with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Brakes, Tires, and Tribbles

Yesterday, Brent went out to the trailer alone while I went through the attic at his parent’s house to consolidate, pitch, toss, and distribute (to us in the trailer and to charity). He finished the installation of the new refrigerator, making a special bracket to house our CD/AM/FM car radio over the fridge. The radio and VCR was there with the old refrigerator, but the VCR won’t fit with the taller fridge but the radio just squeezes in.

Carpet cleaner comes to clean out our mildew carpet in the trailerWe’d had the trailer carpet thoroughly cleaned by a professional on Friday and it’s now dry, so Brent beached the walls around the table and screwed the table back into the floor and cleaned up everything around the outside of the trailer, closed up the slide out (all by his lone self! I’m so proud.) and then prepared to haul the trailer to the house. The appointment this morning for the repair of the trailer tire axles and bearings was for seven in the early AM, so it made more sense to him to work late to get the trailer ready to go and park it outside of the house than to get up early the next morning and get the trailer ready to go. Anything that keeps him from sleeping in, he’ll avoid.

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a hitch. Minor, but still a hitch. Only one brake light would work on the back of the trailer. None of the rest of the trailer lights work. He replaced the bulb in the other brake light, but it still didn’t work. So he called me and I drove out there and followed him to the house through the dark, praying no cops would spot the dead lights on the trailer.

At the house, Brent got out to check the trailer brakes and found that the left ones felt fine but he couldn’t even touch the hubs of the right ones. Totally heated up and locked brakes. The brakes are working but one of them is locked up and cooking the brake lining. We just went through this with my father’s motor home, so we are becoming experts in locked up and frozen brakes.

After discussing it with his father and uncle (our local RV experts), they decided to allow themselves an hour to drive the 10 miles to the brake repair center, making a stop or so along the way to cool the brakes. They left in the morning and got down there only to find out that the damn shop had moved 5 miles closer to the house. So they drove back, a bit late for the appointment, and worried about overheating the brakes, but arriving fine. Brent and his dad left the truck and trailer there and headed to breakfast and then an RV parts shop to look for new window gear (RV parts call it a window “operator”) for two of our windows and some other parts and pieces needing replacing. Then they came back for lunch and called the brake shop and they said “two more hours”. Two more hours turned into more and more and more and now we’re leaving it there overnight (but it is finally done) and will pick it up in the morning and go get 10 new tires.

That’s right. Ten new tires. Brent got such a deal from Hercules Tire in Tulsa, we’re getting the six tires on the truck replaced and the four on the trailer. Two or three of the tires on the trailer were bought on our way across the states from North Carolina to the storage facility, but after five years sitting in the hot sun and freezing temps, they aren’t in very good condition.

The total on the tires is expected to be just over $800 for the 10 tires and the brakes on the trailer will be at least five hundred for the four tires and two axles. To fix the brakes on the truck earlier and replace the shattered windshield, bad ceiling liner inside the truck, all new hoses and odds and ends in the truck came to just under $1000. So we will be just under $3000 for the wheel and engine parts of this project of un-storaging our trailer after 5 years. Whew!

I spent the day in the attic, a much less costly endeavor. I uncovered our Corelle dishes, mailed back to the family after breaking too many while crossing Highways 10 and 20 through the southern United States. I told Brent that since we know the trailer is going to Alabama and pretty much staying there, let’s take the “good china”. We can still use the plastic dishes, but I miss the Corelle.

I also found a bathroom rug and was pissed because I’d just bought a new one as the old one was rotted and sun stained. Then I picked it up. The rubber backing disintegrated in my hands. Okay, so 5 years in the dark attic (with heat, humidity and freezing temps (uninsulated attic)) can also result in rubber and plastic rot. I did find a bunch of bars of soap, shampoo, body soap, and other odds and ends that don’t go bad over time. That will save us a bit of money.

I managed to consolidate our area of the closet down to about 10 smaller boxes and squish them into the corners so there is much more room to move in there. Or more room to fill up with other shit. That’s how family storage stuff works.

I also finally got a hold of my mother. Several days ago she emailed the news of one our long time family friends, Flo Hein. She has inoperable lung cancer. They found it at the end of the week when she went in for an MRI for her back and because she had pneumonia. The lung tests revealed the lung cancer. The MRI the next day told a worse story. Her back has been bothering her with great pain over the past three months. Actually for several years but so bad she can hardly function for the past three months. She finally relented to go to my mom’s back surgeon and he ordered an MRI before the surgery. The MRI showed that the cancer had spread and her entire spine is infested. It is everywhere. Their diagnosis? Three to five days to live.

I can’t believe it. I know she has had terrible trouble with osteoporosis and circulation for years, making it painful to walk and get around. The lack of exercise had taken a toll on her spine, of course. But to walk in for an MRI, find out you have lung cancer, and then have the MRI and find out you have three to five days to live?

I called my mom and left a message after the first email informing me of the lung cancer. After a couple of days without an answer, I called my dad, told him, and he said he’d go visit her and report back. When two more days went by, and more messages to my mom, she finally called me. She’s been at the hospital with Flo a lot, helping her make final arrangements. She told me about the spread of the cancer and how Flo is fighting it off with her normal piss and vinegar, but the pneumonia is killing her faster than the cancer. Her immune system is totally shot. She also told me that Flo, in typical fashion, had to stop outside the door of the hospital for one last cigarette before going in for the MRI.

Mom told me that Flo is in so much pain, they are sedating her now a lot. She is getting forgetful and fuzzy with so much medication, so it isn’t worth it for me to come visit. And she’d hate it for me to see her looking crippled and miserable, so as much as I want to be there, I agree to both of their wishes. But it hurts.

Flo and Bud Hein took my mother under their wings a million years ago as an up and coming whipper snapper of a real estate agent. Helped her become a sales manager, eventually running their South Everett real estate office, which my mother left to open her own company, with their blessings. Flo and Bud practically raised me from my earliest years as semi-grandparents-cum-great-aunt-and-uncle. When Bud died of cancer, it was terrible for me. Those two were inseparable and he was such a great guy. Always full of piss and vinegar, too, ready with a joke. He taught me to use colorful swear words and would be proud of the full blue vocabulary I have now. But both were seriously religious while being unorthodox in their lifestyle.

Both were heavy drinkers, smokers, and party animals. They loved the high life, but the high life didn’t love them back. In their hey day, they had a ton of money and rolled in it with class and flamboyance. In their lesser days, they led quiet, respectful lives, trying to make a family with reluctant step kids. Flo never had any children and did the best she could with Bud’s kids and the various nieces and nephews, and my brother and I.

Flo taught me about class. Brassy class, but class all the same. She has the most delicate and gorgeous legs and would sit in a skirt all the time, ankles crossed, lady-like. I’d clomp around and act like a boy, and she’d carefully set the example of how to be brassy but classy and lady-like at the same time. When I was closing down my singing career, I kinda created a persona when singing in the bars based upon her personality and style. She always looked rich and sophisticated, her jewelry and outfits all coordinated and high class. Even when she and Bud had to declare bankruptcy and times were tough, she never stopped caring about other people, gathering really good friends close. I loved to visit her, but I couldn’t stay for long because of the smoking.

We’d talk on the phone and exchange letters once in a while. After Bud died, she sold the farm outside of Snohomish and moved into a small apartment in Everett, then, as the finances dwindled, to a smaller place in Marysville and then into a much poorer assisted living facility nearby. I never heard her complain about her life getting smaller and poorer. She only had good things to say to everyone and a kind ear. I can’t imagine my life without her in it.

I’ve lost so many over the past few years and I’ve hated being away from them for so long. Yet I suffer for my mother because these precious people who I so looked up to since childhood are my mother’s peers and mentors. They are her best friends and she is there, watching them die, cleaning up their left overs and helping them through the process. She is the one really suffering and I am getting it second hand. It doesn’t diminish the pain for either of us, but I want to acknowledge the stress she is going through as her friends from her childhood and early adult life depart. It’s part of life but it sucks.

As I begin the final preparations for moving back into the trailer and beginning this new chapter in our life, my heart aches for the memories, the losses, and the wishing-what-was-was-agains.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

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