Lean on family and faith “when the wheels come off”

BoyWonder repairing his vehicle

Definition of “the wheels come off” — used to say that someone or something fails in a sudden or unexpected way.

As a teen, horror movies scared me to death. After one disastrous middle school era slumber party where we watched slasher killer Michael Myers of  Halloween 2 fame decimate a neighborhood then CAMPED OUT IN THE BACKYARD like that wasn’t going to end in chaos, I have sworn off being intentionally scared forever.

Then I had children. As an adult, it is the middle of the night telephone calls that send shivers down my spine. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb that nothing good happens after midnight and even if it does, nobody calls to tell you about it. Good news waits until morning.

I had already been deeply asleep for hours when GirlWonder startled me to screaming awake. Once I stopped flailing I was able to grasp that BoyWonder was on the telephone and needed to speak to me. She handed me the phone and our son, our firstborn, begin to recite all the many things that had gone wrong to cause him to be broken down on the side of the road. The fact that he was clearly speaking to me set my mind at ease. He was safe and whole and that is what mattered. I was a calm and collected mama and frankly, proud of myself. Then the story took a turn.

“Yeah mom, I was just driving and just as I turned onto the State Route I thought I had a flat. I tried to pull over but then the whole car just stopped.  Luckily my friend was following me so he stopped and we tried to push my car off the road. He said he’d never pushed anything that heavy before. When we got it safely off the road so we could really take a look I could see why. It was crazy mom. I couldn’t believe when I saw it and …” (at this point I am yelling again “WHAT HAPPENED?”) “Well anyway, mom … the wheel fell off.”



I think my heart fell right out onto the floor. My child had driven for miles including down two major highways throughout the day. That vehicle had traveled well over 100 miles at speeds upwards of 50 mph (let a mother pretend) in major traffic. Yet when the structure finally failed, it did so as he made a slow turn off a side road onto a rural highway at 12:30 a.m with the only car in sight his friend in the vehicle BEHIND him? In fact, when they pushed it off the road so that no unsuspecting motorist would come upon it on a curve, the only available parking lot in the middle of nowhere belonged to an automotive repair shop. Had they not had that parking lot they would have had to shove it into a deep ditch.

Roadside assistance was quickly dispatched and we even knew the tow truck driver. How handy. Our broken down vehicle — and son — were both home in no time. The vehicle stayed put, of course, but our son did not. The tow truck hadn’t even left before his friends drove up the driveway, headlights flashing. BoyWonder didn’t even come in the house to hug his worried mother before hopping back into his friend’s car to go grab some food. That boy dusted himself off and continued his night out. I was awake for hours shuddering at what could have been. Oh to be so young again.

I fell asleep hours later praying thanks to God for good Guardian Angels.

In daylight, Mr. Wonderful, with his usual unflappable aplomb, assured us that the damage to the vehicle  “wasn’t even that bad.” I was already perusing the want ads for a gently used car to get the boy back and forth to college and my husband is saying “we’ve got this.” For the record, if you are not handy, and I am definitely not handy, get yourself a partner who thinks the entire front axle snapping off and the tire detaching is filed under “no big.” On the upside, now, Mr. Wonderful can teach BoyWonder how to repair this!

I have of course hugged our son extra hard and prayed a few extra times since this happened. When I contemplate the many tiny pieces and parts that set the wheels in motion (pun intended) to make what could have been a catastrophe into a simple inconvenience it is almost unfathomable. Some may choose to call it luck but I think it goes deeper — and higher — than that.

Family is knowing that people that love you have the tools to get you back on the road. Faith is knowing that someone bigger than us all is looking out for us during those times in life — both literally and figuratively — when the wheels come off.


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  1. Kimberly,
    Been there, done that. And while I’m the “it’s not too bad” kind of guy, what was much worse was my skipping heart and the incredibly huge lump in my throat. I shudder to think what could have happened to my family (or at times myself) without that powerful hand from above holding our “stuff” ( and me) together!


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