In the 1936 novel Gone With the Wind, farm-hand foreman Big Sam is sent by his owner Mrs. Ellen O’Hara to help the Confederate Army dig trenches in a last ditch effort to thwart the advances of General Sherman’s March through Atlanta. When the ditches were done, and Sherman razed the city anyway, Big Sam stays in Atlanta living in an area called Shantytown. Known for its seedy collection of insolents, criminals and ne’er-do-wells, Big Sam doesn’t fit in at Shantytown with his hard-working attitude and childlike loyalty for his slave masters. When the opportunity to get out literally comes riding by in an out-of-control wagon driven by none other than his former master’s daughter Scarlet O’Hara Kennedy, Big Sam dutifully fights off the muggers and thieves who had jumped aboard, takes the reins and heroically drives Ms. Scarlet to safety. Big Sam is the name of our family car. Not necessarily because I am a huge GWTW fan, I like the movie, but the name seemed perfect on its own merit, and then seemed even more appropriate when associated with the fictional character. I am also not a fan of naming cars. It just seems silly and childish, and it was, actually, the kids a couple of years ago that asked what its name was. So, it has only been nominated a short while compared to how long we’ve had it. But, it does so much seem like a part of the family because of how much time we spend with it and how much we depend on it and how long it has been with us. Eli has had a pretty good couple of days. I’m sorry that I have not updated. It is harder to get to it here at home, but if it is significant and we are in need of immediate prayers I will at least take time to post a blurb to each of the sites, not a book as I usually do which I know is more to help me than you. His ANC was up to 900 for two days, and it is 4600 today! If he holds that for two days, they will stop giving him the G-CSF boost. But he had a really bad night Monday night with what we call night terrors, something he has been plagued with on and off for many years, and then threw up Tuesday morning. He seemed to settle after that and had a good day and a good night Tuesday night. He has been going through some testing similar to before chemo for his heart, lungs, hearing, etc. Everything was fine except he has begun to lose some hearing in his right ear, but not anything significant yet. This is expected; it can’t be stopped or lessened. They do not expect him to be deaf, but he will likely need a hearing aid it’s just a matter of monitoring him and knowing when to do that. He is on schedule to go in for his second round of chemo on June 21, which is sooner than I had thought. When he calls me, he sounds so precious. I answer and he says “Hi, mama, this is E-li,” talking very plain and slow. I think about him so much when we are outside playing our usual summer activities in the yard, especially when they are jumping on the trampoline with the sprinkler. There is something so noticeably missing. Last night they were all building with Legos in the floor and Caleb showed me where he made a house and had placed it in front of a dresser. Then he walked a straight line across the room telling me that it was a “far away highway” to another structure. He bent down as if he were looking in its windows and said, “this Eyi.” That's how he pronounces Eli's name. It was hard to hold it together. He doesn’t ask “when are” Daddy and Eli coming home any more, he says “I want” Daddy and Eli to come home. The girls will go to Bible Camp at the end of this week and he and I will go to Memphis for a couple of days for Vic’s birthday and Father’s day. With Eli’s counts so high, hopefully we can get out and do something fun. We are going to try a new thing where Vic will cram his work week all in the beginning of the week and we will switch on Thursdays. It may not work because we don’t like switching when Eli’s counts are low, and it will require a lot of driving which just raises the potential for more tragedy being on the road so much and the wear on Big Sam will be tough for it. Hg was only about 3 months old when we bought Big Sam. I had filled my new stay-at-home mom time with hours of research every day about what to buy to replace our little sporty 5-speed VW Jetta. Vic is picky about how an engine is treated, so he wanted to buy new, plus we planned to keep it for many years justifying buying a new one. So, after my research, when I knew what we needed I emailed 26 dealerships to get it. We only had one dealership willing to work with me over the phone and give me my price for what we wanted, which was a base Toyota Highlander. Weeks and weeks I spent reading and comparing and contrasting this new style of mid-size SUV built from the Camry chassis. It had only been in the U.S. for a year but with its Camry base critics loved it, it aced all its tests and it seemed to fill a niche for the non-minivan mom. So, that we didn’t have to spend hours at a dealership, the salesman and I worked everything out over the phone. All Vic and I had to do was take the trade-in in for inspection and then sign the papers and bring it home. Hg spent what was expected to be just the morning with her Betts for Vic and me to travel to the Tennessee dealership so as to avoid the add-ons of the Southeast Toyota Distributors group here in Alabama and get the better price. Roberts Toyota in Columbia, Tennessee was ready for us. The salesman had the papers ready, the car sitting out front, all we had to do was give the trade-in people some time for their inspection. So we looked around and talked to the salesman while we waited. He had already sold us a car, so he mainly wanted to talk about how he beat out 25 other dealerships. As the center piece of this little dealership out front was a huge vehicle, bigger than anything I had ever stood next to that wasn’t one of Daddy’s moving trucks. It was a gold Toyota Sequoia. I had read about it, but didn’t consider it because of the price and the size seemed ridiculously superfluous for what we needed. It hit the market right after the Highlander and was hugely popular with a superfluous-minded public during the low gas price times. The guy opened it up, and we hesitantly peeked in. I opened the back door to take a glimpse and the salesman said, “ya know, what’s nice about this is that the middle seat is a full-size seat, not a half seat like in the mid-size SUVs.” I’m sorry, what did you just say? “The seat, there in the middle, it is the same size as the seats on each side. It’s a bigger vehicle so it’s going to have more room. You can fit three adults comfortably right across there.” I did know that actually, but the significance of it didn’t hit me until I saw it in person. He offered for us to drive it while we waited and he went to help some other people. So, Vic and I took it out for a drive to pass the time. All the while I kept looking back at that middle seat. I knew from my baby research that the safest place for a carseat was in the middle. But, until I saw it I didn’t realize that a careseat can’t go in the middle unless it is a full-size middle seat. It must be buckled to one of the side seats. Hmmm, this was now haunting me. So, I pointed it out to Vic, and we began to talk, and reason and justify. I told him what I had read about the models, but, no, there is no way we could afford it. When we arrived back at the dealership, the salesman said something like, “It’s nice ain’t it? So anyway, here’s what we’ve got for the Jetta, and the papers for the Highlander just need your signatures.” Vic said, “So how base does that Sequoia come?” And, so it began. There was a computer right in the showroom so I could look up what I wanted and decide on a price. Then the salesman looked at all the dealerships in their group and found Big Sam with 12 miles on it, still on the truck somewhere in Ohio, I think. We bought it, and drove our Jetta home. When it came in, an older couple hired by the dealership drove Big Sam the 57 miles from Columbia to us in Harvest and then drove the Jetta away (which I did shed a little tear because it was like a part of my “sporty” life drove away and left this huge, intimidating kid-life in my driveway. I loved my Jetta despite any faults. It was my third VW, second Jetta.) The Sequoia barely fit in our two-car garage. Vic hung a tennis ball from the ceiling to touch my windshield when I was pulled in far enough for the garage door to close but not bump the front wall (which, between you and me, was more of a reflection of his need for peace of mind than my skill. He has inflicted more pain on it than I have. And, yes, I drive it. Vic rides in the back with the kids. The car is for me to drive; I do the driving of it. When we are in Vic’s car he drives. I’ve never understood this insistence for the man to always do the driving when the mom is in her car. All of a sudden you’re married, so you are not allowed to drive when a man is in the car? It helps that Vic hates to drive and I LOVE to drive, and drive anything. But, still I have a car that I drive, he has a car that he drives. I’ve never understood why that is weird.) I remember how silly I felt when I looked in the backseat to see little bitty Hg in this cavernous cabin all by her little bitty self. But, as a new mom, I loved everything about it immediately. I loved that it was big, that is was safe, that it was dependable. It’s not fancy. To the shagrin of the kids, there is no DVD, no satellite radio, no GPS. It’s only what we need. Buying Big Sam is probably one of the handfuls of times that we did something right when making a decision together. We said then that unless it was totaled in a wreck that we would keep Big Sam for many years and anticipated the 200,000 mile mark when Hg turned 12. We weren’t far off in our estimation. And, thanks to Vic’s maintenance paranoia and mechanics skill, Big Sam has done well with no problems except what we have inflicted upon it like when Vic ran over a tree and busted something underneath and broke off the bug-guard (or eyebrows as the kids called it) during a storm coming home from church. Or like when Vic backed it into a cement pillar in a parking garage while Abbey had eye surgery and crunched the back window and brake light. Or like when I backed it into my mother’s car sitting behind me in the driveway and busted the bumper. Big Sam has taken it all with no complaints. I’m hoping to keep it another 100,000 because Vic wants to replace Big Sam with a minivan when it’s time. I know, I know, that is what we need, but, I love my large SUV (and its footprint!). Plus, Eli’s top Make-a-Wish is a camper so we would need something to pull it if he gets it (and he ain’t asking for a pop-up). If I am made to get a minivan, it will have to have all the bells and whistles to make me like it so by the time we pay for that we could buy a SUV (which doesn’t solve the gas issue, I know). So, as usual, Vic and I are on opposite ends of a decision, so unless Big Sam’s innards fall out soon, he will be part of our family for a good while yet so that I don't have to drive a minivan and hopefully has enough spunk in it so that it can pull Eli’s Wish. In the picture I'm including is Big Sam in June 2012 with 200,069 miles on it at the top of the picture. On the bottom is Big Sam when we bought him in February 2001 with 69 miles on it.