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."
But does he listen? Nooooo.
It's a long story, but someone died and my dad fell heir to his Peugeot. The car had potential, and it was twelve years younger than any of the other cars, a veritable juvenile. During the protracted terminal illness of its previous owner, the Peugeot spent two years in steadfast curbside vigil. When it became my dads, he hauled it to a good doctor and spent a lot of money on a rehab program.
There were only two qualities that were consistent about that car, other than its consistently lousy attitude. Its seats were comfortable, and it stopped when I braked. That car had a genetic flaw or an incurable virus manifested by many perplexing symptoms.
The sunroof leaked. During a rainstorm, a slow drip of frigid water moistened the top of my head. Even after several expensive operations, rainwater collected in the channels if the car stood parked during the storm. Perhaps a day later as I turned right, half a cup of water landed on my head. The solution was to make only left-hand turns so the water spilled into the lap of my passenger. When it rained, I drove with a towel on my head. I kept a few extras in the trunk for passengers. ...