A basic tenet of Buddhism is nonattachment.  In fact, if you cut through lots of the church doctrine that’s been added over the centuries to Christianity, if you get back to the basic teachings of Jesus, he too taught nonattachment.  Jesus and Buddha knew that life’s meaning and true joy were not to be found in our attachments to the material things we possess or engage in.  In fact, our attachments are precisely what keep us from the kind of experience Jesus and Buddha taught and demonstrated.

Knowing this, I must confess one of my most precious attachments.  I received a 1951 Chevy Pickup for my 50th birthday.  It was the most spectacular gift I’ve ever received, and it has been a source of immeasurable pleasure for the 13 years I have owned it.

Last week someone stole it.

It was just a vehicle, but then again, it was much more than that.  My wife, Judy, bought it sight unseen and transported it 1000 miles without my knowing it.  Doing so required her to lie repeatedly to me, sneak around, arrange financing, make transporting arrangements, drive, tow, and conceal over the course of several weeks, all while keeping me out of the loop.  My kids were in on it and they even kept the secrets.  All of that required the alignment of several stars into a universal cooperation rarely seen in human history.

The arrangements she made for transporting it would make a pretty decent suspense and comedy TV show.  She found the truck on-line being sold by a guy in Artesia, NM.  When she called him, he apologized that the truck was not in Artesia for her to look at.  It was in Lubbock, TX.  The first few stars lined up.  I have a brother in Lubbock.

Judy contacted Jim and asked him to go look at it.  He consented and then called back a few days later.

“I wouldn’t buy it if I were you.”

“OK, thanks, that’s what I need to know.”

“I wouldn’t buy it if I were you, because I want to buy it.”  Another star moved into place.

The deal was made.  Judy arranged the financing, title transfer, and all the rest.  Jim took possession of the truck.  Then she had to get it to me, from Lubbock, TX to Urbana, IL.  That’s when she began a series of lies to me.

“I’m going to drive with the kids to Springfield, MO to meet my mother.  Then they will go back with her for a week or two and I’ll come back.  You can have a quiet weekend here.”  That sounded good to me and it was something we had done before, so I didn’t ask questions.  Little did I know another star had moved into place.

What I found out later was that she met Jim in Springfield.  He towed the truck on a trailer to Springfield, then swapped the truck for the kids.  Judy pulled it back to Illinois in a white-knuckle drive.  She admitted that pulling that truck through the hills of southern Missouri and around St. Louis was the most nervous she has ever been.  But she made it without incident.  She parked it in the barn of a friend of hers who lives outside Urbana.  There it sat for a few weeks awaiting my birthday.

Did I suspect anything?  Yes and no.  I had found evidence of searches for antique trucks on our home computer.  But I dismissed them with, “Well, she has a great idea, but she’d never do that.”  Then while she was gone to get the truck, I got a call from our credit card company about a large purchase that was made and then cancelled in Springfield.  I informed them that Judy was in Springfield and I would contact her.  As it turned out, she had to have a heavy-duty hitch installed on our Ford Explorer and the folks that installed it accidentally charged her $1500 instead of $150 and immediately cancelled it.  And then there was the heavy-duty hitch on our Explorer.   I saw it.  I was intrigued, but only for a moment.  It was one of those moments that revealed the power of denial.  I immediately knew I didn’t want the details.  Something about it said, “I don’t know where it came from, but don’t ask.”  After a few times of telling myself that, I convinced myself the hitch had been on the truck the whole time.  Yes, sometimes denial is functional, even necessary for a few more stars to get settled.

Then came my birthday.  50 years old.  Judy and the kids had already told me they were taking me to the diner for breakfast.  My favorite place to eat breakfast.  The place that held a ton of history with me and each of my children.  That’s the stuff of another couple of articles to be written later.  Before breakfast, however, I was given a decoy gift, a chimnea.  It too was something I had asked for.  I looked forward to spending early morning and late evening hours on my deck watching the fire.  I was delighted with my gift and would have been happy to stop there.

So we went to breakfast.  Judy left in the middle of the meal and then returned.  Very early that morning she had driven the truck from her friend’s house to a parking spot a block away from the diner.  Now she had to park it squarely in front of the diner.  When we paid our bill at the register and stepped outside, my son said, “Hey dad, look at that cool old truck.”  It was indeed a beauty.  Bright blue, shining in the morning sun.  We walked over to admire it, and in the bed of the truck was a large sign, “Happy Birthday, Dad!”  The final star eased into position.

I had never before understood the concept of “speechless.”  Suddenly I did.  All I could do was stand there.  No words, no motions, no thoughts.  It was too much to take in.  I don’t remember what I did after that few seconds, but it was not enough.  No one is deserving of such a gift.  Not because of it’s extravagance but because of its perfection.  The perfection of it was made even sweeter as I got the details of how it was the truck “appeared” in the parking lot.

Am I attached?  You bet I am.  It’s not the kind of attachment that diminishes my soul.  I know that the truck does not complete me, nor will its loss destroy me.  My thoughts and emotions have ranged from outrage to deep sadness to “Oh well.”  I haven’t settled on any one emotion or thought for long.

But I know that the truck is not what counts.  I have the story of how the truck appeared in the parking lot, and having that story allows me to remember the more important attachments I have.  And that’s to the people who made the whole thing happen.

The one who stole the truck will never have the stories or that kind of attachment.  I am the richer person, with or without the truck.