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I used to work with a lady, we’ll call her Molly. She was older than me (in her 50s when I was in my 30s) and completely dependent on her husband. He did all the driving, he made phone calls for her. (English was not her native language, although she spoke it really well; I am not sure if the phone call thing was just a phobia or nerves related to speaking the language.) I remember feeling sorry for her, that she was always so nervous and not able to do so many things on her own. I often had to cross-train her and she was just completely flustered over things outside of her regular routine.

Friends, I turned into Molly over the years. Once I went deaf in 2008, Dave really stepped in and I became so dependent on him. He made the phone calls, he did the driving. (The driving came about because he was completely deaf in his left ear, so if he was the passenger he could not hear me talking to him if I was driving.)

When he was diagnosed, in my heart of hearts I knew everything would fall to me again someday. Liver cancer, if surgery or transplant is not an option, is usually fatal. But I envisioned a slow decline, where things would become my responsibility in a trickle, with Dave still here to ease me through. And that did happen in some ways. As he lost confidence in his ability to drive, I took over. He was with me, though, to help me navigate. (We’ve lived in Michigan since 2014 but as a passenger, I never paid attention to how we got where we were going. I was too busy sightseeing or talking to Dave.)

I had never used a lawn mower ever in my life. The summer of 2021 found Dave too weak to push our lawn mower, so I had him show me how to start it. Afterwards I came in and flopped on the bed, heart pounding, because it was so difficult to push that mower around. I suggested we upgrade to a self-propelled mower and that was a world of difference. He never really taught me about maintenance for the mower, though, or how to put it up in the winter, things like that.

There were so many things he didn’t show me. His decline was so fast and so unexpected, I don’t think either of us realized what was going to happen. So I’ve really had a lot of ‘firsts’ in the months since he died.

I talked a lot on Facebook about my issues with the car tires. I’d never in my life put air in a car tire, and this is the first car I’ve owned that had a warning light for tire pressure. The first time it came on, I tried first to use our air compressor, then an air machine at a gas station (which turned out to be broken), and finally I pulled in to see our mechanic in town. I went in, told him that Dave had died (this was just a couple weeks after he passed) and started crying hysterically as I explained about the tires. I was so, so mortified. He was kind and calm, and checked/filled my tires right then and there.

In addition to never putting air in a tire, I’ve actually never been in charge of car maintenance in my life. First my dad did it for me, then my first husband, then my dad (after I got divorced), and then Dave. I’d never taken the car for an oil change, nothing.

So I kept having to put air in the tires every few weeks. Dave used to say that cold weather would make the pressure drop, and I asked my mechanic about it too. He agreed and said it wasn’t unusual to have to refill them more in winter. I figured it just seemed excessive to me because I’d never done it or even been aware of it before. We have an air compressor (that I still don’t really know how to use) and Dave used to check and fill the tires with it (how often, I have no clue).

One thing Dave did tell me was that he completely trusted our mechanic and I should go there with any car issues. This was not light praise – Dave was very picky about who he trusted with the car if we needed work done that he couldn’t do himself. So when I decided I wanted the tires inspected, just for my peace of mind, I took the car back to Tom, our mechanic.

The first couple times I stopped in, all the racks were being used. Tom isn’t really an appointment kind of guy, so it was hit or miss if he could get me in. I was actually starting to wonder if I was just being paranoid; maybe I shouldn’t bother with this. But still, it would make me feel better to know that all the tires were okay. (They are only a few years old, but I know that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all fine.)

So on Saturday, I made a phone call. This is a HUGE deal for me because I have a lot of trouble on the phone. There’s a delay effect, and I have CI electrodes turned off in my higher pitches, and also nerves that play into it. I can do it, but it is a LOT of work for me and I hate it. I don’t even try with the cell phone; I use my captioned phone at home.

I struggled through the conversation but I did it – I asked if it was a good day to bring the car in, and he told me sure, how about in 20 minutes?

The inspection was far more thorough than I expected. They came and asked me where the wheel lock key was and I was like, “Um … I don’t even know what that IS.” Tom explained what it was for, and that it was usually in the trunk or glove compartment. I told them they were free to rifle around and look for it, and they actually found it five minutes later! Tom showed me what it looked like and said they’d put it back in the glove compartment so I’d know where it was in the future. They took all the tires off and checked them.

It took about 45 minutes before the guy doing the inspection came in and triumphantly said, “There it is!” He was holding a screw. There had been a screw in one of the tires!

They got me all fixed up, only charged me $15, and I was home about 1-1/2 hours after I left. The whole drive home I was beaming. Not only did I follow my instincts and it turned out to be the right thing to do, but I had done all of this MYSELF.

It probably sounds ridiculous to most of you, just like how I pitied Molly all those years ago. But I know will find my confidence and self-reliance again in these little increments.

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