Cars

A month or so ago I started thinking seriously about getting an electric car.

I don’t think I’ve owned a car newer than five years old so I started looking at used cars. Leafs. Bolts. i3s. eGolfs. Fiat 500s.

Actually, I started looking at one or two person cars. I see them in Europe and they’re all I need for getting around town. I figured I would keep a gas car for longer trips and head to the coffee shop in a Twizzy of something.

Maggie said, “no”. She’d lost a parent in a car accident and she was not supporting a small car that could be run over by an SUV that just didn’t see it.

Kim was run over by a truck driver on his phone three years ago today.

The driver never did any time for swerving his truck into her while reaching for his phone. It cost him no money and no time in jail.

But that isn’t the story I was telling.

I was telling you about looking for a car.

Once I started thinking more seriously about the electric car, I decided that if I got one with enough range I could make it my only car.

The farthest distance I travel regularly is to see my mother in Oberlin. That’s about eighty miles round trip so I need one that can comfortably do, say, one hundred twenty which means it should be rated at one hundred fifty or so.

Most of my travel farther than that is by airplane. Now that Maggie has graduated and moved in to her new apartment I won’t be driving to see her. I’ll probably fly. For those occasional long trips, I can rent a car.

So I started asking friends about electric cars and they said the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Bolt, and the Tesla Model 3.

The only new car we’ve ever owned was the Honda we bought for Kim when we first adopted Maggie. We wanted to have a safe car for our new baby. A car that was reliable.

We decided to get a new car for Kim and a reliable used car for me.

It was a tough decision. We each loved our cars but they were old and neither was reliable.

She had a white Chevy Cavalier. She looked cute in it – but she looked cute in everything.

She knew exactly how big that thing was and could maneuver it in and out of tight spots without paying much attention.

I was driving a well-used Volvo. I loved that car. It was comfortable and drove great. The wind whistled oddly when I drove on the highway because someone had broken into the car to steal my stereo and the replaced window didn’t seal quite right.

So Kim and I went to a car dealership to buy a new car for her and a used car for me.

We knew what we want. We told the salesman what we wanted and who they were for. I told the salesman that Kim was the car person. But he decided to concentrate on me. When we test drove the car for Kim he suggested I get in and drive it and gestured Kim to the passenger seat.

He lost two sales that day. We’d come in to buy and we left with nothing.

Someone at the radio station knew someone who sold cars near us so we went in to look at a Honda.

He listened.

He focused on Kim and answered her technical questions. We bought the car and drove it for nineteen years.

Kim and I had been talking about selling it, but after Kim died I couldn’t have Maggie driving in a car that wasn’t absolutely safe.

I bought a used white Nissan Maxima. My mechanic knew a couple that was downsizing. The wife had a car that she only drove to Cedar Center to shop and to the beauty parlor.

The car was in great shape. It wasn’t really my style. It felt too nice for me. But I loved that car. It was easy to drive and had an electric sun roof. I drove it until just after Elena died. Too many things needed fixing.

So I’m looking for an electric car.

Last week Maggie and I test drove a Bolt. I have several friends who have one and speak highly of it. It’s rated for two hundred forty miles. So we test drove a 2017 model.

I liked it a lot. It drove a little funny as I came off the highway but the salesman said that’s just how it is. It tightens up at low speeds. Also I wasn’t used to the feeling of a car as it regenerates power. The price was good but it had been a fleet car and had enough miles in a year to void the three year/36000 mile warranty.

My mother had a great suggestion. “Test drive a new one,” she said. That way I would know whether that model had driven stiffly at low speeds or if the salesman had been right that they all do.

So I did. After I dropped Maggie off at school I went to a local dealership and drove a new Bolt.

It was nice. But it was more money than the base Tesla so I decided to test drive one of those as well.

A friend said that he thought Tesla was off-brand for me. That he couldn’t see me in one.

Perhaps. My cars had been old and used. I started in 1981 with a ’72 Century, then an orange ’62 VW Beetle. There was a brown Rabbit, a VW GTO, the Volvo sedan, and then that Nissan Maxima. Since then it has been Subarus. An Impreza, a Forester, and an Outback.

The Bolt does feel more like my brand: an aging, overweight, former academic. It felt like a regular car.

The Tesla was fun to drive and leasing it is about the same cost as buying the used Bolt.

Maggie reminds me that there’s no rush.

I was rushing a bit. I told them I’d make a decision today.

That was before I remembered that Kim was run over by a truck driver on his phone three years ago today.

Maybe that was why I’d set an arbitrary deadline of today. I can wait.

Kim was driving a car she absolutely loved.

She bought my sister’s Mazda Miata and she loved driving it.

She looked cute in it.

So cute.

She’d text me that she was coming home and I’d open the garage door for her. The dog and I would be working in the back yard at the picnic table.

She’d pull into the driveway with the top down, the radio playing, and she’d look over and smile and wave at us.

So cute.

So happy. She loved that car.

She’d pull into the garage and put the top up for the night.

I had an electrician over to see about restoring power to our garage. I should do it anyway. The automatic garage door opener hasn’t worked since a friend of Kim’s cut through the power while installing our patio.

He had trouble moving around in the room with the power in the basement.

I’d forgotten that the hard top to Kim’s car is still there.

I’m not going to make a decision about a new car today.

Kim was run over by a truck driver on his phone three years ago today.

 

Published in: on August 19, 2019 at 7:08 am  Comments (2)  

What’s Next

August 15, 2019 I helped Maggie move into her new apartment.

We walked around the corner so she could show me the high school she’ll soon be teaching in.

We walked around the neighborhood. There’s a Trader Joes a block away. A Walgreen across the street from that. An urgent-care.

She’ll be fine.

We went to lunch.

She walked me back to the car and we said goodbye.

And with that, she begins her new life.

And with that, I begin mine.

I remember holding her for the first time exactly twenty-two years ago one month from today.

September 15, 1997 when the caregiver from the orphanage placed her in my arms.

Her Gotcha-Day.

And every day since then has been preparing for her independence.

The first day Kim and I left her at Kim’s parents’ house.

The first day we left her at my parents’ house.

The first day we left her to go out for the night – to a baseball game.

The first time we left her for more than one day while we went to Toronto.

The first day of pre-school. Of Kindergarten. Of Middle School. Of High School. Of College.

Letting her go to camp. To Europe. To visit her boyfriend.

This is different.

This isn’t, “we’ll see you when we pick you up” at the end of the night. After school. After your trip. At the end of the semester.

Kim, you should have seen her.

She has so much of you.

She is a strong, smart, accomplished woman who has so much ahead of her.

I can’t wait to see what she does and yet I say that without expectation or pressure.

She knows me better than anyone in the world now that you’re gone.

She calls me out on things I need to be called out on and she listens even when she pretends not to.

I saw so much more of the world through your eyes than I did through mine alone. I would love to have spent the time in the car talking to you about our daughter and all that she’s become.

I look at Maggie and see three people. I see the parts that are Kim. I see the parts that are me. I see the parts that are so much more than either of us. The parts that are Maggie.

I cross the George Washington Bridge and drive through a corner of New Jersey and most of the way across the top of Pennsylvania before stopping for the night.

I have to pick up Annabelle in the morning.

I eat at a truck stop diner that is supposed to have great fried chicken at their buffet. That’s what their sign says. It turns out to be true. And as I eat a second plate full I get a text.

It’s Maggie.

She’s already set up her internet.

She went to the store and got the box and hooked it up herself.

She sends a picture of her apartment. It’s beginning to come together.

And with that, I know she’ll be fine in her new life.

And with that, I know I’ll be fine in mine.

 

Published in: on August 15, 2019 at 8:51 pm  Comments (4)  

Still

Twenty-six years ago Kim and I put rings on each others’ fingers and made promises to each other that we intended to keep for our entire married life.

I don’t remember if they included a “til death do us part” clause, but if they did I’m sure we would have interpreted that as a promise to be with each other and only each other for the rest of our lives.

There’s nothing in those vows about “and then what”.

Rings.

That outward sign of marriage.

A couple of years after Kim died, I found myself looking at ring fingers of women I would encounter. But there were married women who didn’t wear rings and non-married women who did. It was beyond me.

I had hoped that a ring would be an easy outward sign of whether a woman was married or not.

It wasn’t.

Then again, after our first year of marriage Kim and I didn’t wear rings.

We always said it was because we had gained so much weight by then that the rings no longer comfortably fit. So we decided not to wear them.

Could have been.

We talked about resizing them but we thought it would be a matter of time before we lost the weight again.

We never lost the weight.

We never resized the rings.

But we had developed other outward signs. I carried Kim with me wherever I went.

I always told stories about her.

What about now? Now that death has parted us? What are the rules for “and then what?”

About ten months ago Maggie encouraged me to try online dating.

I didn’t like dating in my twenties and I’m not liking it much now. But I did it as part of trying to figure out “and then what”.

It’s been ok but I think I’ll wrap it up when I get to a year.

I don’t know what I expected.

When Kim died, she and I had trips booked to conferences in Spain, Italy, and the Swiss Alps.

I’ve been invited back to Spain and Italy – there was a problem with the Swiss Alps where my flight was cancelled and they never invited me back.

When I go to these places, I carry Kim with me.

Recently, I was in Barcelona.

I went to two of Gaudi’s famous buildings, the Picasso museum, several Tapas restaurants, the Cathedral, and then I booked a visit to La Sagrada Familia.

I almost didn’t go.

I’d seen Gaudi’s La Pedrera with its stunning roof and nature themes and the nearby Casa Battlo with its sea themes.

I asked my brother and he said “you have to go. It blew me away.” ¬† So I booked a ticket to La Sagrada Familia.

From the outside it was impressive. Each face represented a different part in Christ’s life. The entrance is on the side of the nativity and the exit is on the side of the passion.

In between was stunning.

The inside of the church was so high and open with stain glass that transformed the towering columns into trees in a grove in a forest at dawn on the side of the nativity and at sunset on the side of the passion.

I walked around and around and took picture after picture that won’t do it justice.

Then I walked between the towering columns towards the alter and sat quietly and felt the peace.

After a while, Kim joined me.

I don’t mean she was there. I don’t mean anything ghostly or other worldly.

I just mean that the site was so moving that I sat and thought “Kim would have loved this.”

I sat with her memory and so she was there.

Had she really been there I would have apologized for being inappropriate two nights before.

She may have said it was ok. She may have said, “you really shouldn’t have.”

Whatever she would have said, I shouldn’t have said what I said.

I’d been at dinner with the speakers from the conference I was in town for.

The young man across from me had asked me a question and I said something like “my wife used to love to do that.”

“Your wife?” he asked.

“Kim,” I said.

“But you don’t wear a ring,” he said.

“I haven’t for years,” I answered.

He lectured me that it was wrong for married men not to wear rings.

He pointed to his own and explained that he would never go out without his. It was deceitful, it would mean that he was ready to cheat on his wife.

I could have interrupted him to let him know that in all of my years of not wearing a ring  neither Kim nor I had ever been anywhere near cheating on each other. I could have told him that this was an issue that is so black and white with me that it bothers me when characters in movies or television shows cheat.

But I didn’t.

But he wasn’t done. He had a bit more to say about the character of someone who leaves his wedding ring at home.

And then he looked at me and said, “and what about your wife? Does she mind that you are here without your ring?”

And that’s when I said what I shouldn’t have said.

I said, “I don’t know. She was killed in a car accident nearly three years ago.”

And then I felt really bad.

Two days later I sat with Kim in La Sagrada Familia.

I smiled and thought that had she really been here, she might have told me that he had it coming or she might have told me that I had been really mean and inappropriate.

If you knew her you know it could have gone either way.

I sat a while longer with Kim.

I sat until it was time for us to go.

I stood up and we walked around the church one more time looking at the stained glass, the columns, and the carvings.

I blinked as I walked back out of the church and looked at the statues on the passion side.

I haven’t worn a ring in twenty-five years.

My Facebook page lists me as a widow.

My Twitter bio lists me as a “Dad, husband, and storyteller.”

I wonder if something has changed in me that the young man across the table saw no outward signs. No one has ever asked me why I don’t wear a ring before. Not once in the years when I was married but didn’t.

Maybe I’m wrong, but twenty-six years ago, the rings were not the important part.

The promises were the important part.

We kept all of those promises and more during our marriage.

So, what about the “and then what”?

It turns out we keep some of those promises after death has forced us to part.

And we keep those parts of our loved one that death doesn’t take with it.

Happy Anniversary Kimmy.

 

 

 

Published in: on August 8, 2019 at 5:49 am  Comments (3)  

The Boar

One of the saddest facts I know (and the numbers may have changed) is that 85 percent of Americans can’t remember whether Astrology or Astronomy is the science.

Plenty of people read their horoscope for fun – and I have no problem with that. They’re having fun with it, not basing decisions on it.

Others use it to screen out potential mates and to make decisions about whether or not to act on something today.

Other cultures have their own version of this.

Many Chinese restaurants in America have paper placemats with the “Chinese Zodiac” printed on it.

It’s fun and it passes the time but it is no more scientific than the fortune we get at the end of the meal in the definitely- not-from-China tradition of fortune cookies.

That said, I’m the year of the boar.

This is my year.

Next year is Kim’s year. She’s the year of the rat.

I never looked to see if boars and rats are compatible any more than I checked for Libras and Virgos are.

No matter what they say – we were.

Very.

After Kim died, Maggie and I went to meet with the stone cutters. We wanted a stone in the same style as Elena.

Elena was a Rabbit.

Maggie was clear that the rat on Kim’s stone had to be rat-like. It couldn’t be cute and mouse-like. It had to say “rat”.

And so it does.

When Maggie was in kindergarten, one of her best friends was a Japanese girl whose mother was here to study at Case.

The girl was a little older than Maggie and she had a younger brother a little younger than Elena. Kim would sometimes watch the four kids after school and she got quite fond of the mother.

“She’s a rat too,” Kim said one day, happily.

And then she paused and her face fell.

“Oh,” she said.

“What?” I asked.

“She’s not my age,” Kim said, “so she must be twelve years younger.”

And she was.

They remained friends and we visited them in Japan shortly before Kim died. We had a wonderful time with them.

Knowing what year someone is tells you their age to a multiple of twelve.

Twelve animals.

Twelve years.

This is my year. The year of the boar.

You can probably look at me and tell I’m not twelve, twenty-four, thirty-six, or forty-eight.

You can probably see I’m not seventy-two, eighty-four, or ninety-six.

No. This year I turn sixty.

This is my year.

And so I decided that for this year I would say “yes” to any conference that invited me to speak.

It’s August and I have one-hundred thousand air miles already.

I’ve only said “no” to conferences where I was already committed that week and one that had a military theme.

I’ve said a lot of “yes”es.

I may continue to say “yes” next year too.

During Kim’s year.

The year of the rat.

I may keep going til my year pops up again.

Published in: on August 4, 2019 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment