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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

That's Not What I Meant

Via Illuminate, Wednesday Weekly Update, Downtown Peru Episodes #2 and #3…  Because this is getting epic…

Last week we only brought one vehicle to Peru.  Because of our tricky schedules, I found that I would have to walk with Ian (age 9) to his piano lesson.  He just didn’t “get it.”  How could it be that we had no van to drive?  Couldn’t Dad just come home in the middle of his work day?  Was there someone we could call?  Would we die without water on this ½ mile trek?

Peru is a community where not everyone owns a car.  I guess every community is like that, but I would guess the percentages here are higher than average.  A lot of people walk or bike everywhere, and let’s be real, that does limit their ability to cross the city lines.  I was so proud of myself as I explained to Ian, tongue in cheek, that we were living in solidarity with the residents of Peru.  I mean, the walk wasn’t going to kill us, and chances were Phil would be off work before Ian’s piano lesson ended, and we surely wouldn’t have to walk back, as well.

I got to thinking about how having a vehicle is pretty important to being able to hold a job, at least when that job isn’t within walking distance of your residence, and the truth is, so few jobs like that exist in a small town such as this one.  I got to thinking about how fortunate we are to have two working vehicles.  They are old, but they run.  In fact (and don’t laugh…  don’t you dare laugh…), my beaten up, rusty, fifteen passenger van is my dream car.  I don’t care that we have had to replace the computer three times.  I don’t care that we have now been driving it long enough that the cartoon family stuck to the back window has several decapitated members.  I don’t care that the driver’s side window may fall into the door at any given moment, and I’ll show up to appointments having to pretend that I drive a convertible.  I don’t care that I occasionally have to pound on the dashboard to make the CD player work.  OK…  scratch that last one…  I care about the CD player.  But the point is, owning and driving a fifteen passenger van says something important about my life.  I have certainly not attained everything I want, but this vehicle signifies my need to cart many people around from place to place… many people I love… and I wouldn’t trade it for a sports car… except maybe when I leave the children and fly to conferences… then a sports car might be nice (but, let’s face it, I actually always rent whatever is cheapest)…

I guess cars have always been important to me.  I grew up with a race car driving dad who promised me a Porsche for my sixteenth birthday.   As a side note, the thing is still sitting in his garage as far as I know, because it is easier to promise such a car to a four year old than to actually deliver it into her hands when she is capable of pulling out of the driveway in it. 

I can remember watching Facing the Giants for the first time and thinking something must surely be wrong with me, because as someone who struggled with infertility, I should have been distraught over that part of the storyline, and as someone who is intensely competitive, I should have at least teared up when the struggling team wins, but that’s not what got to me.  Instead, I cried my eyes out over the scene where someone gives the coach a truck!  Are you kidding me?  It gets me every time!

So, when we made a quick turn around on Tuesday night and Phil dropped the rest of us off in Michigan for the remainder of the week, I was greatly concerned when my brake and ABS lights came on while driving the “Nazarene Limousine.”  Still, I drove it all week.  I drove it to doctor’s appointments and meetings with friends.  And at 5:00am on Friday, I headed out to the driveway to depart for Peru, just for the morning, to teach the last two music classes of the week.

And the van wouldn’t start.

And as I called off during my second week of work and proceeded to spend the entire day under the hood of a vehicle that must surely hate me (even though I love it), it occurred to me that when I talked about solidarity with the poor, this is not what I meant!  I didn’t actually want to be incapable of arriving at my job on time (or at all), because I don’t have a reliable vehicle.  I didn’t actually want to know this much about oil and brake fluid and coolant and recharging batteries.  I didn’t want to explain to my teenage daughter why I was incapable of transporting her to a sleepover.  I… just… didn’t.

After exhausting every possible human resource we could imagine, Phil decided to drive back to Michigan… again… and to pick me (and Grace) up for the weekend.  We dropped her off in Indy, I worked on things in Peru (both work and school related), and Phil continued to run the mail.  Thank goodness for Grandma, because at least the rest of the kids were able to stay home and to avoid this craziness!

On Sunday afternoon, we headed back to Michigan… again… again… to pick up everyone else and start over, hoping for a less eventful week.  About forty-five minutes away from “home,” the battery light came on in “the good van.”  It was pretty fun when the battery died, completely, as I was careening down the expressway at seventy miles per hour.  Cue awesome driver’s ed instructions from race car driving dad mixed with husband shouting, “Don’t brake!  Don’t brake!” and we’ll all just be happy that I’m a good driver.

I actually can’t believe how far the van made it, just coasting.  We were off an exit and almost to a gas station before I threw it into neutral and Phil and Grace got out to push.  May my children never say life was dull, growing up…

It took several hours to come up with a service technician who was willing and able to drive to the station to pick Phil up so he could buy a new battery and then was also willing and available to offer the tools needed to install the new battery in the gas station lot.  Thank goodness for Darryl!

Finally on our way again… again… again…  We made it back to our home in Michigan, took far longer than anticipated to get everyone packed and ready to turn around, and loaded up both vans, because Phil was able to get the fifteen passenger started… go figure…   We left at 10:00pm, which meant we should arrive in Indiana between 1:30am and 2:00am, but at this point, no one was counting anyway…

A little under an hour into our trip, the new battery died.  We jumped it with the Beast (I stopped calling it the Nazarene Limousine or my beloved dream vehicle when it refused to spit out Air Supply on demand.  There is a limit, you know.)  After another twenty miles or so, it died again.  This went on all night, until we were eventually stopping every ten miles to recharge the battery.  I think I was a relatively nice person until sometime in the 3:00am hour.  I am a night owl by nature, and my favorite, most productive time is usually 11:00pm-2:00am.  I do require sleep, though, and I was running on precious little of it!  When we reached Fort Wayne, I was just done!  We had come to a point where neither of us was going to make it to work on time if we kept this up, so we left the van with the dead battery in a Kroger parking lot and continued on with the one whose brakes were getting worse and worse by the mile.  We arrived in Peru shortly after 6:00am and unloaded the kids and the stuff we had brought with us.  Phil left for the Post Office (let’s not even talk about what it looks like to deliver mail in a fifteen passenger van with a broken window, but neither snow… nor heat… nor rain… nor gloom of night… right?)  I took an hour long nap.  And I felt guilty about it.  But whatever, my job requires me to sing and dance and smile and talk in a high register to babies, so it was a necessity!

I worked (at least my job is fun), and then I got a phone call from Phil saying that he had to call for assistance after half his route, because the brakes had failed completely (I later learned this was as he was headed toward the highway, downhill I think, with a pretty good number of vehicles hurdling toward him…  yay for husbands who leave out details until they are looking you in the face, in one piece…) 

With two broken down vehicles in two different towns and no way of doing anything about it, I walked Grace and Caleb to their piano lessons.  What a difference a week makes.  I understand that it is insanity to laugh in such a situation, but the alternative was worse.  “Solidarity, kids…  We are practicing solidarity…” 

By (very late) Tuesday night, we had both vehicles back in parking spaces in front of our temporary apartment.  Phil asked me if I wanted to drive back to Michigan (as is going to be my normal rhythm for Tuesday nights).  Um…  no.  I did not.

We’re all settled in for the next week, now, and I’m mildly afraid to drive either of our vans, but I suppose I’ll get over it.  I mean, I have to get over it by the weekend, because I have a wedding to attend, and Phil is taking our three oldest children to a quiz in Louisville.  I’m not sure these are the kinds of things you are supposed to say after a week like this.  I’m not sure these are the kinds of things you are supposed to say when you drive vehicles that may stop driving at any moment.  But it’s life.  And it’s real.  And we’re either going to survive or we aren’t, so I guess we might as well keep trying…

PS  Fall is my favorite season.  I am so glad it’s here.  Unfortunately, I only packed summer clothes last week, since it had been something like 104 degrees in Indiana for months, so I would greatly appreciate it if no one points out my kids’ sandals and shorts until I can get back to Michigan to do the Fall clothes swap!   

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