Peter’s passing was much more painful than I
anticipated. Though he has sat, immobile, in
our driveway for several months, still he was there. And now he is not.
The man who showed up to collect Peter was not the uniformed, professional-looking mechanic-type I was expecting to see after
having made an appointment with an auto salvage company. He came clothed in ragged jeans and a used-to-be white t-shirt, worn under a holey, plaid flannel shirt, sleeves rolled up. His hair was longish
He looked at Peter, started him, listened to his engine, and said, “I would hate to junk this truck. I think with the right care, you could get 30 to 40,000 more miles out of it.” He continued, “Of course, getting him to run is not a certainty and would take a lot of work. There was a good chance it would have to be junked anyway.” The man offered me a salvage price for my truck.
My hopes soared. Thirty thousand more miles would mean at least two more years at the rate we put miles on him! Two more years with Peter!!!! Then reality hit. “…with the right care….” Lance and I cannot heal Peter. He is in need of intensive care and prolonged physical therapy which is neither within our areas of expertise nor within the realms of our budget. It would be best to let him go.
As I was pondering Peter’s fate, the unlikely-salvage man said that he had a Toyota 4Runner in his front yard that he thought he could scavenge for parts for Peter. He also mentioned his need for a truck that did not consume as much gasoline as the big four-wheel drive monster he currently drove. And he told me about his boss, an 80 year old man who “would give you the shirt off his back. He basically pulled me and my wife off the street a few years ago and gave us a new start.”
His sincere sounding story and the realization that keeping Peter was impractical coupled to make my decision. Through an emotional constriction in my throat that made talking difficult, I told him I would sell him my truck.
As the salvage-man-turned-savior worked to remove Peter’s license plate, he said, “I notice you always refer to your truck as ‘he’. What is his name?”
“Peter,” I managed to choke out.
Peter’s new friend told me several stories about cars he and his wife had named: Willus and Wanda were a few. “We called it Willis because every time we got in it we asked “Willus get there in this car?”. The other car’s heater did not work and my son always said, ‘I wan-da get warm’ so we called her ‘Wanda’. Why did you name your truck Peter?” he asked casually.
My answer was not casual. Thinking about naming Peter and about the 20 years I spent traveling the nation with him, sleeping in his bed in the back country, using him as the family car until the third child arrived, etc… caused the tears that had been forming in my eyes to spill over. Attempting (and failing) to feign rationality, I explained, “I named him Peter because it seemed to fit him. I was single for a long time. When I needed to, I could say ‘Peter is waiting outside for me.’” Then my tears began in earnest. Fortunately, I was able to choke back the sobs.
Do cars have souls? The logical answer is “Of course not.” How, then, can I love that 1991 Toyota truck so much? Why
did it hurt so deeply to let go of him? And, does not love bring life? Could my love bring life to my little truck?
Peter was just a truck. I know that. Still, I loved him and all that he stood for and all that he did with and for me. It brings comfort to my heart to think that he may now be blessing the lives of another family. Long live Peter!
Trucks probably do not have souls but people definitely do and some kind-souled person blessed the life of my daughter last night. Here is the story.
Two weeks ago Tanah called me at school. “Mom,” she said urgently, “when is Sara’s wedding?” [Sara Stoffers is Lance’s
“November 9th,” I replied.
“Oh no!” Tanah practically wailed. “I have a debate tournament that day.”
“Okay,” said I.
“No, it is NOT okay,” she said vehemently. “I already committed to the debate tournament. If I back out now, I have to pay
“It sounds like you have a tough decision to make,” I said matter-of-factly. “I do not have $75 to give you. You will have to decide if it is worth $75 to you to attend the wedding.”
Compassion intruded and I continued. “It is okay not to go,” I said gently. “Honestly, it is okay not to go. Of course Sara
would love to have you there but she really will understand if you cannot come. It will not diminish her special day if you do not attend. There will be so much else going on that your absence will not have an impact. And,” I continued, “I can step in
and do the things she asked you to do [serving tables, taking gifts].”
“Do you have time to pray about it or do you have to decide right now?” I asked.
“Right now,” she said.
“Good luck,” I said.
Tanah decided to go to the wedding.
Last Sunday was her birthday. At the end of the day she came to me and said, “I got exactly $75 for my birthday. I can use it to pay to go to Sara’s wedding.” The quiver in her voice said that she was not thrilled about using her birthday money to attend the wedding but her resolve remained firm. She would be attending Sara’s wedding.
Yesterday was Sara’s wedding. Small and intimate, it was truly a family event. Sara’s dress was stunning; Jennilyn’s jokes were funny; seeing Monte dance with his mother made me cry. And Tanah was there, celebrating with us. She bused tables; she served soup; she danced; she laughed; she made the right decision.
There was an envelope waiting for her in the mail box when we got home. Inside the envelope was a cute card that said "Sweet Sixteen" …..and $75 cash. Voice quivering, this time with awe instead of pain, she said “I can pay the debate fee and still have my birthday money.”
Thank you, thank you kind soul, whoever you are, for enabling my daughter to make the right decision AND keep her birthday