Charlie and the Junker Factory
The van sat in the driveway, unused for three years. In those three years, we got constant inquiries from gardeners and painters in the neighborhood. The doorbell would ring on a regular basis with people asking if we wanted to sell it. Unfortunately, the person that he is, my husband said he could not, in good conscience, sell a vehicle that didn't run, and he just didn't have the time or inclination to fix it up enough to get it running. So there the van sat, like a wallflower at the dance, waiting for her handsome prince to come and ask her for a spin.
All the while, Charlie drove that old Buick. The headliner was droopy and wrinkled like last Saturday's Walk-of-Shame dress, the floorboard on the driver's side was rusting away and you could actually see the road below in a little hole, the seats had worn down and you could feel the springs poking your butt. You couldn't wash it because every time you tried, the paint would come off in large sheets. I told him the paint was all that was holding it together, so he'd better stop washing it. I begged him. I pleaded with him. "Please Charlie. Please let's go look at a more reliable, safer used car. I worry about you in that car." He shrugged his shoulders and said he was fine. The car is running well and still has life and we just can't afford another car payment right now. That was until last year, when mom's old Buick died. I thought to myself; "This is it! Finally! He'll get himself a better vehicle!" Nope.
He went down to Pep Boys auto supply and started buying parts to fix....THE VAN. Yep, the sweet little wallflower from the prom was being asked to dance again. I complained and whined and moaned about the time and money he was spending on car repairs, all of this falling upon deaf ear. No literally, he's deaf in one ear. He got the van running, quite proud of himself. While he was working on it, the neighbor's gardener came running over, quite excited, and asked if he was finally fixing it up to sell to him. You should have seen the sad look on his face when Charlie told him that yes, he was fixing it up, but that he was going to keep it to drive it himself. Such a sad, sad face. I felt sorry for him, shrugging my shoulders as he looked at me with those sad puppy eyes, then walked away, dejected. Three years of hope, for both of us, down the drain pan. On the other hand, here was Charlie, holding his arms in the air, flexing his muscles like He-Man, victorious in resurrecting the dead van. His last act in the circle of car life that rotates in this house? He called a veterans organization and donated mom's old Buick. For some reason, they were grateful to have it.
So, for the last year and a half, my frugal selfless husband has driven the faithful family van. As with the Buick, the headliner drooped, nay, it ripped open. We held it up first with safety pins until those rusted and the foam underneath crumbled like feta cheese. If you drove with the window down, which you HAD to do because the motor for the window didn't work, the foam "snow" would fly into your face. So then, we tried duct tape. Classy. It was good the window stayed down because the AC didn't work, turning the van into a rolling sauna in the summer. The driver's seat broke, so Charlie replaced it with the passenger seat, leaving the passenger side empty. The paint completely oxidized. You couldn't open the driver's side door because the handle was broken. You had to go in through the side slider, or the passenger side. He said; "See? It's easier now to get to the driver's side now that there's no passenger seat!" Always the optimist, my husband. He fixed little things as they came along, me still complaining about pouring money into it. "Luckily, I'm a very handy guy!" I sigh with each of his optimistic chirpings.
Last Friday, Charlie tells me that he paid the DMV registration on the van, but that it needs to get a smog test before they'll send the stickers. "When's it due?", I asked. "The 31st", his reply. WHAT?? That's next week! "Yeah, I know. We've just been so busy." Le sigh. So I tell him to take the Rogue to work and I'll drive the van over to the Auto Club and get it smogged. Cut to the chase, the guy at the Auto Club tells me it's not even testable because there's an exhaust leak. We need a new muffler AND he says, we probably have a head gasket problem on the way. Great. More money. I call Charlie at work and tell him the news. He said he had an idea that was going to be the case. I turn on the whining and tell him he really needs to think about a car. He rebuts with the usual budget limitations, me not working, etc. The weekend comes and goes, and on Monday, Charlie comes home from work holding printouts of used cars at local car lots. Wait...what?
Charlie: "I called several muffler places and told them what I needed. Basically, they all said I'm looking at an easy $3500 to do what needs to be done. All this, just to get it smog tested. Yeah, I'm not doing that. So, I relent. It's time."
Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, I present to you, my sweet, deserving husband's new (to him) ride. If anyone deserves a car, this wonderful guy does. This guy who has been driving klunkers for pretty much the entirety of the kids' lives. While he gives me the safe, reliable car, he sacrifices without a single complaint. Day in, day out, not a peep of complaint even though I know he's been in true, physical pain climbing in and out of that van with his bad back. That's my Charlie. I'm overjoyed for him. Yes, like a true engineer he went over it with a fine tooth comb, haggled prices, got what he wanted in the way of price that would fit our meager budget and not put a strain on us while I'm unemployed. Yes, it's an economy car. No, it's nothing fancy even though he deserves so much more. But it's very Charlie. Deserving, wonderful, unselfish Charlie. "So shines a good deed in a weary world."
The van? We practically had to pay THEM to take it. "But...", says Charlie, "We got every last mile out of that old girl, didn't we?" Yes, Sweetie we did. Thanks to you.