Sunday Blog 79 – 9th April 2023
It’s fair to say my father loved life, and left it reluctantly just before he turned 95, nearly three years ago now. Even two weeks before his death he was fairly adamant he would get behind the wheel again on discharge from hospital after another health setback.
The family meeting prior to discharge prompted his announcement he would probably get back behind the wheel by and bye. The gerontologist was firm.
“You can’t drive Gerard. You don’t have the strength in your legs!”
He looked slightly mortified at this aspersion cast on his capacity, but it seemed to sink in. He’d never listened to us telling him (again) that he may well kill someone while out and about in his car and how would he like that?
His red car gathered more scrapes and dings in the last years of his life. Once so fastidious about getting every dent repaired, he’d started to let them go.
Two weeks after his gerontologist told him he didn’t have the strength to drive, he was gone.
For the next two and a half years, the car largely sat in the driveway, only taken out now and again for a spin to the local shops. It had a very sensitive accelerator and roared rather unpredictably up the driveway as if keen to be back on the road.
And suddenly, this weekend, it was the right time to sell.
Mindful of the importance of a clean car on sale price, I took the red car out of its driveway for the last time and straight through the car wash. I then drove 30 minutes to my home to sell it from there. The wind and sun would dry it out to a car yard sheen.
Alone in the car for this last drive in our family, I found myself talking out loud. “What a beautiful day for a drive!” I reassured the car, or Dad, or myself.
It was. The stunning river to the right, the car sailing smoothly along to remind me what a beauty it is to drive.
Once I arrived at my home there needed to be a certain amount of vacuuming before any ads could be posted. Last bits emerged from under seats and in glove boxes like archaeologist finds:
- Not one, but two UBD (Urban Business Directory or Map Book) – one from 2009 and one from 2011. Memories of navigating in the 1980’s swamped me when I opened one up. Where you wanted to go was always in the impossible-to-read crease of the map.
- A holy medal to protect the driver (he never left home without one)
- A tin of barley sugars with a best-before date of June 2020 (although clumped together, darling husband confirmed they were still delicious)
- His trusty chamois in a Cottee’s jam jar – always in the glove box
- Glass wipes for the winder (also permanently housed in the glove box)
- Two unidentifiable bits that I hope weren’t vital for the car to operate
- A notebook with his spidery writing with a list of plants and chores
- A one-word shopping list, more spidery now, just asking for “Porridge”
- A crumpled mask to mark the pandemic
Losing the ability to drive was such a curb to his independence. He would have dearly loved to have mastered the art of catching an Uber. He always called them “Yubers” and the only time I rode in one with him he was entranced by the magic of alighting without handing over any cash or card.
The red car’s new young owner seemed very happy with his purchase. He may even get rid of all the dents and scratches and the red car can ride again in all its glory.