The house is quiet as I write this, a glass of whiskey in my hand, my wife and kids are fast asleep, and thoughts race through my head of the day that is quickly and slowly fading into the past.
I glance over at my still flicker laptop, Facebook is still open, and I decide to scroll down, one of the great benefits of Facebook is that I can keep up with several of my friends and relatives, I see the lives they live, the things they have, the people they have become, and I can’t help but notice how different we all turned out, how our own personal life story led us on so many different paths. Looking back on my life now it is remarkable how things happen to lead you to where you are, some things so minute, seemingly inconsequential things add up in a way that steers your life in a direction that you never saw coming, but in hindsight was so obvious.
How did I get here?
It all started with a blown radiator…….
Call it divine intervention, call it karma, call it plain old dumb luck, but every single choice, every single decision has ramifications. Take my life today, I can trace it all back to a car my mother gave me.
I was 17 years old when my mom gave me her old BMW, a 1990 325 IS, black with black leather interior, I didn’t care that the car was close to ten years old by the time I received it, I just thought it was beautiful. I worked on it whenever I got a chance, it was the late 90’s so I lowered it as low as I could get away with, I put a light on the undercarriage, bought some rims and lined the truck with speakers. I loved getting the chance to race people on the back roads of Charlotte, Harrisburg and Concord, I loved my long journey from my home to my high school because I got the chance to ride in my BMW. I didn’t think anything could ever make me happier. One day I was taking someone my father was working with to the airport, I let him drive the BMW because I thought he had a good head on his shoulders, because of the loud stereo system I didn’t notice the thud I should have heard when he hit the concrete barrier in front of the parking space at the airport, we said our goodbyes, I took back the keys and drove away. The next morning I was riding out to Concord to visit a friend when I found someone who wanted to race me down Lower Rocky River Road, never one to back down from a challenge I took off down the windy country road, sure in the victory I was about to enjoy, and then disaster struck.
The radiator had a small crack in it, not one I had noticed, but when the lowered car struck that parking barrier it did just enough damage to cause a small leak, whether it was the stress of the racing, whether it was some other accident that I didn’t know about or whether it was once again just dumb luck the small crack turned into a large on and dumped all the liquid from the radiator, the motor seized up and died just like that. Smoke poured from my one true love and I pulled off the road. Knowing that what lay ahead would not be good.
The motor was totally shot, no way to repair it, I’d have to get a new one and that was completely out of the question, My mother and step dad decided I would get a new car, and I would have to get a real job to help pay for it, working for family was no longer going to cut it, he decided I would have to show that I was “responsible”.
I took a job working at Sears with a friend of mine, selling tools appealed to me because I grew up around them, plus my Grandfather was only too happy to get his hands on a discount. It was an easy job, and being on commission worked out well for me. My racing friends would come in, buy a ton of tools, and I would pretty much just goof off. I still worked for the family at both the restaurant and helping my grandfather out with my cousin’s race cars, but I was had a “responsible” job, making my mother and stepfather happy.
One day this girl came in to work, and I was star struck, I thought she was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. Never being too shy to talk to someone I decided to strike up a conversation with her, and got shot down HARD. We traded barbs the next few times we saw each other, and for whatever reason she finally began to like me a little. We soon became pretty good friends but every time I asked her out she would turn me down, she didn’t want a boyfriend, she wanted to work her two jobs. pay off her student loans and move to Europe to be a missionary, it was her life goal. For 7 months I kept after her and for 7 months she kept turning me down.
And then dumb luck, karma or divine intervention struck again.
I wasn’t supposed to work that day, I was off, but I also lived less than 2 miles from the mall. Back then I had an addiction to DVDs, I would go to Media Play every week to buy a couple of new DVDs., I love movies and for some reason the DVD format really cranked up my addiction I had purchased my weekly DVD stack and decided to stop into the mall and get a bite to eat, when I was done I thought I would bounce into Sears and see if Heather was working and see what she was up to.
“I’ll only go if he goes with me!!!”
I walked into the HUB office that Heather worked in and as soon as I did she was pointing at me and in a panic saying those words. “Sure, I’ll go!!!” I shouted out with probably too much enthusiasm and without having a clue what I was signing up for. The store had given everyone working a pair of tickets to see the Charlotte Sting, a WNBA basketball team, play that Tuesday. It seems Heather’s tickets were right next to this creepy manager who was working that day and he was pressuring Heather to go. I was all too happy to finally get Heather out on a date, no matter the circumstances.
I arrived at the Charlotte Coliseum before she did, and once she got there she admitted she really didn’t want to see the game. She was ready to just go home when I asked her if I could feed her, nothing more, just two hungry people out for a bite to eat. She agreed, but she would follow me and drive herself. We went to my family resturant where I went in the back and helped prepare her meal, I was pulling out all the stops in trying to impress her and it really wasn’t working all that well, or at least I didn’t think it was. We saw each other several times after that, including my 21st birthday, when she was the only person who spent any time with me. In order to cheer me up she took me out for my birthday, and it was the first time I ever let a girl pay for my dinner. It wasn’t too much after that the two of us got married, through allot of objections from both sides, we didn’t care we went ahead and tied the knot.
Since that day we have built a family, a family of the friends that stood with us that day and the ones we have met along the way, our lives have changed in ways we never thought, we ended up in a place we never planned to be in. We have two great kids and a family that may not be related to us by blood, but related to us by love, which is really all that matter in the end.
I think back at how upset I was at that radiator blowing, at my BMW dying and how angry I was about it all. I think about who I was back then, at the road I was headed down, and I don’t even recognize that person.
I have heard Heather tell my kids time and time again every action causes a consequence, every single thing you do every day leads to something else, be it good or bad, and while it is a cliche, it is more true than we realize. Life is made up of a series of moment, small, large and inbetween, and each and every one of them leads to another series of moments that help define who we are, and build the life and legacy we leave behind. Tomorrow when you wake up, what decisions are you going to make? What moments are you going to make and what will that lead to in the future? Could a disappointment today lead to something amazing later? I couldn’t tell you, but I am excited to find out, how about you?