Medical costs increased for a reason

Thirty-four years separate my son’s visits to the intensive care unit following severe head traumas. The difference between them underscores the reason for the rising cost of medical care.

As a pre-schooler my son landed in a plain room of an older hospital. The nurse opened the door and physically took his vital signs. He had a gastric tube, and that was it. The brain surgeon verified every day that his brain had not started to swell. I waited about a week for my son to open his eyes, make a sound or move.

By the end of the week, he was moved into the pediatric ward where he roused enough to pull out the feeding tube and pass a gag test. He sat in his high barred crib played, ate and identified objects. The doctor sent us home. During a follow-up visit, we talked about physical therapy to address the weakness on his left side. He went to a couple of sessions. The therapist showed me exercises to do at home, and that was it.

Fast forward 34 years, and my son again landed on his head. After our flight, we walked into a room filled with machines, tubes and monitors. He wore a neck brace, had a device to keep him breathing and a tube to deliver fluid to his stomach. The bed undulated to reduce bed sores. Monitors tracked his heart, lungs and brain. The surgeon had inserted a probe to detect any brain swelling. His nurse sat at a desk that looked directly at a wall of windows into his room and her other patients’. I could see her and indicate my concern if he needed her as he did during a choking spasm. I stood at his side and murmured, “breathe, breathe. Take it easy now, just breathe.” I indicated to the nurse that he needed her immediate attention. When she entered, I started to step back. She shook her head and said, “keep talking to him.” She worked on the equipment. I patted his arm and talked.

One afternoon the nurse extracted a sample of his stomach contents to assess the vigor of his digestive system. “We have to be sure that it is working before we put more in,” she explained.

One by one, items left the once crowded room: the neck brace went first, then the tube to keep his airways open and monitors for his heart and brain. Finally, he left the brain trauma ICU and went to a rehabilitation hospital where the staff tagged him as ‘at risk for falls.’ That meant he entered a room with a camping tent encapsulating his bed. The tent zipped shut to keep him safe. Before the technicians could get him settled in the bed, he stood up and promptly fell. Situated in a wheel chair with a restraining strap that clipped at the back, he reached behind and undid the clip. Fortunately, his brain soon woke up, and he could protect himself.

Good timing, too, because he began breathing heavily. He mentioned it. He called for help. He landed back in another ICU ward with blood clots in his lungs but a less intense level of monitoring.

Looking at the two head traumas, three decades apart, I quite understand why we see the increase in the cost of medical insurance. Besides staff, training and equipment, transforming an old hospital room into an ICU unit requires major reconstruction. A closed room will not do in this day of constant electronic monitoring.

Hopefully we will see a day when the two political parties put down their agendas for the good of the people and find an affordable solution to the current problems.

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The Jinx

The Jinx returned last week. Usually it catches me in restaurants. I go in, sit down, study the menu, order and the waitress tells me to try again. Either the cooks has nothing left to make that dish or it will take an extra 20 minutes to prepare it. Sometimes I receive the wrong order.

This time The Jinx met me at the hotel as it has at least once before. That time The Jinx appeared at the end of a long day of driving over cold, snowy roads. We pulled into a hotel. I shivered in the quickly cooling car while my husband registered. Key in hand, we slumped our way to our room, ready to crawl in bed to get warm.

We would have done just that if the room had had any heat. It didn’t. The electrical connection to the heating unit was gone. We couldn’t even call and talk with management because the wire to the phone had also been removed. Hubby trudged back to the office to complain while I waited and shivered.

The clerk apologized. He sent us to a wonderful, warm and welcoming room. Lovely, except from the moment we stepped in I began coughing and could not stop. My husband stood there holding the suitcases and watching in astonishment for the coughing fit to stop. It didn’t. That night I discovered a previously unrecognized sensitivity to cigarette smoke. (Not an allergy. In my family we do not allow anyone to be sick or have an allergy.) I blame the cough on reeking smell of cigarettes.

My coughing bothered my husband but the smell did not. However, being the gentleman that he was, he took us back to the office. He heard another apology and received a third set of keys this time to a clean, non-smoking room with a working heater and phone.

So last week when The Jinx returned to a hotel room, I recognized it immediately. Hubby, as always, verified our reservation at the front office. The clerk gave him a key card and instructions, “your room will be around the corner and up the stairs.”

He grabbed the suitcases while I collected smaller bags and walked up one flight of stairs to the room. I reached the room first. I slid the electronic key card into the slot and turned the handle. The door opened to reveal a lovely young woman sleeping in my bed. Well, not exactly sleeping. The astonished Goldilocks stared at me, gasped and swung her scantily clad self under the blankets of the mussed up bed as I yanked the door shut.

“There is somebody in this room,” I told my husband. He stopped and dropped the suitcases. “so I guess we need to go down and fix it?” I asked meaning him.

“No, you go.” he gasped. “Those steps have done me in.”

“Okay.” I swiftly found my way down to the office and explained the situation. The clerk apologized profusely, double checked the computer, shook her head and said, “I wonder who is in that room?”

I accepted the apology, smiled, shrugged and took our new set of key cards upstairs. I pointed my husband down a few doors to our new room. This time we entered a room designed for the hard of hearing. Press the doorbell and inside a special light flashed to alert the occupant. The walk-in shower came with a full contingent of handrails to stabilize weary old folks. We accepted the assistance. At our age, with The Jinx popping up unexpectedly, we need all the help we can get.

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Living with Miss Vivian

The lively discussion at the table halted when my son said, “That was when I lived with Vivian.” The nine-year-old’s eyes popped, “You lived with ..?”

He laughed and explained. “She was 89. I was driving Miss Daisy.”

“Driving Miss Daisy? Was her name Daisy?”

“No, that is the name of a movie where a man is hired to drive an older woman.”

She had never seen the movie. He tried again, “I was her escort. I paid $10 a week to live there. In exchange for the low rent, I drove her out to eat once a week, and she paid for my meal. I drove her to the hair dressers so she could keep her auburn locks.”

Miss Vivian and her second husband rented out apartments to students attending Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. After he died she cut back until she had two bedrooms upstairs that she opened to students for $10 a week with the understanding they would do a little house work and drive her.

Miss Vivian was born in 1910. Her father was one of the earliest to build refrigeration units in his area. He prospered and owned one of the first cars in their town. Sometimes she sang a song to my son from that era, ‘Take off your skin and dance around in your bones. She studied nursing at Northwestern in Chicago and worked there before she married. Usually nurses could not be married.’

My son reflected, “Miss Vivian was very proud of her ability to draw blood. She watched others and learned the techniques. She helped doctors deliver babies including home deliveries.”

“This was the era in Chicago of gangsters like Al Capone. One day Miss Vivian said that some men from a gang came to the hospital to let them know they needed a baby delivered. One of the gangsters’ girlfriends was about to have a baby. So Miss Vivian and the doctor climbed into their vehicle and raced after the gangsters as it drove through the maze of streets and alleys to the house.”

“When they walked in, everyone in the front room had a Tommy gun pointing at Miss Vivian and the doctor. The doctor said, ‘Put them down. We will do our business.’ And they did. Miss Vivian spread newspapers on the table and bed and told the men to get some water boiling. They delivered the baby, cleaned up and returned to the hospital. Later they returned for a routine check-up on the new mother and baby, but no one answered their knock. The house was completely shuttered. The curtains drawn. The door locked. No one was there.”

Miss Vivian continued to work as a nurse after she married until the day her husband gathered up all of her uniforms and burned them in the burning barrel. She never had any children. He was a sheriff and high up in the Democratic party in Chicago. She threw parties for him and the Democrats. He died of a heart attack after some 30 years of marriage. She then worked as a care taker for a married woman. By the time the ailing wife died, Miss Vivian had become part of the family and married the widower.

I lived with Miss Vivian three years. A couple other students lived with her after me. The last time I saw her, she was in a nursing home.” So, no one lives with Miss Vivian anymore, drives her around or listens to her stories of ‘back in the day’ but we all enjoy recalling our stories and memories of her.

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She chose shame and received pride

The inexplicable pain of loss came early to “Ann” (let’s call her). It came the day her mother left her family for another man. Ann and her brother went to live with their dad’s mother. Grandma raised her grandchildren as she had her eight children. They spent a lot of time in church. “They learned the fear of the Lord. They learned do not commit murder,” said Ann’s aunt.

Ann graduated from high school and joined her brother who lived near the university in the downstairs apartment of the home of their mother and step-father. Annie began college. Then she met a womanizer who seduced her, impregnated her and left her.

Young, single and still wanting to become a nurse, Ann fit all the usual reasons for taking advantage of legalized abortion including family pressure from her step-father. He did not want to shame his family with an unwed pregnancy. He pressed Ann’s mother to take her daughter in for an abortion.

Caught in the whirlwind of emotions, Ann talked with her brother about planned abortion.

Infuriated he responded, “You are not going to do that. Have you forgotten everything that Grandma taught us? What did you learn from church? You should not commit murder. If you do not want to have it. I will take care of it. You’re supposed to be a nurse. A nurse saves lives and takes care of children.”

Ann did remember Grandma’s early training. She resisted their step-father’s pressure. She kept her baby boy “Tom.” Ann’s extended family helped all they could. Her aunt took care of Tom one summer while Ann worked on finishing her degree. Finally, she received her diploma and license to be a nurse. Eventually, she married a faithful man and had more children. Like her grandmother, she insisted on church and the best from all her children.

Tom was an easy going child. He grew-up surrounded by love from his mother, his uncle and his extended family. He loved learning and exceeded in all of his studies. As he grew, so did Ann’s pride in her handsome, intelligent son who became the role model for the three younger children. He kept them on the straight and narrow just as his uncle had once done for his mother.

Tom brought great joy to Ann. She especially exploded with joy and pride the day the high school principal announced Tom as the valedictorian of his class. Everyone in his family wanted to celebrate his accomplishments. Family members flew across the country to attend his graduation. Even his grandmother who had urged terminating his pregnancy came. She cried all through the ceremony as she recalled wanting to terminate the life of this promising young man who brought so much pride to the family. (Tom’s step-grandfather did not go to the graduation and his birth father never knew him.)

“We all came to celebrate his accomplishments. We were so proud of him,” his aunt said.

His accomplishments included a full scholarship to a college in Boston where he received a degree in engineering. While still in college, Tom received and accepted a position in a large factory in Louisiana. He still works there. When he married, his family again came to celebrate. “It was a big, outside wedding in an exclusive place with a band playing music,” his aunt recalled.

Tom now has children of his own. All are doing well in school. Looking back, his aunt concluded that choosing life, even if it meant shame, has since brought Ann much pride from a son who has blessed her life in many ways.

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Katie has her say

Little ones in the “Terrible Twos” ask innocent sweet questions as they learn about life and loudly protest when life fails to go their way – an our two-year-old granddaughter Katie is no exception.

Every day she learns something. She recently saw a picture of her mom Sharon in a wedding picture. “You’re married?!” the child exclaimed.

“Well, yes. Do you know who I married?” Sharon asked.

“I don’t know. SOMEbody!”

“Yeah. Who is my husband?”

“Mmm, Nathan?”

“No, that’s my brother. Who is my husband?”

At that point Jacob, Katie’s dad and Sharon’s husband chimed in, “I’m married, too. Who is my wife?”

Katie looked at them thoroughly confused, “I don’t know!” They told her and now she knows.

Every day she learns more if only because she wants to join every conversation and activity as she tries to catch up with older sisters and brother. She caught up with Eli for a moment when he showed her how to do a goofy chant with a swaying dance. Once she got the beat, Katie eased forward until she swung in front of Eli while chanting his silly song.

She joined the conversation the day her sister Daisy, 6, asked their mom, “Where is your mom?”

“El Dorado,” my daughter answered.

“But my mom is with God,” Katie stated confidently.

“I’m right here,” Sharon replied.

“No. She’s gone. You’ll see her later.” Katie insisted.

Katie may not know everything, but she does know coffee.

Recently Sharon wrote, “At 5 p.m. I had a cup of coffee (kind of my new normal, apparently.) Katie watched and asked, ‘What do you do after it’s coffee time?’”

“I wake up and get going!”

“And then it’s coffee time again?” Katie asked.

In that busy household the answer is ‘yes.’

And then there is the other side of Katie. The side reflecting a toddler in the midst of the terrible twos. Her mom provided the following list of recent reasons Katie cried, screamed or threw a 45 minute tantrum:
1. I won’t let her use my phone while I’m on a phone call for work.
2. She wants her panties and shorts on.
3. She also wants a diaper.
4. She wants her panties inside her diaper…not on the outside.
5. She wants her daddy.
6. She wants her mommy.
7. She wants to go to bed.
8. She wants a different blanket.
9. She also wants the other one she just threw out of the crib.
10. She wants me to go away.
11. She wants me to “sleep with her.”
12. She wants out of time out.
13. …but she wants to be IN her crib.
14. She wants to go to a DIFFERENT church (she thought it was time for friends to be there).
15. She wants to sit with her sister in the same chair, but she doesn’t want her sister to touch her.
16. She doesn’t want anyone in the car to look at her while she screams for 30 minutes.
17. She doesn’t want anyone to help her while she screams about not being able to do something.
“I won’t go on, but I could. I love this child so much. She is a gift. She is also a toddler who is willful and downright ugly sometimes.” Sharon concluded her posting with a prayer, “Lord, help me to love her with your love. Help me to cherish her, especially on the days that I have no clue how to help her calm down. Give me wisdom and grace.”

Amen to that for all mothers of two-year-olds and older.

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Winner, winner

Living in Phoenix, Arizona after arthritis forced early retirement, Rose Corwin had time to go to quilt shows in the area – as long as she had an companion. “I was a fall risk,” Corwin said. When her husband declined to go, she found an escort.

They always have this form to fill out by the American Quilt Show. Every year the AQS gives away a $24,000 quilting studio.” As Rose filled out yet another form her companion asked, “Why do you do that? No one ever wins those things.”

Because you never know. Maybe I will get a coupon.” she said.

Later that year, the Corwins moved to central Arkansas and settled in a small three bedroom duplex in Hickory Ridge. Shortly after moving, Rose’s phone rang. The caller ID said Paducah, Ken.

Rose picked up. A guy said, “Is this Rose?”

Yeah,” she answered tentatively.

I am from the American Quilt Show in Paducah. I am calling to let you know that you are our grand prize winner.”

Rose laughed scornfully.

No. I’m serious. Aren’t you excited?”

Oh, yeah, sure,” she said.

What are you going to do with all your stuff?”

Well, make a lot of stuff!”

Before he hung up, the man said a woman would call in an hour to deal with the paperwork.

Rose figured that was the end of it. An hour later, the phone rang. It was a woman saying, “I need to get all the paperwork done so we can ship you everything for your dream quilting room.”

Are you serious? Is this for real?”

It’s for real. Yes.”

Then, I got exited.” Rose said. She called her Arizona quilt show buddy and said, “Do you remember when you took me to the quilt show? Remember when I filled in that paper work and you said ‘why bother, no one ever wins?’ Well guess who just won the grand prize!”

The grand prize included a trip to Paducah to the annual quilt show where the woman officially presented Rose with the prize.

After the show, the stuff started coming,” Rose shook her head in wonder. The grand prize included a top of the line Janome sewing machine with all the bells and whistles, $3,000 worth of thread, a sewing machine cabinet, storage cabinets for a sewing room, yards of various fabrics in many colors and patterns, quilt kits, quilting books, a big cutting table and more.”

It started coming and I wondered, ‘Where am I going to put it all?” Rose said.

We were okay until the long arm came and then I had to get rid of a whole bunch of furniture. There was no room for the couch. It would only fit into the living room of the duplex.” A technician arrived to set it up and demonstrate the basics. He adjusted it to use sitting down because arthritis prohibits Rose from lengthy sessions of standing.

The $24,00 dream quilting studio took over the duplex. The 10 x 10 foot bedroom became the couple’s living room. Another bedroom had three of the cabinets and their bed. The living room became the quilting room.

Her husband took one room, put his big screen TV, a chair and love seat in it and slapped a sign on the door ‘Man Cave.’ He emphatically said, “’You can’t touch this room.”

When the Corwins moved to El Dorado, they found a triple wide trailer, bought more furniture and again have a living room. The quilting studio fills the spare bedrooms. If anyone asks Rose about winning, she always assures them, “People really do win those things.

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From the ashes

The house fire that burnt Terry and Lori Rigdon’s dwelling destroyed household items that Lori thought she needed. Seeing it all turned to ashes made her realize how easily things can be taken. “Things that once seemed important, we hauled away to the dump in the back of the trailer. Why did we worry about it? It was all gone in an instant,” she said.

After the fire, “it seemed like every time we turned around something we needed to set up house was provided. People were so wiling to help and give to meet our basic needs. It taught us a simpler way – to value the things that are really important,” Lori said.

“The fear of loss does not scare me anymore. During the cleaning up process, there were days we actually wished that it had all burnt down except, then I would have lost the pictures of my children. It was hard to go in there and take out all the charred remnants and clean.”

The fire did destroy the irreplaceable mementos of her parents and her children’s growing up years. She especially missed items from her mother who died years ago. She had stored the totes filled with memorabilia in the shop where the fire started. “I had totes set up with my kids’ school work and baby books and keepsakes from my mom and from Terry’s family. Through the fire, I lost everything that I had of my mom.”

Still, knowing the finality of the fire, Lori insisted, “I just want to go back and find anything I might find.”

“It’s all heaps of ash and rubble. There is nothing left,” Terry told her

She wanted to go, so they went and raked through the ashes of rubble where the shop had been. “It was just black. The walls were gone. Only the pole was left of the Christmas tree. I had to climb over all this to get where the totes would have been.”

Terry started helping her sort through the debris. He stopped and called, “What is that?” He pointed to the corner.

“I saw something white,” Lori said. “I said, ‘Oh my God! It’s a Bible and it’s open. The Bible had been stored in my grandmother’s tote. There were no signs left of the tote or the shelf it had been on.”

“’Don’t move it,’ I have to see where it is opened up to.” Lori recalls having said.

She made her way to the Bible and carefully picked up the wet and charred book. “The blue leather cover was completely charred except the letters ‘Bible.’ It was open to the Isaiah 53 prophecy about Jesus.

“He was there, in the middle of the fire to protect us and provide for us and show us He still is in control.mI opened it to the front. The presentation was in my mom’s handwriting. She had given the Bible to my grandmother. That was the greatest treasure that I found in the ruins after the fire. Only God could have done that,” Lori said.

“We kind of sat and stared at it for a while. We couldn’t stop looking at it. It proves that His word cannot be consumed. I know people will say ‘right.’ but it is true.”

Lori took the Bible from the rubble and had a shadow box built to protect the charred pages. She displayed the Bible in their home with it opened to Isaiah 53. It serves as a constant reminder that God’s word can not be consumed and that His love continues through all circumstances.

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Finding a simpler house after a fire

Twelve years of blood, sweat and tears went up in smoke while Lori and Terry Rigdon celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary at Gulf Shores.

A florescent light in the attached shop shorted out. A son and the neighbors noticed the flames. At first contained, the fire broke out and spread into the attic. Not all the house burned, “but with the smoke and water damage, the insurance company declared it a total loss,” Lori said.

“We were able to salvage all my photographs. If I had lost my pictures, that would have been devastating. I was heart broken to lose my keepsakes: the kids’ baby books and school work.” The rest of the stuff, Lori did not miss. “I quickly realized I had no need for all that other stuff like the dishes. Why get so many, when all you really need is an eight-place setting. There is no need for three sets of dishes, pots and pans or more Tupperware than you use or know what to do with. There was nothing to miss. It was almost like I could not remember what we had.”

Through the generosity of others, “our basic needs were met. The insurance company put us up in a hotel for a month. Then a friend offered us an apartment and we moved in there. The insurance covered that for about six months. We looked all through El Dorado for a new house. The housing market was not that good. Older homes were selling for high prices.”

In the midst of all that, through the loss of the house and most of its contents, Lori realized she wanted a simpler life, including a smaller house. They found nothing so the Rigdons decided to build.

“We can start looking for a property to build on,” Terry said.

They looked and Lori designed a house with an eye to their soon to be empty nest and future retirement years. “One night I drew out a floor plan. This is all I want – a simple square, not a two-story,” Lori told Terry.

“I knew it would be our forever home,” she said.

“We found a lot on the street where we live now. Right there next door to the lot was the house I wanted. ‘That’s the house I want,’” Lori told Terry.

“That house is not for sale,” he said.

“That’s the house I want.” she repeated.

“We continued to look and found another house, that kinda fit our needs with a high price. We made an offer then laid in bed that night hoping it did not go through.”

“Thankfully, the Realtor said someone else bought it for a higher price. We had floods of relief, but we were back to square one.”

“I knew that wherever we went would be our forever home. I did not want to settle. I sat waiting, hoping and praying.”

Weeks later Terry’s sister asked if Lori had seen a certain house for sale.

Lori looked it up. It was the house she had said she wanted.

They went to tour it. “As soon as we opened the door we looked at each other and I said, ‘This is the exact floor plan I drew out.’ ‘Yep, this is your square,’Terry agreed.”

The sellers wanted more than the Realtor said it was worth. “We made an offer and waited it out. Finally they came down to what we offered and we have been here ever since. It isn’t fancy. It’s simple. It fits us. It is a humble gift from God. He really does know our wants and needs.”

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In memory of Chris Qualls

Former co-worker and editor Chris Qualls left us earlier this month. I first met him when he took an El Dorado News-Times feature picture of my toddler and me as we read magazines in the library. Years later I worked with him. Many former co-workers wrote comments about him following a couple Facebook postings about his passing. A select few follow:

Mike McNeil: “Chris was an intern during my second and last summer at the News-Times and was coming to work full time just before I moved to Malvern. He was the core of the news department for three decades. A great loss to all of us who have worked at the News-Times since the 70s.”

Jim Warnock: “I followed high school classmate Chris Quall’s career with interest when he became the religion editor for the El Dorado News Times and later served as their editor. I was always impressed with his thoughtful articles that sometimes gave a hint into his own spiritual journey. He was a kind person and a good friend to all. I’m thankful to have known him.”

Janice McIntyre: Chris was a great lay-out man at the News-Times and a great friend!”

James Patterson: “You are among the kindest, gentlest, purest souls I’ve ever encountered … and more having had the honor of calling you friend. This world will be a smaller, meaner place without you, but I guess this world really doesn’t deserve people like you.”

Kaitlyn Davis: “He was so kind to me and patient with me for the short time I worked with him.”

Lauren McCarn Cross: “Chris was a great boss and such a sweet, happy person. He made my years at the El Dorado News-Times good ones.”

Jim Lemon: “He was religion page editor and night editor at the News Times in El Dorado. When Shea Wilson left for another job, Chris was picked to take over as managing editor. I often gave advice to Chris about how he should manage the department. He, of course, ignored everything I said. He had trouble with anxiety attacks and was generally tightly woven. Chris didn’t have an easy life, I bet that was the reason he was so kind to everyone. You will find a lot of comments about how kind he was to people, that is true not just something people say about the dead. Chris’s father died just a short while ago and since then he has been full time care giver for his mother who is blind. Chris was a very spiritual guy. Chris explored several religions and finally settled on being a Catholic. We shared that in common. I gave Chris a statue of Jesus … in a glorified state. Chris, I bet you look like that now.”

Sara Mitchell: I used to call him “the Pope” because of the religious icons in his office. I loved sharing Catholic stories with him.”

Allison Sims: Before Kevin and I married, I joked with him that he should come to my dress fitting so we could have our “Say Yes to the Dress” moment. We were doing the fitting in Shreveport … when he walked in the shop… He was so much more than our editor.

Brad McLelland: “A good friend of mine and a great man has passed away. Thank you for being such a loving friend and beautiful soul.”

John Worthen, editor of the Pine Bluff Commercial, “For those of you who knew him, you knew he was a very good man. Our 1a daily dedication in The Commercial for Tuesday will honor a former colleague and friend. RIP, Chris.”

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family couriers

As kinfolk to the original Scrooge, you would think we would drive our economical small car on long trips. We can’t. Not when we go to visit family. We are the unofficial family couriers. Before most trips, we load the gas guzzling van with toys, books, tools, furniture and/or gifts for relatives. On the return trip we have hauled bags of goodies from shopping sprees and donated Christian literature.

It’s my sister’s fault that we haul Bibles, religious studies and Sunday School materials for the mission outreach program of Love Packages in Butler, Illinois. Her church in upstate New York had a few boxes of books that they asked us to drop off in Butler on our way home to Arkansas. We did and since then have gathered books to haul there.

For our most recent visit with family in Indiana, my husband loaded shop tools, toys and eight boxes of Christian literature into the van. He shoved in the last box of books and reached for our luggage before he realized he had left no space for the St. Louis grandchildren who were joining us. His shoulders sagged at the thought of repacking all those books and tools.

“Let’s take the literature to Love Packages before we go to St. Louis,” I suggested.

He nodded and never mentioned the increased cost in gas and time.

After we left the books, he observed, “We got better gas mileage with the books.”

“That’s because their weight pushed the car down the hills faster,” I winked. “We need more stuff.”

I quickly remedied that at a thrift store with a heap of bargains such as a large cast iron skillet and a new sewing machine. I didn’t need either one. I have plenty of both. Still at those prices, I bought both. We left all the bargains, except the sewing machine, in St. Louis. I thought some relative or friend might need one.

Someone did. The first day in Indiana a granddaughter said, “I want to start sewing. What kind of sewing machine should I buy?” I grinned, went out to the van, picked up the machine and presented it to her. “I saw this at a thrift store for such a low price that I bought it. You need one; so it’s yours.”

That opened a small corner in the van. That night my husband left shop tools at the oldest son’s place and we finally could use all the van’s seats and pack the kids’ new toys.

Twenty-four hours later, the next son we visited offered us seven boxes tightly packed with CDs, DVDs and the LP records. “Maybe you can find a place to pass these along” he suggested as he helped his dad load the boxes into the back of the van.

“The Hershberger courier service will find a solution,” we assured him.

Before we returned home, the kids played with their toys while we spent 45 minutes re-arranging media and luggage. Observing the final seating arrangements, the grandson who loves cozy corners called dibs on the back, gathered up his toys and sat beside one stack of boxes and in front of another.

At his home, we hauled out their luggage and toys, opening up space for our thrift store purchases. Not even a short visit the next day with my daughter helped much. She looked at our load, saw the cast iron skillet and said, “I could use an another one.”

Thus we ended another trip as couriers. Next time we maybe we can drive the car. All we have right now are a couple dozen books to deliver to Love Packages.

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