Waking up on that first morning, feeling nervous and uncertain, was like waking up from a nightmare and finding out you were still dreaming.
The house was cold and quiet. It was late for my parents, but early for me. However, my parents were still in bed sleeping. I, on the other hand, could not sleep.
I had to fix things. The electricity. The lack of food.
Without consulting my parents, I rang an electrician. Within two hours, we had power and I was making a hot cup of tea and warming the room to a comfortable level. Already, I felt things changing, improving. Suddenly the world felt better, I was more able to cope.
But that feeling was short lived.
My father was not the man I had known all my life. He was worried. In fact, he was obsessed with the “red machine”. What red machine? you may ask. I had no idea! All I knew was that Dad wanted to put money into the red machine and he wouldn’t stop talking about it.
Eventually, I worked out that the machine was in the shopping centre and the money was needed to pay for parking so that he could bring the car home. But … the car was in the carport, right outside the house.
We didn’t need to pay the red machine.
Dad wouldn’t accept this until I took him outside and showed him the car. Meanwhile, Mum was so confused about everything that she was asking me the same half dozen questions every twenty or so minutes.
I felt exhausted. Terrified. Totally out of my depth.
As terrible as this sounds, I needed a break from them so I went over to my brother’s house. It was about 4pm, I sat and told them everything that had happened. They were shocked and upset. We all cried together.
When I got back, just before dusk, Dad had the car parked at the top of the drive, near the road. He was walking towards it with his toolbox, when I pulled up.
“What’s up, Dad?” I asked.
“The car is broke. It won’t go forward and I need to get petrol.”
I stood staring at him and the car. The car was only two years old. Something in my gut told me the car was not “broke”.
“Let me take a look,” I said. Coming from me this should have alerted Dad, as he knows I know nothing about fixing cars; but he seemed unaware of this.
“All right,” he replied.
I sat in the driver’s seat and noticed the petrol gauge was showing almost full. I turned the key and started the engine and put the gear into Drive. I eased off the brake and the car moved forward.
Dad appeared at the window. “Quick, get out. I have to go and pay the red machine.”
Alarmed, I turned the engine off and got out of the car. “Dad, the car is right here. You don’t have to pay for parking.”
Dad stared at the car. I could see his mind trying to pull everything into place. Slowly he nodded and I talked him into going inside. When he was gone, I parked the car under the carport again.
When I went inside, I hid the car key.
That’s when I discovered that the power was gone again.
“What happened?” I asked, gutted.
“I tried to make it better. I can make your car run better too,” announced Dad.
He’d attempted to make several things “better”. The TV. The kettle. The microwave. The lamp in the main bedroom. It was amazing he hadn’t electrocuted himself.
We spent another night in a cold, dark house.