When we decided to craft an issue centered around men we hoped to discover writers and men who’d be willing to share what life in this new century is like for them. As mothers of young sons and wives we understand (to the extent we can with ovaries) the struggles and challenges that today’s boys and men face. It’s an unsettling time. How do men meet the historical social demands of providing for their families and serving as pillars of strength, while assimilating into modern men expected to be sensitive and nurturing? How do we as parents of boys help to support our children in their journey to manhood?
Read on. We’re confident Ryan Woods' perspective will leave you with faith that all is right in the world of men. We became aware of Ryan’s diagnosis of terminal brain cancer through his Grassroots Conspiracy blog and the extensive community support that’s been pouring out for him in our hometown of Vancouver, Washington for the last year. This piece originally ran on Ryan's blog on May 17th of this year. Our deep thanks to the Woods family for allowing us to share it with you.
A word of caution: regardless of your sex you’ll need a box of Kleenex as you read Ryan’s story. We hope you’ll visit his blog as this is one of many incredibly written pieces by a man who doesn’t consider himself a writer. We beg to differ Ryan.
We buy junkers. We buy used Hyundai Accents, we buy old Chevy minivans with 100,000 miles on them, we buy cheap older cars. That’s just what we do.
But things have changed. Our old minivan is done. At 200,000+ miles the AC doesn’t work, the windows don’t roll down, one sliding door is permanently shut (because it’ll randomly open on its own while driving on the freeway!), the gas gauge doesn’t work, the brake lights do not work, the cruise control does not work, it needs new brakes and tires, and—oh did I mention—it’s got some engine and transmission work that needs to be done. So we knew we needed something soon. We also knew that when/if I die Jess would cash purchase a new car with her life insurance money. But I’m not dead yet…
So to make a short story shorter, in the end we realized that now was the time for me to be able to care for my wife by purchasing a car together that she was going to have to purchase on her own—to buy her “my husband is gone, I don’t want to worry about cars right now or for the immediate future, I just want to care for my children and recover” car. That “car” has good gas mileage (we hope to keep her monthly overhead costs low if/when I pass), it’s got to have space for children and their bikes/toys/camping trips/etc., it’s got to be a good quality car that’ll last her ’till our kids are in high school, and it’s got to be a newer car that won’t be breaking down often and thus demanding more of her time. She doesn’t care about bells, whistles, shiny things—just those practical things. That’s the car that we realized we must buy now. This week. Today. Ok, as it turns out, yesterday.
There’s just one problem…
I’m not dead!
That life insurance money is not there to fork over in cash for her ‘ideal’ car! How do you buy a car that you can only afford if you die? To be honest we don’t quite have the answer to that question. I won’t go into details regarding the deal we got on the car (though we got a good one thanks to an important connection) and I’ll honestly say that we’re still figuring out what it looks like to be able to afford it–but what I will say is that buying this car is messing me up. It’s messing Jess up. (and this is where I really want this blog to land)
Purchasing this car feels symbolic. It’s the beginning of a new life: a new life for a single mother who has lost her husband and has a new set of needs that demands a new type of car. It’s symbolic of me being gone and of her being alone. I almost feel like by purchasing this car I have given up on living! ‘Cause let’s be honest, I’m not sure we can afford this car unless I die! I had better fork over that cash at some point during the life of this loan. Ha. When all was said and done at the dealership and we both had a moment to reflect we found ourselves honestly sad. What had we done? It wasn’t buyers remorse. No, it was the symbolism. We had just taken our first giant and tangible step forward into a post-Ryan world…and…well…it’s weird. I should probably have a better word than “weird” as a descriptor here. I’m sure real writers would use better words but at this moment it feels right. It just feels weird. It doesn’t feel bad because I know that at its core this is a moment where I was able to care for my wife in a very real way: I just freed her of having to do this whole experience on her own (and oh what an experience it was at the dealership!!). No, there was something beautiful about this stepping out together—but it
was is very hard and very…weird. It feels weird to drive such a nice car–we don’t drive cars like this. It feels weird not drive a minivan anymore—we love minivans. It feels weird to call it my wife’s car—it’s always been “us.” It feels weird.
It is weird to continually try to figure out what it looks like to live in the tension of reality as it is and reality as we hope it to be. I hope that we end up having to restructure our loan because I miraculously don’t die. I hope that reality as it appears is not reality as it turns out. I hope to live and I know that God can bring this about. but. But. BUT I feel invited to step out in faith, to let go of any semblance of control by being ok with death. By being ok with preparing my wife for my death. By being ok with purchasing a car in preparation of my death. I don’t like it. It’s weird. It makes me sad. It worries me. I hate death. Death sucks. Death is the ultimate enemy. Buying new cars sucks. Car dealerships are enemies sidekicks. But (and there have been a lot of “buts” in this post haven’t there?!) my faith is in Jesus—not in healing, not in an easy life, not in a life that I expect but instead in the story he chooses to tell in and through me. If a new Jetta Sportwagen tdi is a part of that story…cool. Weird, but cool.
So…all that is to say…my wife got a new car yesterday.
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