My “be surprised” theme for 2016 is already not going as expected (because I always, always end up damning myself to regret what I wish for). Worn-down brakes, an expired clutch, a gas leak, and a dead battery cost me roughly $2000 in car payments just this month, on top of the medical bills for my kitty who is apparently allergic to everything. Yes, this is all part of adulting, but I really should have known better than to put “I want to be surprised!” in writing.
All these vehicle malfunctions in one month forced me consider whether it might be time to retire my almost ten-year-old Mazda and buy a new (used) car. At some point, it’s not worth paying to keep fixing a car when the payments almost add up to the monthly fees of a new one. I would like a car that has a built-in system just for iPods, so I can retire my ancient auxiliary cord that goes into the cigarette lighter and must be synced to a radio station with fickle frequency.
But…this was my father’s car. At some point it became the car my brother and I shared, and then the car I used to commute from school to my part-time job. When my brother graduated high school, he moved to Washington D.C., where owning a car is pointless, and I soon moved to Colorado. Dad leased a new car by that point, so I got to drive the Mazda across the country and call it mine. But the registration was in his name. Even after transferring the ownership and replacing the Ohio plates, it still feels like his. When I jack up the volume to Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young” while speeding down the highway, it’s almost like he’s in the car with me.
I don’t have much attachment to “things.” There’s really nothing I own that can’t be replaced – yes, even the books. The only priceless objects I have are my journals from the last ten years, and the first love note I ever received from my husband: a message with burnt edges to look aged that he rolled tightly and put in a bottle. I’d be devastated if I lost that, but otherwise I have no deep attachment to my clutter.
Somehow this car is different. It’s probably because there’s a good chance this will be the last stickshift I’ll own, at least for a while. Josh (who can’t and doesn’t want to learn how to drive standard) bought a new car last summer when his thirteen-year-old Sebring died, so if I got a new car, it would be the cheapest (but still reliable) we can find; whatever is available. Dad and I didn’t have much in common, but he taught me how to drive using a stickshift. I took my driver’s test in a stickshift (in hindsight, I really don’t recommend this).
For years it was a love-hate, stop-and-stall relationship between the stickshift and me, but I eventually learned to love it. It is becoming a lost art, and I picture Dad turning over in his urn if he knew I might own an automatic one day…but hopefully not today.
His second birthday post-mortem is February 9th. He would have turned 60.
I did put two bumper stickers on the car: “Books are Sexy” and “Team Oxford Comma,” but other than that, I think he’d be proud to see how well I’ve taken care of his beloved clunker.