My husband and I just sold a car we’ve been driving for 10 years. We bought it from my dad, when he was no longer able to drive. It was difficult for my dad to give up driving it. It’s been equally difficult for me.
It was a 2001 Lexus, ES 300, which he purchased brand new. He was so proud of the car and the luxury it espoused. He was proud all the way to the day he drove it into his home’s water heater in his garage because his stroke-numbed right foot mistook the gas for the brake.
He was more cautious after that. More humble.
And yet, he managed to scrape a few more things, like his in-ground garbage cans. And his neighbor’s parked Cadillac as he drove past it in their parking lot. (Although she gave him flowers for not reporting it to insurance. She had a few car issues of her own.)
I think he was glad to sell it to me. This way he could pretend it was still available to him. Even though I drove it away from his home in Arizona to mine in Colorado.
At first, whenever I drove it I felt like I was an old man. Even though of course I’m not a man and wasn’t yet feeling even close to old. I felt like I was him.
When he died I was glad for the opportunity to feel these things. I drove it all over Montana and South Dakota and Wyoming. A road trip he would have been proud of. A road trip he would have liked to be part of. In a way he was.
He missed driving in the end. Not just the act, but the ability to go where he wanted when he wanted to. He liked to wander. Being housebound leads one to wander in the mind. He did that all too much in the end.
He replaced the car with a scooter. When he considered moving into assisted living, they told him he couldn’t bring it. It seems he was just as prone to near-misses and slightly-not-misses with the scooter as he was with the Lexus. He always liked to drive fast. But his spirit became faster than his brain. They said he was dangerous with that thing.
We always felt that thrill when he drove. When my siblings and I were children he drove so fast down the hilly country lanes that the car caused our young stomach’s to flip in delight (at least delight is what I felt). He called them tickle bumps. Later he wove in an out of lanes of traffic on city freeways. I never held on tight like my mom and others.
He never killed anyone.
In his spirit, I drove the car 10 years. I drove it all over the west, but primarily in Colorado. I drove it for work and later my husband drove it back and forth to work. I drove it fast. I enjoyed every mile. It kept me safe all these years, like having my dad with me, watching out for me still.
Now it has a new home. A young man and his parents. The young man shares a name with my younger brother so it feels right. As they left, I gave the young man the kind of warning my dad would have given. I told him it goes fast. I gave him some tips to keep him from speeding unexpectedly. He probably won’t listen.
As they drove away I cried. I was ready to let go of the car but I realized it really was an old man’s car. It was my dad.