Today my brother and sister-in-law are picking up Mom’s car. They will clean it up and sell it in the coming weeks. I don’t know why this is making me so tender, but it is.
Mom hasn’t driven her 2001 silver Buick Le Sabre for years now. We’ve been hanging onto it because she thought it would be too hard to get in and out of a different car. Last week when we tried to use it to go to a doctor’s appointment, the battery was completely dead. Out of necessity, she got in and out of my Subaru just fine. Just like that, her need for the car suddenly disintegrated.
Of course, it’s the right thing to do. She pays good money for her rock star parking spot in the underground heated garage, not to mention insurance and tabs.
Even so, letting go of the car is another diminishment – another sign that the scope of her long and interesting life is shrinking.
Mom’s been a widow for a long, long time – 27 years. After Dad’s death, she took on all of the things he used to tend, including all things automotive. The Buick was the first car she purchased on her own and she took impeccable care of it.
That car gave her the power to just up and go – to do her grocery shopping at 11 pm or check on the spring flooding on the river downtown or go to church several towns away. She drove it – bravely – into the big city to attend many of my concerts, all without the benefit of GPS. It carried her to innumerable celebrations at my brother and sister-in-law’s place an hour’s drive from her home. It made many trips to her hometown of Des Moines, sometimes with her at the wheel and later with my brother or me driving.
When Mom stopped driving, she did so like the grownup she is — calmly and without a fuss. Since then she and I have taken that beloved old car on many jaunts:
- our annual drive up the river to admire fall colors
- visits to the orchard to get her favorite treat, apple rollovers
- driving by the old family place to check progress on the new owners’ remodeling
- tending Dad’s grave
- spontaneously visiting old friends and neighbors around town
- and so many dinners at her favorite haunts
As we were driving around in my car last week, she kept remarking how strange it was to be out in the world after being housebound for so many months. “Oh my!” she’d exclaim, “Oh my!” We agreed that getting her out and about more often is a good idea, especially with winter coming. I look forward to driving Mom around town, listening to her reminisce about her 60+ years in this place. No doubt, we’ll both miss that old Buick.
My mother and I are learning to let go of one cherished thing after another. One day she stops wearing red lipstick; the next day she can’t find the word she’s looking for. Now her car is gone. One by one these will continue to fall away until all that is left is love.