Life is sometimes like a farm truck

“Where’s Dad?” my daughter asked as she peered out the living-room window. “He should be here by now-shouldn’t he?”

One more time I glanced at the clock, as anxious as my daughter to get on the road to her softball tournament in Emporia. She was to meet her team for the state playoffs at 4 o’clock and now it was 10 minutes after 2.

I knew that once he was home, Keith would need to shower, shave, change his clothing and pack a few last-minute items into the overnight bag before we could leave for the weekend.

“Why don’t you call him on his cell phone and ask when he might be here,” I suggested. “Maybe he’s lost track of time.”

That would be understandable. The men in our family had been putting in long hours in the field.

But the night before, Keith had suggested that we leave by 2:30 to allow for the extra driving time it would take to get around all the highway detours we would encounter, and to give us a few minutes to stop by the hotel to check in.

“He’ll be coming,” I thought, as I packed up the cooler with bottles of water and ice. That’s when Meg came back into the kitchen to replace the phone on its cradle.

“Dad’s on his way,” Meg announced. “But he says he’s coasting.”

“What does that mean?” I stopped what I was doing and concentrated on Meghan. “Did he say he was out of gas?”

It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that Keith would try to get home from Durham on an empty tank. I could imagine him rocking the truck back and forth trying to coax the Chevy to get over just one more hill so that he could coast the rest of the way.

“No-he just said he was coasting.”

“Does he want us to come and get him?” I asked Meg as I moved to get the phone. “Does he need gas?”

“He just said he was coasting and then he hung up.”

I dialed Keith’s cell phone number. (What did we ever do before cell phones? They have made life so much easier.) He answered almost immediately.

“What do you mean by ‘I’m coasting’? Do you need help? Are you running out of gas?”

“Well, I am-but the pickup’s not,” he replied. “We’ve been having trouble with this pickup today; it will start, run awhile and then the engine will stop. After you coast a bit it will start again. What time is it?”

I looked at the clock: 2:20 p.m.

“I’m just a few miles away now and the truck’s running again. We’ll make it to the tournament in time. I’ll call the hotel and make sure we have a guaranteed late arrival, and that way we can just go right to the ballpark.”

I was glad he had a plan.

“I’ll get everything packed in the van so when you’re ready we can just head out. OK?”

I was met with silence on the other end of the phone line.

“OK, Keith?” I repeated.

“Yeah, sounds good,” my husband finally responded. “I was trying to get the truck started again. I’m coasting now, but it’s all downhill from here. I’ll be there soon.”

We left at 2:50 and got to the ball diamond in Emporia-after not being able to find the field-at 4 p.m. sharp. All’s well that ends well.

Life is like a farm truck. There are times when things go along just fine-and then there are times when things start to sputter.

Even the best made, well-oiled machine can have its breakdowns. And when those malfunctions happen-when an unexpected collapse occurs-it can turn one’s world topsy-turvy.

Marriages can lose their spark. Church relationships can become combustible. Work can shift suddenly into overdrive and physical health can stall out. It might be a blowout with the kids or a downshift in family finances that can send you teetering to the edge of the abyss.

And that’s when I say, “Coast-just coast awhile.”

And by that I don’t mean one shouldn’t do anything proactive about whatever situation you might find yourself in. But sometimes we need to just let go and take our time in figuring out what the next step might be. There are intervals when we shouldn’t feel rushed to make a decision or to complete a project.

Unless it’s a remodeling job.

I’m coasting right now in one area of my life, heading down a road and not knowing quite where I’ll end up. At times the journey has been agonizingly frustrating. At other times, it has been amazingly peaceful.

But taking a look in the rearview mirror, I know that I’ve learned a great deal about myself-and about others. My faith has grown stronger as has my relationship with my family, and I’ve made some new friends along the way that I might have missed if I hadn’t moved over into the slow lane.

And at journey’s end, I’m confident that all will be well.

When I went to Marion for my massage this week, Carolan McFarland had a printout of this Top 10 lying on the massage table awaiting my appearance. Since I had already decided to write about Keith and his truck, I thought this list would be a good addition to this week’s column instead of the usual recipe.

Top Ten Reasons Farm Trucks

Are Never Stolen

10. They have a range of about 20 miles before they overheat, breakdown or run out of gas.

9. Only the owner knows how to operate the door to get in or out.

8. It is difficult to drive fast with all the fence tools, grease rags, ropes, chains, syringes, buckets, boots and loose papers in the cab.

7. It takes too long to start, and the smoke coming up through the rusted-out floorboard clouds your vision.

6. The border collie on the toolbox looks mean.

5. They’re too easy to spot. The description might go something like this: “The driver’s side door is red, the passenger side door is green, the right front fender is yellow….”

4. The large round bale in the back makes it hard to see if you’re being chased. You could use the mirrors if they weren’t cracked and covered with duct tape.

3. Top speed is only 45 mph.

2. Who wants a truck that needs a year’s worth of maintenance, u-joints, and $3,000 in bodywork, taillights and windshield?

1. It’s hard to commit a crime with everyone waving at you.

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