My Dad and Old Cars

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My Dad and Old Cars

Some people bring home stray dogs. My father brings home stray cars. He gets emotionally attached and eventually puts them on life support. This keeps them viable long beyond the time other family members vote to pull the plug. He drives a 1968 VW van that chugs along on its third rebuilt engine. My big brother vows to bury dad in it. The 1971 VW Bug that he used for fifteen years is still operable, but since a teenager's foot went through the rusted floorboards to the street below, it's been relegated to the retirement home: his driveway. He continues paying on the life insurance policy but he has signed a "Do Not Resuscitate" waiver.

My father went off to college in a 1931 Model A Ford. In the back seat of that car, on an old country road, I made love for the first time. Now it sits under a blue parachute in the driveway. Mice breed in the upholstery and the ceiling fabric hangs in shreds, but my father is convinced the car will awaken from its coma and live to cruise again.

A 1960 Plymouth Valiant that drove like a tank and sounded like a B-52 suffered sudden paralysis one car-pooling morning when both front wheels turned at right angles to the frame of the car, bringing it to a sudden and permanent halt. Unwilling to assign the car to a nameless grave in Potter's Field, my father paid to have it hauled to a vocational school. Prince Valiant became a vehicular cadaver; the old thing may even have become an organ donor.

We don't buy new cars. According to my dad, "You never know what might go wrong with a new car, and you could get a lemon."

I say, "But we know even less about a used car. People don't sell their cars when everything's fine. They sell them when things start going wrong."


... middle of paper ... key. My dad, the guy with the soft spot for homeless old cars in need of a square meal and a soft bed, had made good on a long-standing promise of "a decent car."

It took him six months of scouring the ads, but he'd bought me a car that's only five years old. It's an Acura Legend and appears to be in excellent health. The leather seats are as comfortable as the Peugeot's, no gremlins live in the CD player, and the AC and heating systems have no viruses. The sunroof is dry as a bone, and the car starts whenever I turn the key. Overall, I'd say the car has a superb attitude.

That first morning of new ownership, I stood staring in awe at this white beauty. Then the rest of my life spread before me as my father said, "And we can give it to Bria when she starts driving. It should have all the bugs worked out of it by then."

Bria is my five-year-old niece.
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