a eulogy

Cars to some people are just cars, but all of my cars have been special to me because I spend so much damn time in them. Never having very much money since getting my first car, I've always nursed my cars along, aided mercifully by my Dad and brother A3 (both mechanics). I spent hours in our garage learning oil changes, checking and filling and changing tires, changing wiper blades; learning what Dad considered the bare minimum. If only I'd paid attention I would have learned everything about cars, including how to replace an entire engine--yes, my Dad and brother actually did this over the course of several months using a lift that my Dad designed and built! I would be able to again wiggle under a car and actually know what to do. Even if it just meant handing my Dad tools, or sitting in the car and pumping the gas or brake pedals to get fluids coursing through lines, that time meant being with my Dad, and those are hours I will never get back and never get to repeat.

Preparing to get rid of my car, Harry-the-car-who-lived (see Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, Chapter 1), meant unstuffing overstuffed side pockets, glove compartment, middle console; removing maps from the 3 states I lived in while I owned the car; removing the library books that need to be returned before my move; emptying the trunk, which still has reminders of my last move; stripping away to reveal the car as I purchased it.

Now that the car is gone, I am left with loss. It's not the car, it's missing my Dad, knowing that as the years pass since we lost him, there are more and more things he misses out on, that we miss out on, more things that happen in our lives that he should be a part of...

So, today I am wading through missing Dad and thinking about a great little silver Saturn that saw me through:
  • 4.5 years
  • 70,000 miles (it's final count was 263,389)
  • 3 states: Michigan to Massachusetts, Massachusetts to Ohio
  • Hauling around friends, nieces and nephews, best friends' kids, vegetables from my garden
  • So many great memories

I am reminded of a poem I read for the first time after my Dad died, the poem was in a book B1 sent me to get me through the really rough days and the sleepless nights: Garrison Keillor's Good Poems for Hard Times. An excellent collection.

"Starting the Subaru at Five Below"
After 6 Maine winters and 100,000 miles,
when I take it to be inspected
I search for gas stations where they
just say beep the horn and don't ask me to
put it on the lift, exposing its soft
rusted underbelly. Inside is the record
of commuting: apple cores, a bag from
McDonald's, crushed Dunkin' Donuts cups,
A flashlight that doesn't work and one
That does, gas receipts blurred beyond
recognition. Finger tips numb, nose
hair frozen, I pump the accelerator
and turn the key. The battery cranks,
the engine gives 2 or 3 low groans and
starts. My God it starts. And unlike
my family in the house, the job I'm
headed towards, the poems in my briefcase,
the dreams I had last night, there is
no question about what makes sense.
White exhaust billowing from the tail pipe,
Heater blowing, this car is going to
move me, it's going to take me places
--Stuart Kestenbaum, from Pilgrimage


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