Posts Tagged ‘transitions’

When looking back on my life, I tend to see it as a series of chapters. Sometimes the chapter ends in a cliffhanger, and at others, it’s a smooth segue to the next part of my tale. The cliffhangers are rarely fun as they generally involve uncertainty, but the smooth segues are just as likely to be bittersweet as they are to be happy endings. This week is one of the latter, a quick flurry of activity that wraps up a major facet of my life, a transition for which I am ready but which still is tinged with sadness.

It was my father who infected me with a love of old cars. He was a fan of the MG-TD, a British car manufactured in the early ’50s, and he had one throughout my early years. For most of those years, it spent its time in the garage, unused, gathering dust, waiting for the funds that would bring it back to life. But while it never left its bay beneath the dark rafters, it took me around the world. Often I’d climb in, breathe air heady with the pungent smell of wax and gear oil, lean back into the creaking seat leather, run my hands across the smoothness of the polished walnut, grip the knurled ring of the gigantic steering wheel. I’d press buttons, move the stick shift around, sitting tall so I could see over the dash and out the windscreen into the darkness, and drive off into my imagination. I drove past pyramids and leaning towers, through canyons and forests, across countries and continents, all from the shadows of our garage.

There came a day, though, that my father had to face the facts; every year that the old car sat in the garage only added to the cost to make it roadworthy, and with a growing family, it was an expense he could no longer even plan to justify. And so there came a Sunday when a burly man with a tow truck showed up on our suburban street. I stood in the door from the kitchen to the garage, watching. Through the open garage door I could see my father and the man, standing in the harsh sunshine, talking in low tones. My dad nodded, the two men shook hands, and then the tow truck was backed up into our driveway. I went out into the blinding sun and stood by my dad; he stood there, arms crossed, brow creased, jaw set. Chains and straps and bars and hooks were attached and wrapped around our old friend, and with the sound of winches and whining motors, the back end was lifted, suspended over the smooth concrete slab of the garage floor. The driver said something to my father—I don’t recall the words but the tone was one of thanks—and then he climbed into the cab of the tow truck and started the engine.

What happened next remains a visceral memory, for that old MG had been one of the few constants in my life. In the few years prior to that day, we had moved from the only home I’d ever known, my mother had died, my father went through a period of grief, had eventually remarried, and then my twin brothers arrived. Nothing I knew was dependable, nothing was permanent, nothing except that car. So when I realized it was going away, not for repairs, but forever, the twisted rope of my emotions tightened toward breaking. And when the driver began to drag it out of the garage, the car’s front wheels locked, as if it didn’t want to go, as if it wanted only to stay, wanted me to drive it around the world, again and again. The tires squealed as it was dragged out of the garage onto the driveway, and screamed when they hit the asphalt. The car screamed as it was towed away, down the street, around the corner, and out of our lives. I looked up at my father—a man who never cried—and saw one great tear fall from his eye. Without a word, he turned, went into the garage, and closed the door on the empty bay.

I stayed there, standing in the driveway, sun hot on my head, the echoes of the car’s defiance still ringing in the air, until it faded from my ears. From my ears, but never from my heart.

I think of this day now because I am doing something similar. Pepper, our 1962 Triumph TR3-B roadster, who has been our joy for a decade, has been sold. Soon, a truck will arrive at my driveway, and a driver will, with chains and straps and bars and hooks, winch Pepper onto a flatbed truck for her journey to Beverly Hills where she is sure to find a new home. I, too, am likely to shed a tear (or two) as she is taken away, but unlike my father, I’m ready. She was tons of fun, and with her we explored the backroads of Seattle and Puget Sound, enjoying the 360° panoramic view from her open air cockpit, but now, with retirement looming, the costs and discomforts of keeping and driving a car that has no windows, no heater, and minimal shock absorbancy, well, let’s just say it’s time to turn the page.

So long, old girl. May the road rise up to meet you.


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