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I’ve had a number of Saabs over the years, and one of the things that surprises me is that they’re a lot like potato chips.

You can’t have just one.

Why?

Well, there’s the fact that the company that made them doesn’t really exist anymore, and so getting parts for them can be a challenge.  So you have a spare where you can get parts from.

Understand, this is something that can turn from a hobby into an obsession, and there are stories of people who’ve collected hundreds of the things.

But I came across a realization awhile back.

So, in order, my Saabs went like this:

1966 Saab Sport (the one dad bought in Illinois in about 1970)

1965 Saab 95 ($531.26) That’s the one in the back in the photo below.

1967 Saab 96 ($300.00)

1968 Saab 96 Deluxe V4 ($100.00)

1968 Saab 96 Deluxe V4 (Free, I just had to come and get it)

1965 Saab 96 (This is the one in this story, it was free, and was delivered to me)

1968 Saab 96 Deluxe V4 (This one cost some money, and was made 6 cars after the one I had to go pick up, for free.  The three 1968 ones are a story in and of themselves here: https://tomroush.net/2010/09/23/transmissions-from-God/)

Two 1965 Saabs. The Model 96 here in the story is in front, the Model 95 is in the back.

So you can see, there were a few Saabs running around, and to say they were in my blood would be an understatement.  Over time, I moved on, and some of the Saabs didn’t, and just sat there.

That became a problem, and it became obvious that that the question, “If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it.” doesn’t just apply to things financially, it applies to time as well.  See, each of these cars had its own quirks, personalities, and so on, but each car also required time on weekends to maintain, to pay attention to, in ways that modern cars simply don’t ask for.

And so the long transition from keeping something physically to keeping something in my memory started.  See, the 1965 Saab 96, the one that was free (in the photo above), was starting to cost, both in time and in money. My dream was to restore it and in the end, it’d look and sound a lot like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3W2OeizGzw but being honest with myself, there was no way I was going to be able to have the combination of time and money to get that particular car both roadworthy and restored the way I wanted it to be restored.  Understand, it would have been fun to see it, smell it, and to hear that “massive” 46 cubic inch 3 cylinder two stroke engine make the sound of Stihl chainsaw crossed with a Sherman tank, but it had to be stripped down to bare metal for all that to happen, and hard as it was to admit, there were other things more pressing in my life, and just like you have to prune a tree to help it grow, there are times you have to get rid of things to either help you grow or allow you to grow.

So it went.

The valuable parts were removed, and the moth-eaten woolen seat covers and rusted-through fenders were left. Someone came and took the rest of it away for scrap, paying a small amount of money for it.

I took that money, folded it up, and put it in a hidden pocket in the wallet I’d made in the 4th grade (and still carried) and kept it there, for many years.

I vowed I would spend it on something worthwhile, and so, one Sunday afternoon some time back, I was able to do just that.

My friend Greg and I met at the quiet, grass airfield near Enumclaw, and I discovered, given that this was October, that there is a wonderfully different way to see the fall colors I’d seen on the trip there, in a way you don’t ordinarily see them, and that was from the sailplane.

The plane this time was a Blanik, and the flight was higher than I’d flown before, and it was a little longer than I’d flown before.  My other friend, also named Greg, was doing the piloting from the back, and this time I didn’t touch the controls, I was able to simply enjoy the view, which I needed.

Mount Rainier out the left side of the Blanik

We flew along the ridge and got a little lift from the updrafts, and got just a touch more altitude from them.  I learned, just by watching how Greg flew, that up to a point, the closer you got to the ridge, the stronger the updraft would be, so we flew quite a bit closer to the side of a mountain than you might ordinarily fly.  Because Greg knew what he was doing, flying close like that was safe.   After some exploring of the sky near the ridge, the altimeter needle had wound down to where it was time to land…

You could almost reach out and touch the cliff

I’d wanted to share what it was like in ways I couldn’t before, so I held the camera up as we were on the approach, and made a little video of our approach and landing, including majestic Mount Rainier in the distance.  You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWwJ7sIRroc

We got out, and sat at the picnic table there at the field, and I fished out that money that had been hiding in my wallet for those years, and amidst the paperwork, the sectionals, and the air traffic control tower (the radio) gave it to Greg for the cost of the flight.

There’s always paperwork

And in that moment, it got me thinking…

You see, I’d really, really wanted that Saab I had to run, but it had been sitting there for quite a number of years, and it was clear there was no way I would restore it.  The moths had eaten at the woolen seat covers, and the rust was definitely making inroads on the rest of the car.

Like my uncle once said, anything you have, when it is first a part of your life, will give to you, whether it’s happiness, health, money, whatever.  But at some time, this thing that you have will start to take those things away.  If it’s a thing, it will wear out, or it will require more maintenance than you have time for, or it will cost money to store, or restore… At some point, this thing that once gave you joy will start costing.  It will cost time, it will cost money, or both…  You will find yourself thinking about it and trying to figure out how to keep it functional.

Where it gets challenging is knowing when to quit.  When to realize that you will not get anything out of your relationship with this object other than memories of what could have been, but never will be, that is the challenge, and that is the time to give it up.  To let it go.

And so, when it came time to let go of that 1965 Saab I’d wanted to restore, it was with some sadness, but also with an understanding that the options were narrowing, and it needed to go.

And I traded something that moths and rust were destroying for a treasure in the heavens…

Wait – where had I heard that before?  Oh – it turns out that the reason this was hitting me so hard wasn’t because it was a new lesson – it was an old one – taught by a fellow sitting on the side of a mountain, written down by his friend named Levi, and in chapter 6 was a very short verse, part of which said simply this:

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt…”

…and so – without knowing it, and not exactly as Levi intended – I realized that in some small way – I’d done just that.

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Tom Roush

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