Earlier today I gave up. I took a day off to take Hotter to the neurologist, but when I asked him to confirm the time he instead gave me his best recollection of the time, and that was two hours after the actual appointment time. I was pissed. I fumed. I'd spent $4 on gas and $5 on parking, lost $88 in wages and a precious day off to go to the hospital that makes my eyelid twitch all for nothing. I refused to speak to Hotter on the drive home. Then I took Little Child his Thanksgiving costume (made of feathers from the MFA Flock and medical tape and crayon drawings) at school and took the MFA Minivan to the mechanic, because the check engine light was on.
The check engine turned out to be an error code from the computer indicating that the catalytic converter was bad. I've mentioned on here that there was also an antifreeze leak, kind of in passing because it was slow, and all in all once MFA Mechanic looked at it it turned out that the MFA Minivan needed:
-- a new catalytic converter (they made me come and look, and it was cracked in half; "I have NEVER, EVER seen that happen before!" said MFA Mechanic, as all of the guys from the shop nodded, having gathered around to look, too. "Welcome to my life," I said)
-- two new O2 sensors (those apparently go before the catalytic converter, and make the check engine light come on, hence warning you that the much-more-expensive catalytic converter is about to blow)
-- a new water pump (this is nothing to do with the catalytic converter, just kind of a bonus)
-- a new idle belt (this would apparently account for the "tweeting bird under the hood" sound I've been hearing)
The cost for all of that, AFTER they came down by $300 out of sympathy and threw in a free state inspection? One thousand dollars.
Earlier today, I was ready to give up, and let the XY take the boys, and send Hotter back to his mother's, because we couldn't do this without using up all of our meager savings and putting our ability to pay rent in jeopardy. I was ready to cancel Thanksgiving and lie down and wallow in my misery, because fuck, y'know, how bad can it get?
Then MFA Mechanic came in and asked me if I wanted a tissue. I nodded, hands over my face, bawling. He didn't leave the room, and asked, apologetically, "would a paper towel be okay. I don't think we have any tissue." I nodded again, pulling myself together, but unwilling to move my hands away from my snotty face. A moment later, I felt the edge of a paper towel brush against my fingers. "I'll give you a ride home if you want," MFA Mechanic said, sounding every bit as awkward as I felt. "If you drive the van...well, I don't know that the engine'll go, but I also don't know that it won't, and I'd really rather you didn't drive it." I gave up on dignity and took the paper towel and mopped my face with it. MFA Mechanic didn't go anywhere. "I'm really sorry. I'm taking the markup off the catalytic converter and the 02 sensors. I'll throw in a free state inspection, if you think it'll pass. How's your credit?" I started bawling all over again.
"I have sixty-three thousand dollars in student loans that're in default. My ex ran up almost that much in credit card debt in my name, then we split up and he tried to take my kids, and--" he held up a hand. "Never mind. We'll work this out. Do you need to get anything out of the van?"
I went over to the MFA Minivan, still a couple of feet off the ground, and opened the passenger-side door as far as it would go, up on the lift. I took the Hawaian print bag Gwendomama sent me containing my wallet and my prescription sunglasses out, and went out to the ridiculous little red sportscar MFA Mechanic was test-driving, which he pointed to when I looked up at him.
On the awkward drive home, he talked to me about his dogs. I told him about Isis and Bumpus, and told him where to turn, and thanked him for the ride.
I went inside to face my husband, who I'd been so mad at that I told him not to bother coming with me to the mechanic's after the appointment that wasn't. "Fuck it," I said. "We may go down, but we'll go down swinging."
"I'll be your bullet," he said, and smiled.
I went outside with the Darth Vader mask and took a quick iPhone video, then slit Thanksgiving's throat. Hotter brought the kettle outside and I scalded the bird and started plucking. The MFA Children came home while I was finishing that up. I sent the little two inside and told Big Child that the minivan had broken down, and I'd started reading The Hunger Games in the waiting room at the mechanic's. "What part are you at," he asked, eagerly. "The baker just gave the protagonist the cookies," I said. "Listen..." He held up a hand. "The minivan is broken, isn't it? I didn't see it in the driveway and thought you were at work, but then I remembered you stayed home to take Hotter to the doctor. How bad is it?"
"It's pretty bad," I said, blinking back tears. "I don't know if we can still...I'm going to have to walk to the store. Do you want to come with me? There are some things we need to talk about." I figured I'd broach the subject of moving to live with his father to him on the walk. Big Child fidgeted. "I dunno. That's a really long way. I'd probably get tired."
"I'll come witchoo, Mommy!" Middly came running over. "I didn't mean to eezdrop, but I heard you say da van is broken. I wanna come witchoo!" Big Child scurried back into the house.
"I don't know, Middly. It's a really long walk. Your legs would get tired." Middly jammed his hands into his pockets, resolute. "I won't get tired, and if I do I'll keep it to myself and keep walking anyway. I wanna come witchoo!"
Against my better judgement, I said okay, but only if he went back inside while I finished up with the turkey. Middly ran into the house, and I quickly gutted the bird and took the head and feet off. When I was through digging the lungs away from the ribcage I carried the carcass up to the house and knocked on the kitchen door with my elbow. Middly ran and opened it. "I told Hotter I'm walking witchoo to da store," he said excitedly. "I told him I won't be tired, or complain, and I'll help you carry stuff!" Hotter looked dubiously at me, and I shrugged, rinsing the turkey out in the sink.
I put a reflective vest on Middle Child, and velcroed the other one onto myself. "It's going to be dark by the time we get there and do the shopping," I said to Middly. "Are you sure you won't be scared?"
"I won't be scared, Mommy. I will hold your hand!" Holding my hand is something that took Middly years to be willing to do. He used to fight me as a toddler, screaming at the bottom of the stairs leading up to our apartment where we lived before I took the XY back for the last time. Before I knew he was autistic I used to lose my temper sometimes and scold him. Middle Child has never liked holding an adult's hand, but he clearly really wanted to come with me to the grocery store. I said okay.
We walked to the store. On the way there, Middly made a confession.
"I was going to go in da house like you said for me and Little Child to do, but I accidentally heard part of what you said to Big Child," he volunteered, the reflective vest slipping off his narrow shoulders as he trotted along, holding my hand. "What did you hear," I asked. "I heard you say da minivan is broken. You were sniffling like you were going to cry. That's why I wanted to come witchoo to the store. I didn't want you to feel alone, and I wanted to tell you it'll be okay. It'll be a little bit scary, but it'll be okay. Because you won't give up, I know it. Remember I wrote that story about you? I said my mom will not give up, you know why?"
"Why," I asked, glad it was getting dark and he couldn't see my face.
"Because I know you're sad dat da minivan is broken, but if it didn't break we wouldn't get to walk to the store together and see the stars. So dat's a good thing. You always tell ME not to give up, so you can't give up, because den if YOU gave up, dat would be AWKWARD!"
I had to smile at that. "It would, wouldn't it?"
"Yup. And dat wouldn't be any good. So you won't give up, just like I won't give up even do my legs are little. I don't feel tired at all, because we're together on an adventure!"
So I sucked it up, and Middly and I did the Thanksgiving shopping. We talked about what we were going to make, and what we needed to make it. I told him he could get a special treat for walking with me and being such good company, and he chose some chocolate doughnuts, but then said he wouldn't feel good about eating them unless he got something for each of his brothers, too. He chose a fresh fruit cup from the produce section for Little Child, who loves fresh fruit, and a box of Nilla Wafers for Big Child, who loves cookies. And then he offered to carry anything that wouldn't fit in our little red wagon on the way home. Luckily it all fit.
When we got home, I apologized to Hotter for being cranky about the missed appointment, and Middle Child showed his brothers the treats he'd chosen for them. Big Child picked him up and spun him around in the air, and Little Child pulled him back down by the knees to hug him. And Hotter made dinner and we sat down and ate it together.
Earlier today someone wished me a miracle, and I very bitterly asked that no one else do that, because there are no miracles.
Fuck it. We may not make rent with the pathetic one-day-of-work paycheck I'll get next week and all of our savings in MFA Mechanic's pocket, but we're going to go down swinging, together on our little ship of fools for as long as it lasts. Tonight Middle Child willingly held my hand for a mile to the grocery store and a mile back, something I never thought he'd willingly do, and anyone who says autistic kids lack empathy can kiss the fattest part of my ass. I may not be thankful to life for one goddamn thing other than that, but it doesn't take anything away from the everyday miracle that it was.
Happy motherfucking Thanksgiving, y'all.