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As the garage door boomed shut, I jumped out of the way. I’d programmed new pin numbers into the door opener and hadn’t expected the door to close. My heart went wham. My car was in the garage. The keys to the house were in the car.  And there I stood, at dusk, in the driveway of our new second home.

I tried the pin numbers I’d just entered. The door didn’t open.

Buying this home had been a joint venture with my son and daughter-in-law. They had been with me at a nearby rental in Arizona when, unexpectedly, we bought a house, a place for me as a recent widow to escape South Dakota winters and for them to get sun breaks from Seattle. But they were back home, and I was there alone to move from the rental to our new place. Tim, the former owner, had given me a garage door opener a few days earlier, and I’d just brought my first load over. And now I was locked out.

At times like this, my late husband’s words arrive unbeckoned in my head: “You’ll do fine, honey. You’ll figure it out.” But I wanted to scream, “Where are you when I need you?”

Luckily, I had my purse. Fingers fumbling, I dug out my phone and found it only had a sliver of battery left. Now what? Perhaps the old pin numbers would work. But what were they?

Tim had left that afternoon for home. He might be in his car. I should have enough battery to make one phone call, but what if he didn’t answer?

I suddenly felt like our smooth adventure from offering a bid on this one-story, earth-colored stucco home through to the closing was crashing to a full stop. Dark outside now, a streetlight at the end of our short driveway provided the only light. Living rooms of the homes on this one-block street faced backyards, so from the street side, there were no signs of life.

I saw only shadows. I heard only the flip flop in my chest. The sweet aroma of the red-petaled bougainvillea in our front yard was somewhat comforting, and I was happy to sense that I wouldn’t have to use the bathroom anytime soon.


I thought to call my daughter-in-law. Knowing no neighbors, I knew someone had to know I was stranded. And she would have our former owner’s phone number to text him for the pin.

At the sound of her voice, my hammering heartbeat slowed, and my words tumbled out. “I messed up. I’m so glad you’re home. I need help. I’m at the house. I’ve locked myself out. And my phone is almost dead.”

She included me on her text to Tim. “Mom/Lois is at the house and is trying to reset the garage pin. I think she needs the current pin in order to reset the code. Could you let us know what this is please?”

Luckily, Tim responded right away with the code and directions on how to reset it.

She answered: “Okay. Thanks. We are hoping this will work as the door has closed, and she is on the outside.”

Tim responded that he’d left house keys on the counter, along with another garage door opener.

She said: “Right. Unfortunately, the car is in the garage and the house keys and the garage door openers are inside it.”

I could feel the world laughing at me. The smile faces and LOLs in the texts affirmed that I was indeed old and losing my faculties.

I tried Tim’s code. Thankfully, the door chugged open. Quickly, before my phone went dead, I took a picture of our red Ford SUV rental, parked snuggly in its new home, and sent it back with a text, “Magic. Thanks.”

My son, just home from work, joined the text: “Mom, go get a key right away and swallow it. That way you’ll always have it with you.”

He said this to me, a nurse who once taught illnesses affecting the gastrointestinal tract. That key would not always be with me.

He added: “Thanks, Tim. My mom locked herself out within thirty minutes of getting in the house. What a great story!”

Ha. Ha. A great story, indeed. I responded that my pulse was now back to normal. I didn’t add that my anxious heart had nearly beat itself into oblivion or that the psyche of my widow-self had suffered a terrible bruise.