Each year, I keep my eyes and ears open for the subject of my upcoming Christmas letter. I know if I listen very closely, God will always grant me the most perfect story to share. This year, my story is about Barbara and how we helped grant her Christmas wish.
Barbara has lived in our little town of West Sacramento for over 30 years. We've been lucky enough to know her for the past three. We met in Barbara's 80th year when she called on a car we had for sale. She'd been driving a Ford Expedition and needed something a little smaller.
The first year, we kept in touch, making sure the car was running properly and assuring her we'd help with any needed repairs or maintenance. After that, we lost touch. Two years went by. Although we didn't speak or visit, I thought about her often. I wondered how she was, wondered about the car. Sometimes, I felt a little guilty that I hadn't made an effort to stop in. But life keeps us all busy - too busy at times for the important things.
By the time we re-connected, we learned that her sweetheart for the last 24 years had recently passed away. I'm not quite sure how it all happened, but we adopted each other and Barbara became our grandmother. We truly became family.
Christmas was again approaching and, as her tradition had been for years, she'd be spending the holidays with her daughter, grandchildren and great grandchildren, in Las Vegas. She'd stay in the spare bedroom. Sabrina, her cat, would once again hunker down under the dresser, hiding out from the other cats and dogs. She was used to being alone and independent - just like Barbara.
As she prepared for the trip, Barbara gazed longingly out her big picture window at her 5th wheel trailer in the front yard. It hadn't moved in over six years. The tires were deflated and it had started to sink into the ground. She and Dick had traveled with it; they'd camped out and called it their little home away from home - it was a cozy little bubble that she had longed to have at her daughter's house for years. There was room for it; it would be a place of her very own right there in Las Vegas, close to her family, but still her own space. "It would give me a lot more independence," she told me once, lamenting the fact that moving it the 500 plus miles just wasn't feasible. There were just too many hurdles.
On Saturday, Barbara left for Las Vegas with her daughter, leaving the 5th wheel sitting in the mud. On Sunday, I sat down at my computer. I would find a way to get her trailer to her - before Christmas.
By Monday afternoon, I'd received responses from three senior care organizations. It was going to happen! I searched for a mover. I found Steve, The RV Mover. Steve quoted a price that was far below other bids. He was retired, polite, professional - and living on Social Security. He understood the situation better than most.
Wednesday, Buck Shaw, a business owner with "Home Instead Senior Care," agreed to fund our Christmas project. He'd given up a trip he'd won to Ireland and instead was dispersing the funds to seniors who needed it. There is indeed a Santa!
Within 48 hours, we'd lined up the move, cleaned the little trailer top to bottom and it was ready to roll. We listened to it groan as it reluctantly let go of its long-time venue, leaving muddy ruts in the front yard. Up and over the curb it went, following along behind Steve's Dodge Ram like a good little dog who instinctively knew it was heading for home. We held our breath, watching the tires, praying they'd hold air, praying the wheel bearings would remain cool, praying the brakes wouldn't fail on Steve's truck (no brakes on the trailer - someone had stolen the batteries and cut the wires in the years it sat there.) Still, he took the risk. He understood the situation better than most.
We waited for the call from the first checkpoint about 30 miles out. The bearings are cool, tires are holding at 35 and we're rolling. Next stop, Barstow!
Early Saturday morning - one week after Barbara had left for Vegas -- our phone rang.
Carrie Pepper, she scolded in a loving, shaky, teary voice, I don't know what I'm going to do with you and Kevin Askew . She recounted the details perfectly. I just answered the door and a man was standing there. He said, I'm Steve. Look across the street. Does that look familiar?" In a voice that conveyed more love and thanks and gratitude than I can begin to explain, she struggled with the words, her voice cracking as she spoke: You guys just made my whole Christmas. Tears spilled down my cheeks as I listened to her sweet voice, imagining the scene she'd just described -- Steve knocking at the door; Barbara, totally unaware, answering it and realizing her cozy little trailer was finally there with her.
Closing my eyes, I thanked God for all the angels he helped bring together to make Barbara's wish come true - to have her own little space, one that she has known and loved, one that allows her - and Sabrina - peace and quiet and most important of all, independence.