One of the last things my dad did in his life was to sign his car over to me. It was inevitable that his time was short. He seemed to come to the realization that it was over for him when the car, a 1991 Olds Cutless Ciera, was brought up. The truth set in quickly as he laid there that times were moving on without him. Just for a little while the shock and hurt hit him. I know he had a tear in his eye when the final word came. The fact that he wouldn’t be able to drive his car anymore signaled that he wouldn’t be here anymore. Because if he were anywhere around and felt mobile at all he would be behind that wheel! I was amazed at how quickly though he came back to business. He signed his ownership of the car over in the same firm handwriting that he always did. It felt like it was his goal to finish out his last mission in life.
I left for the Secretary of State office to complete the transaction. When I returned home I walked in and told him the transfer was complete. He seemed very pleased. I told him I would take good care of his car. My words didn’t seem to matter as he was glad that he could leave behind something that would make me happy. His cancer doctor had given him a slow amount of morphine that would have him sleep his final days. “No need to have him suffering” was his reasoning. Of course he was right and I was so glad that I got to tell dad that he was the bravest man that I ever knew because of the pain he had to deal with without complaining. Even though he shook his head no, in my heart my statement was one hundred percent true.
There were a few minor things in the car that needed fixing. It needed new brake shoes for one. I remember riding with dad a few months earlier when I was hearing some grinding. Over the years he had lost some of his hearing and he didn’t hear it like I did. Normally dad was very careful in taking care of his car. He always had regular oil changes. Even though it was six years old when I got it, the car had only been driven twenty four thousand miles. The 1985 Camaro I had been driving was on it’s last legs. Shortly thereafter I sold it for $50 because the transmission blew out and it was only able to drive in reverse. Besides the minor brake job the Olds was in perfect running condition! I was very pleased to have the transportation problem in my life solved.
As with any car there are maintenance bills to pay. Over the years, whenever a bill came up I wasn’t thrilled, but I could justify the expense as part of the process. I figured that it is the price of driving which it is. No matter how careful you are with a car something will inevitably go wrong. Something will wear down or break. Parts will have to be repaired or replaced. Like a pet though, the longer you keep a vehicle the more a part of the family it becomes. Oh you may laugh at an object being a part of the family, but it’s true. Think about the times you talk to your car. Think about all of the hours you are behind the wheel. It’s so familiar and you learn it’s tendencies. You become an expert at driving that particular vehicle. Any other vehicle I drive is now an adjustment. Maybe the brakes are more touchy and I have to get a feel for them. Maybe the steering is a little different. With my Ciera everything was familiar and easy.
The thought occurred to me that we are a lot like our cars. Sometimes our brakes go bad and we say more than we should. Maybe our headlights go out and we don’t see clearly both physically and spiritually. Perhaps our steering goes astray and we end up in a bad place or a bad situation. Maybe our battery gets run down and we get sick. Inevitably our body gets worn out and we see the signs of aging appear. Sooner or later someone may tell us there is nothing more they can do to repair the damage.
Yesterday I left home to go back to work from lunch early. I had to make a stop to have my bent glasses fixed. As I was driving about thirty five miles an hour I heard a thump from my engine. After that the car stalled out and luckily I was able to wrestle it into the Psychiatric Hospital that was directly to my left. How ironic that we would end up at the Psychiatric Hospital with our breakdown. I knew this was something major and it was confirmed when it wouldn’t start back up. We did the usual things you would do in this situation. We had the car towed to a repair shop and like a relation of the sick we waited for the verdict. It was the next day when we got the outcome and the news wasn’t good. It seems the timing belt broke and that was the thumping noise I heard. Normally it may be worthwhile to have it replaced, but not on a car as old as mine. I had already poured major money into it just recently and now this. The time has come to say goodbye to the Olds.
When we got the news we started the task of cleaning out the car. Although I took good care of the car mechanically like I told my dad I would, on the inside I had papers of times past. Most were unimportant receipts or old registrations that could be tossed. My car was also home to my sports stuff such as my basketball, racquetball equipment, and golf clubs. Cleaning out that car is like sorting out all of the stuff in someone’s life after they pass away. Some of the stuff may be memories that we have of times past. Those are like the receipts I found in the car. Like in most cars there was money in the form of change. The money might be some wisdom we learned from the person that we can spend later.
In 1997 the year my dad died and the year I got the car I also started a new job. Over these last fifteen years I have worked with the same coworker in a two person office, Linda. Earlier this year Linda told me she was retiring. Next week will be her last. For the last fifteen years two things have been consistent in my life. I have driven the same car and I have worked with Linda. I know that in life change is going to happen. I have been blessed to have had stability for all of these years. For these things and so many more I am thankful on this Thanksgiving day!
I realize that change is inevitable and that it is good for us! I also wouldn’t blame you if you laugh at how sentimental I am about a car. In fact you probably have gone through many cars in the time that I have had one. I know dad would have told me years ago to get another car. But there was something special about that Olds. It was given to me by someone who I loved very much and it remained a memory of him. It was a last gift of love and I cherished it. The Olds Ciera was a lot like him too. It battled through the years until it broke down and couldn’t battle anymore. Maybe like my sisters dog Teddy, who bridged the gap for her from the time mom and dad died til now, his car helped me bridge that gap too. I will miss the familiarity of the Olds and the memories of all of the places we went together. Dad left a little bit of himself in his car and that is what I will miss the most.
See Hello Charley Goodbye Shine for a car story with my car as Sam Olds! hello-charley-goodbye-shine