My car is dead.
Mike and I bought our Subaru in 2005 anticipating the arrival of his girls on the island; at the time we had only his pickup truck - which I still have - so we needed more of a family car.
It’s funny how cars hold such a sentimental value. I’ve been asked several times if I’d sell his truck: NO WAY. It’s old, dirty and rusty but still runs great and it would never be worth in money what it is to me. He LOVED that truck. In fact, I have kept it pretty much as he left it. A pair of his shoes are in the cab along with the emergency kit he insisted on, and in the glove box are the gloves and do-rag he used when we rode his bicycle. Tarps, bungee cords, and other baubles he collected are in the toolbox along with the gloves he used when he went to the dump. I still use those same gloves every time I go now.
He had a necklace with a surfboard pendant hanging on the rearview mirror, and the other day when I was driving I noticed it was gone. When I got out at my next stop I searched frantically for it with a lump in my throat. I finally found it under the seat, and I sat there for a moment, relief and sorrow all rushing over me, my heart pounding. I wondered why it mattered so much when so many of his things are already gone from my life…and maybe that is why. The things I have left are just so dear to me now. Including his truck.
I know I’m not the only one who has experienced grief surrounding the cars our loved ones left behind. My friend Margaret’s husband had just bought a brand new car before he died that he was really excited about. She decided to keep it but was overwhelmed at the emotion of it all. My friend Renée kept her husband’s car for many years before finally selling it, also with great emotion. And getting this ready to post I just read Sarah’s latest about having to leave Drew’s truck behind as she plans this big move…I get it. I really get it.
So needless to say, if and when Mike’s truck finally leaves my life it will be exceedingly traumatic. But there are quite a lot of memories that took place in the Subaru too. So many adventures around the island; trips to the beach, trips to the airport to drop him off and pick him up when he was commuting to Oahu for work, countless shopping errands…and the horrible moment I finally got in the car by myself after he died. It took about two weeks before I could drive myself anywhere I was so shaken with grief, but when I finally did I cried the entire way downtown.
For awhile after the Subaru was gone, I thought well, I’ll just drive the truck, I’ll be fine. Believe me - I’m very grateful to have it even aside from the sentiment. I never had to worry about getting around when the Subaru was in the shop. And I had been using it at least once a week anyway for dump runs and various other errands that required hauling. But after a couple of weeks of using it for everything, every day, I realize I need an easier car. The truck is a manual transmission, big to maneuver, and sucks gas like crazy. And there’s no air conditioning. In fact, the AC in my Subaru wasn’t working either. Normally I’m not the sort of person to care about that, but it has been the hottest summer in memory out here thanks to the string of hurricanes passing by. It’s absolutely sweltering, and air conditioning now seems like an incredible luxury.
When I met Mike he had an old Toyota 4Runner that he adored. I remember all the stories he told me about that car; all his memories of a life lived so many, many hours in that thing. But the head gasket blew, and it died. It was 1999 and we had just moved in together in Los Angeles. We ended up selling it to someone there for parts and he cried when it got towed away.
I’m not sure if he would have cried over the Subaru, but he would have sure appreciated all the memories we created with it here. As all these things pass through and change in my life without him, I keep thinking, “end of an era, end of an era…”
A new one will begin now, yet again. I’m trying to put a positive spin on the idea of a new car, but I can’t stop thinking that it will be one he will never ride in.