My life is full of warning signs. I don’t always see them, even the obvious ones, blaring from my dashboard, but I believe in them. And I believe they are there for a reason. In the summer of 2007, I received a warning sign about my car and about my life, telling me to slow down and pay attention.
One hot afternoon, a little red oil can appeared in my purple Saturn. I’m sure when I was fifteen I had received a lesson from my dad about the importance of this particular light, but after seven years, it simply fell out of my memory.
Everyday, for weeks, I turned on my car and looked at that that red oil can. But I still had 1000 miles before my next oil change was due, so, I figured it wasn’t a huge deal. My car still worked. I could drive to work and to the grocery store. Plus, I was trying to save money any way I could, and that included a thirty dollar oil change that wasn’t supposed to be due yet! So I waited. For weeks I waited. By this point, a loud clanking had also developed, but no biggie. I was sure it would disappear when they fixed the oil light.
My car had been running with almost no oil. Two months and a brand new engine later, the sound, and the oil light, did finally go away.
I learned that the oil light was a huge deal. An extremely huge deal. It was a warning sign that something internal needed to be fixed right away. But I kept putting it off. I put everything before my car and made any excuse to fix it later. But by trying to take shortcuts, I got lost and wasted time.
That red oil can wasn’t the only warning sign I received that summer. My car needed attention, but so did my grandmother. Something was different about her, but I didn’t want to admit it. I ignored her moments of confusion or when she recalled wrong memories. I shook off the times when she’d write a wrong date or stare off into space with a blank expression. She wasn’t supposed to lose her mind yet. It wasn’t time for her to live in an assisted living facility. But when she drove to the wrong house and went inside it, our family had to start putting the warning signs together. She was diagnosed with dementia. I avoided talking about it, not wanting to accept she had changed. But I couldn’t avoid it for long. Once I opened up and visited her new home, I accepted how things were. I saw that she was healthier and happier, and that the warning signs had gone away.
I believe in warning signs. I believe they are there to keep the bigger picture running smoothly. But it’s my responsibility to pay attention to them, even if I don’t want to.
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