhood when the demands on your time are so crazy, you just can't believe they are real. Most of the time, I can handle things with grace. We make up silly games to entertain ourselves. We talk about dog teeth, and cavities, and make up crazy lists about animals that can eat you.
Then there was yesterday. I had a female vet trying earnestly to explain complicated things about dogs and kidney crystals, while I held a 3 year old, who for some sudden and unexplained reason started biting my shoulder and kicking off his croc sandels, while my baby cried to be picked up out of her stroller, my 5 year old asked loudly when we were LEAVING, and my sick, scared dog tied circles around my legs with her dog leash.
People look at you in those chaotic moments of motherhood with complete judgment and utter lack of sympathy. And then they help you out.
So the vet broke the rules, and let the vet aid walk my sick dog outside to get the necessary testing sample. The Pet Smart employee let me hold up the line to find the dropped prescription label for the uber expensive medical dog food. When I finally got all the kids strapped into the car, I found out
THAT MY BATTERY WAS DEAD!
In the midst of the crazy exit in the rainstorm, I'd completely forgotten that I'd left the lights on. Since this entire vet episode took two hours, that ended up being a long time.
I hadn't even fully processed that I had a dead battery miles from home, before a helpful woman in the car next to mine offered to jump start my car. It didn't work, but her kindness was appreciated.
I raided the glove compartment but couldn't find the Geico road assistance card which is always, always in there. The windows were all rolled up. There was no way to unroll them without electricity. So the jumpy dog joined us as we decamped the car and headed back into Pet Smart. I borrowed a cellphone to call my husband.
I don't even know what my voice sounded like, it must have been pretty bad. "I'm at Pet Smart. I've been here since 3. I've got all the kids and the dog. We've had a rough time and now the car battery is dead. I forgot and left the light on. I can't find the Geico number anywhere. You've got to call a tow truck for us."
That's when we officially hit pathetic. We're the last people in America without a cellphone. We don't have a second car. We live in an apartment complex where everyone works, so there is no friendly neighbor to call for help.
It's just me, and the kids, and the dog at Pet Smart with a broken car.
Yet God adores the pathetic. He always helps.
The wait for the tow-truck ends up being an adventure. Alex says he's hungry. (Its 5:15 PM) I joke that the only thing in Pet Smart is dog food and does he want some. The kids with their laser eyesight insist they did see people food inside the store. I head back inside and find cracker-jacks and bottled water. We have an impromptu picnic on the entry way where all the grocery carts are kept.
The awful thunderstorm has returned. After a while 30 people join us in the waiting area. No one wants to venture out to their cars until the thunder stops. We're no longer odd balls for hanging around the shopping carts.
The amazing part, is that all three kids, who misbehaved so awfully during the long wait at the vet's office, suddenly turn into sweet angels. There was lots to do and see. There was cracker jack prizes to look for and seconds to count between lightning and thunder claps. There were rain rivers to stare at. They named a stranger's new gold fish "Spiderman" and "Ben." Finally, there was Mr. James, our smiling tow truck operator who got our battery restarted in the pouring rain.
When I got home, my husband rushed out in a panic. "You poor, poor thing!" he said.
"It wasn't that bad. It was sort of fun!" I told him. I was shocked to realize that it was true. When I first left the vet's office, I felt so discouraged, back when I thought I still had a working car. After the dead battery, my kids really surprised me. They didn't seem so very young, or so very much work anymore.
We're a humble family, us Benjamins. We've got some strikes against us. We live in a very expensive city. We had outrageous amount of student loan debt. We're the only Catholics in our family. We insist on having too many children, too close together. We get wet and tired and hungry and cranky. Yet we are also resilient. Only we can have fun together while being stranded at Pet Smart.
Sometimes things have to get worse, before they get better.