Little Van

A lot of miles were put on Volkswagons in our family—from Bugs to Carmen Ghias to Westfalia Vans—Dad loved them. My parents made many trips to Tucson in their white Westfalila to visit my sister and her family. Dad, the Eagle Scout, liked to camp, Mom liked hotels. Dad liked to sail, Mom preferred B & B’s. He usually won because, well, because he was Bill. Once he had an idea, he was set on it. Mom was a trooper.

Dad loved road trips and could drive straight through from Milwaukee to Tucson with just a few hours’ rest while Mom took the wheel. He had a CB radio and worked his way into the truckers’ VIP circle with a little van as only Dad could. He would talk through the night to the truckers while Mom tried to sleep—like pilot to pilot, or sailor to sailor, only this was trucker to the guy in the VW van. He told me he’d have great conversations and would sometimes get help with directions. Halfway across the country one night, on wide open interstate, Dad heard, “Little Van, Little Van! Your turnoff is just ahead!”

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After that van was sold, Dad regretted it, and before long was on a search for a new one. When he found a used one in California, he talked Mom into flying out with him to pick it up. With a couple boxes of camping equipment in tow so they could take their time and enjoy the drive home together, they were off to California. They landed in pouring rain, loaded their equipment into a taxi and went in search of the van owner’s address. It was still pouring when the cab driver dropped them off with all their equipment, and it was still pouring when they discovered the van was filled with mildew. Mom said, “You can buy it if you want but I am not riding in that vehicle with you.” She called a Honda dealership and bought a little bronze CRV  which she loved and they had a great trip home staying in B & B’s and hotels.

It’s the same little Honda that arrived to pick me up every Sunday morning for church with Dad these past five years. It’s the same little Honda that would pull up our driveway to pick up Sam and me for trips with Dad to the Island. It’s the same little Honda that Todd and I drove  out to 80th and Capital this afternoon to have shipped to Tucson for my sister’s daughter, Kira.

And now it’s the little Honda named Billie Dee. I know Mom and Dad are smiling.

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Picking Up the Pieces

A great windstorm arose…and beat against the house, causing one of the old crank open attic windows to break off and crash on the cement driveway below.

 

Then He arose and rebuked the wind and said, “Peace, be still.” And the wind ceased and there was great calm over the house.


Todd was busy fixing the screen on the back door–such it is with a 125 year old house. Charlie and Lauren were already there with a big brown paper bag picking up the glass when I got there. “Be careful, don’t cut yourself,” I said putting on my big rubber gardening gloves that hindered more than helped.

 

“It’s thick,” Charlie said. And together we picked up the pieces as we have so many times in life.

 

Within an hour the sun is back out, reflecting its transparent beauty through the deep green of the old oak’s leaves.

 

You may be passing through a storm but He is with you and says, Peace, be still, to quiet both the wind and your soul.

 

Mark 4:37-39

Sunday with Dad

I was following behind Dad as he took charge of the walker that has lived for two years in the basement storeroom. Anytime we made the slightest suggestion to get it out for him, the answer was, “No”.

He’s good at getting around with it now though and with the wheels, I call him Billy Speedster. As he makes his way around the tight corner between the bed and the dresser I hear him muttering, “It says in the Bible, when you get old, you’ll need help.” These days are blending together and like Dad, I lose track which day is which. But there is some freedom in that, even joy.

I want to have the scriptures Dad treasures engraved in my heart and I spent yesterday morning reading through his favorites–the Book of John, Chapters 14-17. It begins with Jesus comforting his disciples and I love how, all these years later, the words sound as though they could be spoken directly to us. The first verse is one of Mom’s favorites, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.” Jesus says he is going to prepare a place for them and will come back for them. When Thomas says that he doesn’t know the way, Jesus tells him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

These are the words Dad has lived his life by. Ask a cashier at his grocery store, a neighbor, my son or my husband, or even one of my best friends who might just happen to run into him at CVS, Dad will want to know how your faith is and isn’t afraid to ask if you know Jesus. Dad’s touched hearts and ticked others off.

“Love each other as I have loved you,” Jesus says in Chapter 15:12. I counted seven times that he says, “Remain in Me.” And three more times, “Remain in my love.”

I have the privilege of spending these holy days with Dad and I can’t help but want to share them. Dad is sleeping now so I can’t ask him but I would guess that if he wanted to share anything from his heart to yours today, it would be just that–remain in God’s Love.

“Debbie?” I hear Dad’s voice calling from his bedroom.

“I’m here, Dad,” I yell back as I run down the hall. He’s sitting up and turns his head. Out of the corner of his eye I catch the twinkle.

“I thought this was a Bed and Breakfast ”

“You ready for breakfast, Dad?”

“Yes!”

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Morning Light

imageThe storm passed through in the night and I didn’t even notice. I woke up this morning and the light in Dad’s room was on. He was sitting up reading his devotions as he used to do. He hasn’t been able to sit up on his own for a while.

“Dad?” I walked over and he looked up at me.

“I’m not dying! This is exactly what I was afraid of.”

“Well, you have a little energy. This is a good thing.”

“I swung my legs around and sat up.”

I smiled.

“But I told Dr. Tschopp I was dying.”

“Well Dad, it’s true, we all are.”

“But I told her I need hospice.”

“That’s good. I think we do.”

“Joanie’s coming home. I’m supposed to be dying.”

“You’re hardly eating. You don’t have much strength. I think we do need Hospice and it’s great Joanie is coming. She wants to see you. I guess God’s giving you a little extra time to get your heart right. If that takes ten years…well, what can I say?”

The doctor called then and we talked through a few things. By the time I hung up the phone he was back asleep. Do you think he’d notice if I make a single serving of Cream of Wheat…?

I’m Gonna Miss Dad

Dad’s paper wasn’t delivered in the morning so I went to get him one after work. I picked up a couple extra bananas too and took a walk to the hot bar to see if I might find something for Todd and me for dinner. They had hamburgers and brats and sauerkraut, mac and cheese—all the things that remind me of Dad. I remembered all the times I’d come there to pick up a quick dinner for him—after an afternoon at the doctor’s or one of those long hospital stays.
My arms held the paper, some blueberries and bananas so when I felt the tear roll down my right cheek, I reached to wipe it but dropped a banana. I bent down to pick it up and felt the spasm in my back from sneezing on Sunday seize up. It’s hard to carry large loads of emotion around with you all the time. I’m working on that but I’m going to really miss my dad.
When I got back to the condo, I handed him his paper. His head was tucked down as he does so he can swallow but I knew he was getting ready to say something. I waited.
“I felt really bad sending you for my paper.”
“You didn’t send me, Dad. I wanted to go. I needed a few things.”
“Well, I love reading the paper but I realized after you left that I’d rather talk to you.”
I sat back into the couch then. “Well, here I am! You can have both!”
We did talk for a while but I felt the usual pull of needing to be in two places at once. I have a wonderful staff that seems to understand and have tried to extend the same support to them. My Dad raised us to put God first, family second and work third. (That’s not easy.) And I have a wonderful husband who seems to understand. None the less, my back aches and like Dad, I’m eating less and sleeping more. Letting go isn’t for the weak.
Dad is very organized and had his Power of Attorney papers completed with his attorney years ago while Mom was still alive. I will have to take the lead on what it says and the most challenging part of it is the last line. Dad has written in a scripture: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10). Mom had said the same thing to me in her own words: “I don’t want you crying over me. It’s just my time.” I had promised her I wouldn’t. But I did.
So, when I was in the kitchen of Dad’s condo last night, putting his dishes in the dishwasher, tears rolled down my cheeks. My hands were full so I couldn’t brush them away. I felt the strong urge to go back and sit down with Dad and tell him I’m going to really miss him when he’s gone. But I didn’t. I knew I would cry and didn’t want to upset him.
I want to be faithful to the Words I read in his Power of Attorney. They are important to him and I know, powerful. I told him when I started writing his stories that I would be sure to let people know that he was happy about going home to Jesus. He corrected me that day. His eyes beamed. “Happy?” He said. Joyous! Why, I’ll be Joyous!”
In my experience, God has always provided what I needed just at the right time. I’m certain He will provide Joy in my heart for a life well-lived when the time comes. Because that’s what I want to share from Dad to you.

Handy Handkerchiefs and a Goodnight Kiss


Is it just me or is there something about the way some people say your name that makes your heart hum?

“Debbie,” he said.

I looked up from my meatloaf and mashed potatoes to meet his eyes and smiled. I love hearing Dad say my name.

“I lay on my back when I take a nap. That’s how I sleep.” Where’s he going with this I wonder and nod.

“I realized the seam of my jeans and my belt really bother the bone in my back.”

Dad’s losing quite a bit of weight these days. He can’t seem to keep it on.

“But I figured out that I can put a handkerchief in each pocket and then I’m fine!”

Red or blue I wonder but don’t ask.

“It lifts you up,” my husband says. “That would never work for me.” We laugh.

Don’t ask me how we can make a conversation about a sore back bone funny but we do.

Hellos from neighbors who love Dad make a perfect ending to supper and then we drive back to Dad’s condo together–Sam and me with Dad in his Honda and Todd following in the little convertible  Dad takes it slow getting out of the car and holds my hand as we walk down the carpeted corridor leading to his door.

Once inside, I fill his water glasses, lay out his PJs–just because I want to not because he wants me to–and put a piece of cheesecake by his chair, as he dresses for bed.

It was hard to say goodbye but I noticed Todd and Sam from the kitchen window sitting on the curb in the parking lot so gave Dad a hug and a kiss goodbye  “Do you have something warm to wear In the car?” He asked.

“I’ll be fine,” I said as I thought how much I loved him still worrying about me catching cold in a convertible. “I can wear Todd’s jacket if I need something,” and I leaned in to give him one more kiss.

As I slid into the car, Sam climbed onto my lap and Todd put the jacket he had brought along for me over my shoulders  “Dad was worried if I’d be warm enough,” I said looking across the parking lot into the condo window he and mom used to stand at together, waving goodbye.  I wanted to see him there now. I knew it would take too long for him to walk from his bedroom to the kitchen. Todd revved the engine then and as he backed up I saw Dad’s figure appear. He was waving.

I held up my jacket so he could see it and blew him a goodnight kiss.

It’s the little things I treasure now–my dad’s bandana handkerchiefs, shared smiles and nods, the outline of a hand waving to me from a window across a parking lot, a jacket thrown over my shoulders unexpectedly and especially the sound of my name spoken with sweet familiarity and with love.

 

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