My Roller-Coaster Ride

[NOTE: this is adapted from a letter to my family.   E. Fox]

Dear Family,

A catchup note on my (impending) journey, moving to California.

I rented a trailer to bring some furniture up to my son and sister who live in Massachusetts. They came down to Connecticut to meet me at my daughter's house.

On the way up (Friday, March 4), my car came to a halt on the New Jersey turnpike just before dark. I thought at first I had run out of fuel.  I had a gallon of diesel, and put that in the tank, but no go.  And I could see air bubbles in the fuel line coming from the fuel pump.  The air bubbles had happened once before and required a tow.

After about an hour, a cop stopped and radioed in for a tow truck, which came after about 2-cold-hours-and-another-cop later. They towed me to a place near Princeton. I stayed at a motel nearby, and returned next morning to the garage to see what could be done for my car. Since there were air bubbles in the fuel line, we thought it might be a leaky line. But they took almost all Saturday to find a line that would fit. And -- that was not the problem.

So I had the car towed to the VW garage in Princeton, which they could not work on til Monday, returned to the first garage (a U-Haul place), rented a truck and continued on my way with furniture, where all were assembled awaiting my "somewhat" late arrival. We had a good evening. It was good to see everybody, including all six cousins interacting. We loaded the furniture in my son's VW bus, and they took off back for Massachusetts. I stayed til Monday and left at 5:30 am to get to Princeton by 8 am when the garage opened.

A bit of background (I am a couple months short of 70): about 3 weeks or so ago, I notice that I was having wiggles in my chest, but thought nothing of it. Then a week or so later, it happened again, and I noticed that my pulse was erratic. I went to the emergency room right away, and they gave me an EKG. The fellow agreed offhandedly, "Yes, you are missing a few beats." He said it was probably benign and that I had probably had it for a long time. I told him that just the day before I had climbed four sets of stairs with no problem.

The ER info was sent to my doctor, but I had no real report by the time I left for CT. So there I was in New Jersey with my chest occasionally twitching, no doubt intensified by the stress of the car situation, but mostly by the panic thought that I would not get my house packed by the time of the house sale closing just two weeks away.

I had planned to be back in Alexandria by Saturday night to get packing, and here it was Monday, going on Tuesday, with no departure in sight. I had hired two Ethiopian women to help with the packing, and was supposed to have them over for the first time that Monday.

Back to the auto saga. They found that the starter was not working, probably because I had had to use it so much trying to get the car to run (and it was old), so they put in a new starter ($450 -- would have been half that any place but a VW garage). Then we thought the car needed a new fuel pump, which they found no one produced anymore, and declined to do any more on the car. Not that they could have done much.

So Tuesday, I rented another U-Haul truck (by this time it was about 4 pm), and a car dolly to bring the car back home. (I had called my mechanic in Alexandria who said he could come up with a fuel pump.) I had to take the train from Princeton to New Brunswick to pick up the truck, leaving my car at the VW place. But the only car dolly in the whole state of NJ was an hour and a half down south. I might have made it that night to pick up the dolly, as the lady there lived by the U-Haul place and said I could come any time. But when I got off the train in New Brunswick, the taxi came so late that the UH place was closed. So another night in a motel. 

(I had brought reading "just in case" there might be some down time.  It was a book on "chaos theory".  Seemed appropriate to my circumstances.  Actually a very good introduction to the topic.  So, my motel stays were enlightened by reading about chaos, which is a misnomer.  The subject is really turbulence, which, it turns out, has a very distinct pattern of its own, in all kinds of applications.  But that is another story.) 

Wednesday morning, I got the truck, and then the dolly (off in the southern New Jersey version of piney woods, at an auto repair place at the end of a long cow-path road, with signs along the side warning that trespassers would be arrested -- I wasn't sure they didn't mean shot), drove back to Princeton, and with the assistance of the VW folks, loaded the car on the dolly, and took off for home.  It was a beautiful sunny day....

All this time, the Lord was working on me. Big time. He just kept saying, "Relax, I'm in charge of things." I thought more than once, "That's easy for You to say...!" But the thought began to sink in that He might be right. Then the message came through that He was far more interested in the kind of person I turned out to be through all this trouble than in what I thought I was accomplishing for Him. And then He said, "I have you right where you need to be to do your growing." Well, all of this began to make sense (I have gone through this lesson many times before...), and a powerful sense of freedom began (again) to infiltrate. My whole attitude changed, I relaxed even about packing the house. I think that is what is meant by "the peace that passes all understanding" -- when you trust and obey. And my chest very much relaxed.

My doctor had some blood tests done, and reported that the problem seems to be a hyper-thyroid condition, which upsets the timing of the heart. Not a heart problem itself, apparently. Good news. So I am now taking beta-blockers. I didn't know I had a beta. But if blocking it helps my heart know when to tick and tock, so be it. We will see what that produces. For the most part, I feel excellent. A bit less full of vim and vigor than 30 years ago, but not bad, considering.

The two Ethiopian women turned out to be super workers, very sturdy and friendly. About 3/4 of the work is already done (one week before closing).

My Alexandria mechanic, however, said that the fuel pump was not the problem, that there was a blockage in the fuel tank, but that the real problem was some business with the crankshaft, which was worn, affecting the timing. No parts available.

The time had finally come. So, I administered last rites to T-Top Rabbit and buried it two days ago. A friend is loaning me a car for a few days. I will not have to trailer a car behind my truck to California, a $600 boone. So I will pick up another car when I get to California.

Two nights ago, just to keep things from getting boring, the buyer for my house pulled into the driveway and informed me that his buyer had failed to qualify for a loan, and thus could not buy his house, which meant that he could not buy mine. So everything was back to square one. I would have to find another buyer.

Then he came in yesterday and said that the loan company was working with him so that he could buy the house. Probably got a bridge loan to cover between when he buys my house and when he can sell his own. But he cannot get his loan until after the closing date listed on our contract, so I am not obligated to keep this contract with him.

And, in the meantime, I have been getting suspicious that my house is actually worth more (good grief!) than the $415,000 which I have been asking (bought it for $185,000 six years ago). So, I am going to have my own assessment made. The buyer does not want to tell me what his assessment of my house came to, which raises questions. If his assessment of my house had been below $415,000, he would be insisting on a lower price.

On the West Coast side of things, we have been trying for at least 3 months to get a permit to put in a modular unit. The folks there at CCFM (Christian Community of Family Ministry) just reported to me, that after all this time, after they had wended their way to the top of the bureaucratic heap, some fellow at the top informed them that any modular unit which is constructed for commercial/industrial purposes will never be allowed on private property (must be the non-commerical lobby not wanting the competition). So we are starting over for housing for me. Probably will contact a non-commercial/industrial modular company to see what they have to offer.

I have never been through a roller-coaster ride like this, and could well have crashed at several points. And, there were other interesting events. I left a credit card at the NJ Turnpike booth (and they don't even take credit cards!), and then a ATM machine ate up my bank check card. Makes you a believer in spiritual warfare. And it ain't over yet. But the Lord allows such things for our good. Trust and obey is still the best advice around. But it seems you have to go through the mill to get there. Let go and let God.

Hoping for a closing date before the end of April, but that remains to be seen.

Love to everyone, Dad/Uncle/Earle

PS: My M.D. niece is helping me to understand the mysteries of bladder stones, and to find a doctor to get rid of them. More adventure -- hopefully before I leave for CA.

PPS: The buyer sent me a copy of his appraisal of my house, which tallies with my asking price, so we are closing on March 31.  He is giving me until April 16 to go on my trip to Trinidad, and then pack up on the 16th. 

PPPS:  Anyone who would like to help load a truck on April 16th please get in touch with me.

[COMMENT: I find I need to clarify why I wrote this piece. 

It was not to point out how bad things were, but rather to point out, even though things can seem very bad indeed, God can draw us through and bring us out stronger and more healed and whole than when we went in.  I found wonderful and surprising freedom as I listened to God's version of what was happening to me, and as I continued to thank God for testing me and probing deeply.  Freedom to walk away from a little VW Rabbit which (in its various incarnations) had carried me some 340,000 miles over the last 20 years.  Gloria Dei!]

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