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Requiem

Sunday, October 06, 2013

I’ve known Bill for nearly fifteen years now, but his 1996 Isuzu Hombre truck is even older than our relationship. One sometimes wonders about a man’s attachment to his vehicle. He has been as reluctant to say goodbye to the Truck as if it were an old girlfriend. I have no problem with this, except that it has become a HIGH-MAINTENANCE old girlfriend.

And it doesn’t like me much, even though I’ve saved its sorry ass a few times. Although Bill swears it is easy to drive, its shift throw (at least in my hands) is painfully long and circuitous, its clutch is stiff and balky, and, as I’ve said, it doesn’t like me much. I haven’t driven the thing in at least ten years. I’ve explained to Bill that I simply can’t drive it, though a stick shift is not beyond my driving skills.

And yet.

What is it about our vehicles that takes us right back to the days when our mode of transportation was a living, breathing creature? When I finally had to junk my red Honda Civic, in which I celebrated the passage of 200,000 miles, I watched her being towed away with tears in my eyes, her tattered owner’s manual in my hand. I felt as if the knacker had come for Ginger in Black Beauty.

You see, the tenure of the Truck has traced the entire length of Bill’s and my time together. When I first flew down to Florida to spend a weekend with Bill, it was the Truck that picked me up at Tampa International Airport. It was a trim, teal-green little dude then. I learned how to relax into the Florida lifestyle in it. I propped my sandaled feet up on its dash as we drove to Orlando, to Mt. Dora, to St. Pete Beach. And I had my first chance to save its ass when it broke down on the way back from Madeira Beach, while “I’ve Seen Better Days” played with upbeat irony on the radio. My AAA account covered us, even though it wasn’t my vehicle. In true Florida style, we waited for the tow truck in a bar near where we broke down. The tow truck driver was delightful. It was the beginning of a great adventure.

The truck mouldered with Bill’s mechanic Dave in Tampa until long after he had driven to Massachusetts to live with me, in an ancient blue van borrowed from his best buddy, in which all his possessions and a family of Haitians traveled through Hurricane Dennis. The Haitians’ own car had broken down somewhere in Georgia, and Bill drove them most of the way home to Connecticut. I believe they still owe us a roasted goat.

About a year later, we made an epic drive in the blue van, from Wayland, Mass., to St. Pete, where we returned it to its owner and got the truck out of the shop. This was the trip when we had Easter dinner with Bill’s mom in Spring Lake, NJ; first visited Savannah; and stopped at a revival meeting in South Carolina on the way home.

Our mini-Aussie, Dingo, had a history all his own with the Truck. Dingo loved to ride in the front seat with Bill. After a skunk encounter that ended badly (don’t they all), Dingo went to the vet in the Truck. Because its cab is small, all odors, all air conditioning, and all heat always end up concentrated in that compact box of a space. For reasons known only to him, Bill stopped at Market Basket on the way home from the vet that day. As he stood in line, those in front of him slowly swiveled around, one by one, sniffing. It was like “Slowly I turn.” The cashier’s eyes began to tear. “Okay, I’m sorry!” Bill blurted. “My dog got skunked, okay?” It took a year and a couple of cans of Febreze before the Truck was finally deodorized.

Dingo loved to get loose when he could, which is what led to the skunk incident in the first place. If somebody left the front door even slightly open, he bolted. He'd stretch out his little legs and run like the wind, in big circles around us or the house, like he was herding sheep. The only thing that could call him home was Bill saying, "Go for ride in the Truck!" When I gathered up his broken body to bring him home the last time, it was "Go for ride in the Truck” that I whispered to him.

When we were forced to pay outrageous legal fees to bring my never-ending divorce to a conclusion, the Truck helped Bill deliver newspapers in the dead of night to help pay them. It bore masking tape, markers, and baggies on its dashboard, maps on the front seat, all in support of a system that Bill had worked out for the job. Newspaper delivery has no sick-time excuses, so it was the Truck that saved Bill’s neck one night during a blizzard in which he careened backwards down an icy hill into a snowbank overlooking the Piscataqua River and drove, blind, between honking semis on an unplowed Route 101 between Portsmouth and Exeter.


The Truck has moved our belongings six times, from Wayland to Holliston; from Holliston to Marblehead; from Marblehead to North Conway, NH; from North Conway to Portsmouth; from Portsmouth to Exeter; and from Exeter back home to Florida, there to rest its weary bones.

It has a hidey hole next to the map pocket on the passenger side, where contraband may be stored.

Its clock cannot be reset without consulting the owner’s manual … every time.

At this point, there is little left of the driver’s side seat, now reduced to exposed foam padding and a metal skeleton. In the craigslist writeup, the front seat is described as “rough.” The dashboard is brown with coffee and cigarette stains. The radiator has a relentless leak; the oil pan is held together with chewing gum and solder. Even the Ron Paul and custom-made “Save the Big Easy” bumper stickers are fading.

But when some yahoo comes to pay $500 and drive the Truck away for scrap metal, I’ll be in the house crying my eyes out.


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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

REDHATSHAPELY1 11/12/2013 5:39PM

    Great story! I loved it.

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SLIMSHANN 11/9/2013 12:02PM

    I loved your story. I am reading it on the morning my DH and I celebrate our 25th anniversary with my 2 mini aussies snuggled up beside me. My mind swoops back and over the past years that seemingly went by in a blink to a time before we met.
I had just gone through a very hard time, yes a divorce and was left with nothing except the dog. Loved that dog. One frosty day while walking the 2 miles to college I walked passed the same car lot I walked by every day with nary a glance and stopped there in my tracks. At the back of the lot was this little green 1977 Toyota corolla station wagon. I was sure the little headlights were blinking at me. I missed classes that day. I sat on the steps of the car dealer until it opened. Took the car for a spin. Had it checked out by a mechanic. Called my mom and asked for a $1500.00 loan. And drove the car away. I only budgeted $5.00/week for gas so still had to walk a lot. She was my freedom. I named her SHRUB. I could fit everything I owned in that car with a seat of honour for my then golden retriever. I still miss them both.
That little car and that very loyal dog drove me well into the wonderful life I have now with a much better man, our 2 children and 4 dogs.

Thank you so much for taking me down that memory lane at such a special time in my life.

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SLIMSHANN 11/9/2013 12:02PM

    I loved your story. I am reading it on the morning my DH and I celebrate our 25th anniversary with my 2 mini aussies snuggled up beside me. My mind swoops back and over the past years that seemingly went by in a blink to a time before we met.
I had just gone through a very hard time, yes a divorce and was left with nothing except the dog. Loved that dog. One frosty day while walking the 2 miles to college I walked passed the same car lot I walked by every day with nary a glance and stopped there in my tracks. At the back of the lot was this little green 1977 Toyota corolla station wagon. I was sure the little headlights were blinking at me. I missed classes that day. I sat on the steps of the car dealer until it opened. Took the car for a spin. Had it checked out by a mechanic. Called my mom and asked for a $1500.00 loan. And drove the car away. I only budgeted $5.00/week for gas so still had to walk a lot. She was my freedom. I named her SHRUB. I could fit everything I owned in that car with a seat of honour for my then golden retriever. I still miss them both.
That little car and that very loyal dog drove me well into the wonderful life I have now with a much better man, our 2 children and 4 dogs.

Thank you so much for taking me down that memory lane at such a special time in my life.

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TINKERBELL200 10/15/2013 9:30PM

    What an awesome ride you two have had and all the adventures! I'm sure you and Bill will miss her. She has lots of memories. You always have awesome blogs Suzy. Love to read your stories from your heart!



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HIPPICHICK1 10/8/2013 9:36AM

    emoticon story!

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CHOCOHIPPO 10/7/2013 9:27PM

    What a wonderful journey you've all had!

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GEORGE815 10/7/2013 4:48PM

    Surprised that there is enough left over for the next owner.

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BROOKLYN_BORN 10/7/2013 4:04PM

    Your title scared me a little. I relaxed after realizing that you weren't talking about a human being. Still I understand exactly how you feel. As they towed away our 1978 Chevy Van just a few years ago, all those vacations and first days of school and going off to college just came flooding into my memory. I agree with Linda that it looks really good.

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GABY1948 10/7/2013 3:28PM

    I LOVED this story, Suzy! Especially the part about Dingo...and cried...but our Libbie used to get skunked all the time and I had to go to the grocery store to get more dish detergent to wash here...and luckily it was 6am so empty but the cashier, wrinkled her nose a couple times and finally asked if I got SKUNKED...I was SO embarrassed...so I totally relate.

I keep thinking you SHOULDA been a WRITER...for sure! Made my day! emoticon emoticon

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SCOOTER4263 10/7/2013 11:12AM

    I completely, absolutely understand. Vehicles get to be like members of the family. Silly, but true.

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NEW-CAZ 10/7/2013 3:23AM

    WOW what a story, thanks for sharing
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_LINDA 10/7/2013 1:29AM

    After reading your story I was expecting a real junker, rusted out, with different colored doors lol. In that photo, it looks brand new, not even a dent or a scratch except for the bumper! Never having owned or driven a vehicle I really cannot relate to it except having owned something for so long through so much history would indeed be a sad thing to give up It was poor Dingo's loss that got me tearing up :(( I hate hearing about the tragic loss of a fur baby :((
Thanks for sharing your story and the truck's (I agree -it should have had a name)
emoticon emoticon emoticon

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RD03875 10/7/2013 12:20AM

    WOW, what a story, I kind of feel sad for the truck but I'm sure a new girl will show up soon!

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_UMAMI_ 10/7/2013 12:16AM

    So many elements made me feel connected to your story. Meeting my own soon-to-be husband, after 15 years apart, though he picked me up from the airport in his Dad's pickup truck (larger, therefore implying a bigger you-know-what than his own small Chevy S10. ;-P )

That truck was all we had, 15 years ago. No a/c. I had a car plow into me when I had no license (having just moved down from Boston), but I got off scott-free. (TX police and blondes: they'll "work with ya".) I also remember being pregnant and driving with a bag of ice between my legs (no a/c). So, yeah, kind of attached to this truck, though I hated it.

When his (DH's) pickup got towed eventually, it had had a feral cat living in it, was missing a window (filled with a CONE of some sort), and the tow-truck driver said, "You just didn't LOVE this truck enough!"

I never let DH live that one down. But I think YOU loved your truck enough, and it will drive off into the sunset with honors.

And you paid it a proper homage.
emoticon emoticon

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68ANNE 10/6/2013 10:55PM

    Is it a Yankee thing? I've had vehicles I've saved and named even. Maybe just rednecks teehee

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JOYINKY 10/6/2013 10:34PM

    emoticon A really good read! I have to wonder if the truck had a name. I've never named a vehicle, to me they are just transportation; but, I do have friends that have. After reading your requiem, even I hate to see you say goodbye!

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MORTICIAADDAMS 10/6/2013 8:43PM

    It sounds like the truck has become a family member. It's gonna really hurt to let him/her go. I must admit the truck is still rather attractive to me too. I like the body lines and the color. It has character.

Looks a lot like Ian's truck though Ian has a 98 Ford Ranger and his is green. We bought it for him when it was 2 years old - he saw it on a dealership parking lot and it was love at first sight. It had 38,000 miles. When his dad didn't seem totally impressed with the truck Ian almost screamed. He had to have that truck, nothing else would do. It was him. He loves his truck as much as any rich man loves his Ferrari. When I gently remind Ian that his little truck won't last forever and he needs to save for a new vehicle he becomes visibly upset and professes that love. I tend to think that given the choice of choosing his dad and me or the truck, the truck would come out on top. Benny has fixed Ian's "Girlfriend" many times. Ian thinks it is invincible.

After reading about your, Bill, and Dingo's life in that truck I can now understand Ian's loyalty to his. It was his first girlfriend and I'm sure he has many memories in that truck like you had in yours.

It's easy for me. I still have the only car I really loved. It's a mess but it's in the old garage - a 75 MGB. I bought it new at Continental Cars in St. Louis. I had owned plenty of muscles cars - a Chevelle Supersport, a couple of GTOs, a Fastback Mustang, a Corvette, etc. - but this car was my one true car love. The day I drove it home from St. Louis I was hooked - it was an out of body experience. I got high on the car. I had it when I met Benny and it is the only car he has ever had the same experience with.

Maybe you and Bill will find a new love. It will take something really special. You will have to be very selective - wait for that feeling to overwhelm you like Ian, Benny, and I had with our respective car crushes.

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JANEDOE12345 10/6/2013 7:09PM

    How is it that you express such depth of feeling so well? Perhaps it is the humorous element -- sadness over a truck is kind of Man of la Mancha-ish. I am chuckling and sorting out memories of about nine vehicles that brought me to tears in one way or another, although not often as we parted...more like crying as I paid the mechanic bills. I loved reading this, as with all your blogs.

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BRENJET 10/6/2013 6:20PM

    I cannot believe what a beautiful and poignant story your wrote about a vehicle!!! You are brilliant! Send this piece in somewhere to get it published!!! I got a little misty and I HATE cars!!! Great job. This blog made my day!
emoticon emoticon emoticon

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RASPBERRY56 10/6/2013 6:19PM

    Quite a story there! Wish I could have said the same in terms of "good feeling" for my last vehicle - turned out to be a classic "carzilla" from h**l........as much as I didn't want to shell out the big bucks for a replacement, it quickly reached a "critical mass" situation and I had no other choice.......and you know, sometimes my *body* feels as worn out as your Bill's Truck.....I think almost all of us Sparkies have been there!

(FYI - I remember you in my previous Spark identity as MRE1956 - I believe we were SparkFriends a year or two ago - I redid my Spark persona after doing some personal soul-searching.......I felt it was time to remove a toxic part of my life.......ol' MRE was getting to be way too much of a Debbie Downer for my liking!)

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BETHGILLIGAN 10/6/2013 6:07PM

    What a great story! I cry every time we get rid of a vehicle. This truck is definitely a special truck!!!

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