So I'm driving along Interstate 40 outside Raleigh, North Carolina, in a Volvo I've never driven before so I don't know how to change the radio station, and suddenly my drive is enlivened by the song "Lean on Me," which I sing along at the top of my lungs until suddenly I realize that I can't sing and cry at the same time. These are happy tears, springing from the realization that I can call on my brother when I need a hand because we all need somebody to lean on.
Faithful readers of this site may wonder what I was doing driving 14 hours in two days barely three short weeks following surgery. Well, it's complicated. To do the story full justice, I would have to go back more than ten years and cover my baby brother's remarkable transformation from addict to recovering addict to seminary student to pastor, but let's start more recently with my diagnosis of endometrial cancer nearly three weeks ago.
It's important to know that I did not flinch when the doctor told me I had cancer, nor did I blow a gasket when I learned that the five-year survival rate for this particular diagnosis is just 60 percent. I also kept my cool when I found out how thoroughly radiation and chemotherapy will wipe out my finances. But last Friday when I discovered that I was carless, I fell apart.
My Kia had been showing signs of discontent for a while, producing loud and annoying symptoms involving the radiator, the electrical system, and the transmission, three things a car can't really do without. So we handed it over to the mechanic on the day before my surgery, and since I wasn't in any condition to drive anywhere, I just forgot about it and trusted that someday it would return to me in good working condition.
On Friday I finally called the mechanic and received the bad news: fixing the Kia would cost more than we paid for it and wipe out our car-repair budget pretty much forever. Let's review: my husband needs the 14-year-old van for his business; two weeks ago we signed over the 15-year-old Nissan to the newlyweds; and the other 15-year-old Nissan is in Texas transporting the college kid to classes and work. Can't fix my car, can't replace my car, can't walk 17 miles to town every day...so maybe I'll just quit my job and take up a new career as a vagrant.
Yes: despite my proven ability to keep a stiff upper lip, I lost it. I mean, all these competent people and resources are devoted to helping me get well, and I'm going to be defeated by a car?! It's just not fair!
Four hours later my brother called, out of the blue, just to chat. He did not know that I needed a car, but he recently got a new car and felt God leading him to give away his old Volvo, and he wondered whether I would like to have it.
Things happened very quickly after that: a seven-hour drive to Raleigh Sunday afternoon, a quick but heartwarming visit with my brother's family, and a seven-hour trip back home today. The Volvo ran like a dream. Granted, it's 15 years old (no sooner does one 15-year-old car drive out of my life than another arrives in its place!) and has just over 200,000 miles on it, but it looks terrific and (best of all) everything works. It even has seat warmers. At first I was stymied by an unusual gauge on the dashboard--a circle with only a few numbers and two red bars--but then, silly me, I recognized it as a clock. An actual dashboard clock, with hands and everything. And it works.
It even has a fairly new radio with tiny buttons and incomprehensible labels, so I was just stabbing buttons at random when "Lean on Me" came on not long after I'd left my brother's house in my new car. I haven't had much occasion to lean on my brother in the past, but when I needed somebody to lean on, I'm awfully glad he was there.
Sing it with me now: We all need somebody to lean on!