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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You Gotta Have Faith

If I had waited until I had enough money in my life, I would not have gotten very far.  I call it the Red Sea rule. You have to step into the water before the sea will part.

I work at a nonprofit and there is never enough money.  My first year, I taped a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt on an old computer my husband’s office had donated for me to work on: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”. My parents had taught me this long before I read the words but it was a good reminder. 

What they taught me was to have faith — the kind of faith that provides courage when you doubt and humility if you start to get too full of yourself.  At church on Sunday, Pastor Matt said faith is believing in and helping others believe in what looks to be impossible.  Mom and Dad started out their marriage with a little second-hand furniture and a truckload of faith. If they had waited until they had enough money, I probably wouldn’t be here. –Debbie


Mom and Dad in 1950 or so

I had been looking for a job in Champagne before we got married but was unable to find one.  I knew I could return to my job with Mr. Haeuser in Milwaukee so after the honeymoon, we ended up spending that first summer with my folks.

After we finished paying for the wedding and everything, Dolores had managed to save $300, which was quite a bit of money. She had a doctor’s appointment and I went along with her. She checked out just fine but the doctor took a look at me and said, “You don’t look very good. How do you feel?”

“Not so good. I have a backache.”

He examined me and would you believe it?  I had appendicitis.  He wanted me in the hospital immediately.  I had insurance in school and insurance from my Dad but lost them both after we got married. There went the $300.

We had enough money saved by the end of that summer to rent a house when we got back to school–well, half a house really.  We had to share the bathroom with the landlady.  So we had the first months’ rent paid and $35 left over.  Dolores’ Mother and Dad came down with groceries. We put them all away and Dad just shook his head and said,  “I don’t know how you’re going to make it. What if you need a dentist? How will you pay for it?”

I said, “I don’t know, Dad.  We just think this is what the Lord wants us to do and we’re trusting Him.”

We really enjoyed our little “house”. The only problem we had was that when you used the bathroom you had to hook the second door so the landlady wouldn’t surprise you. You had to remember to unhook it. If we forgot, she would pound on the door and start yelling “R R R R,” in the middle of the night.  Our rent was $50.  I got $10 off taking care of the stoker. So I wrote the check for $40 each month through the winter. When spring came the landlady said, “Wait a minute, you’re $10 short.”  So I found out that $10 deduction only applied during the cold weather.

I’d always pick Dolores up after work at the Institute of Aviation on my bike and we’d go to the grocery store. She would pick out what we needed to make supper. There was no shopping for the week in those days. We did it one meal at a time.

We joined a fellowship group at the church which met once a week. They were studying the C.S. Lewis book, Mere Christianity. Along the way, we decided to join the choir — we both liked to sing. One choir rehearsal the pianist wasn’t there.  We sang through some hymns then got to the anthem and the choir director asked if anyone could play the piano. Dolores said she could. She went up there and banged that baby out. She was excellent at sight reading. When we finished rehearsal, the choir director said, “Don’t you leave. Don’t you ever leave!”

That’s the way I felt about her too.