Well, in this case, a 2004 Subaru Forester.
I must admit that as I write, my heart is as heavy as the hard chromium on a catalytic converter.
I had to take my mom’s car from her. I had to take her last symbol of eighty-three years of independence. I had to take the most favorite car she has ever owned… a fully loaded, soft gold colored, beige leather interior, mint condition with 6,000 total miles 2004 Subaru Forester.
Yes, I said 6,000 miles. As in 6,000 miles.
My mom is a fiercely independent woman who, like many of our mothers or grandmothers, has lived through the Great Depression, too many wars, and an explosion of technology that is unprecedented. My mom has had to adjust to widowhood and the deaths of many family members and friends.
She has mastered use of her computer, which keeps her in touch with her family and the world.
But I don’t think she ever thought that her car would be taken from her.
The problem is her scoliosis and severe spinal stenosis, both of which have ravaged her spine. And certain movements of body have become almost impossible. She still lives on her own at a wonderful apartment complex for the elderly. She walks at least a mile each day, often with her walker (but all too often, in my humble opinion, without). She takes the senior citizen bus to her local senior center for chair exercises three times per week, and also to her local Walmart (“Walmarts,” as she says). And she takes the senior bus to have her hair done once a week.
I take her grocery shopping, to her doctors’ appointments, and out and about for other essentials, lunch… and just plain old company.
But her beloved Subaru was always there in the parking spot, just waiting, all-gassed up for that necessary trip to the mall for a new outfit that she didn’t really need. Or to her local pharmacy, where she could spend hours picking out just the right greeting cards for the people she loves. And to the local Dunkin’ Donuts for that muffin or bagel or hot cup of coffee in the middle of the afternoon.
The Subaru was her magic carpet.
The problem is safety. Safety for her. Safety for others on the road. My mom insisted that her reflexes were good. “Watch,” she would tell me emphatically as she lifted her right foot and tapped it on the ground, “I still have my reflexes.” And I would nod and say, “I know. But driving is more than reflexes.”
Until today. Today was the dreaded appointment with her physiatrist. As my mom calls him… “my nerve, bone and muscle guy.” I knew I was going in today with the final question of driving. My mom knew the same. And I know we both knew the answer long before the appointment.
But today it was final. No more car. No, not even the mile to the mall, the .5 mile to the pharmacy, or around the corner to Dunkin’ Donuts.
No more car.
I felt such sadness come over me when the physiatrist slowly shook his head in that “it’s-just-not-a-good-idea” way. I felt debilitating pain. I felt that place where nothing can help.
My mom was stoic. She even tapped her foot and said, “My reflexes are still good.” But she said this with resignation.
I wish my mom had said, “NO. NO-ONE IS GOING TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO, DAMN IT.” But she didn’t. First, my mom never raises her voice in anger. Second, she never curses.
It got me thinking what I will do when my kids take my car from me some day. First, I will raise my voice. Second, I will curse, ‘cuz it’s something that I do…
And it also got me thinking about my mom and her cars. I remember my mom piling my brothers and me into her big blue and white Chevy station wagon when we lived in California and my dad was “out to sea” for months at a time. We went on adventures each day – the Navy pool, the San Diego Zoo, and always for ice cream at the local ice cream shop. When we moved back to New England where my mom grew up, she piled us kids into her steel blue Falcon for all the trips to visit relatives, to all of our lessons, to the library, and always to our local ice cream shop.
I remember my mom taking me out to drive when I had my learner’s permit. By then she had a little red Corvair. Oh, how she didn’t raise her voice or curse at me during those trying times is beyond me.
So my heart is heavy for the woman who taught me how to do cartwheels in my back yard. How to dive into a pool. How to hit a golf ball. How to bowl a strike.
How to drive.
Hey, maybe a big, hot, heavy, cruisin’ hot rod Lincoln would be a safer bet?
I’ll pass that one by my mom…