Of Grandmothers and Machetes
Last week when the ignition coil in my VW quit and I had my car towed to my mechanic here in North Carolina, I had a lovely encounter with a young man whose wisdom and insight into the ways of the world slowed me into realizing what is important: here and now in the awareness of all that brought me here and now. That meant paying attention to the ride in the tow truck.
That young man remarked to me that he didn’t want to do anything but what he was doing: driving a tow truck. Buddha spoke, and I heard. I didn’t want to do anything but be there.
The experience brought to mind another Buddha-bringing-the-car-home experience from last winter, when the battery of my car died, and I needed to get my buggy from New Haven to Woodbury because nobody but Pete touches my car unless I’m down here and it’s Ronnie’s crew taking care of ol' Betsy.
This was a 25-mile tow that saved me the trouble of driving in the snow at the same time it saved me the unpleasant experience of being alone while driving in the snow. (If you want to understand loneliness, come to Connecticut in a snow storm and drive through the unlit hills and dales and surprising little curves and inclines of this pretty little overtaxed, misguided state for 25 insured, expensive miles. You will wonder not only why you live but also what you work for because you will have a hard time feeling passionately inspired by your insurance bill. But I digress.)
This tow-truck operator was Jose from Puerto Rico by way of Florida and (briefly, thank God, according to Jose) New Jersey. He came here for a better life, and he worked for it night and day and made sure his kids knew they would have to do the same for themselves--though he would never deny them a plate of food or a roof over their heads. Which was why he took my towing job for $100 (and suggested I upgrade my AAA membership to avoid this in the future, which I did.)
Jose talked about a lot of things that afternoon, but this stood out:
“I would have killed my brother with a machete if it weren’t for my grandmother standing between us. But for my grandmother, he would be dead and I would be in jail, and I would not have my kids. That’s who I was then. I had to stop smoking, and I did. Now, beer only. I stop after six. I know too much is dangerous. I learn that day. Only because my grandmother was standing there, I did not kill my brother with a machete.”
That was a long, expensive day. It ended with me wishing I could meet Jose’s grandmother.
I love my little car, and I don't mind the repairs. After 11 years, a lot of the original pieces are bound to need replacing. I'm fortunate to have good mechanics who back up there very good work and are straight with me about what needs doing. These moments in the cabs of tow trucks remind me to give over to the people who can help me when I can't help myself and to take everything from the moment.