Not Just ‘Someone Else’s Car’

Dearest Rachel –

I want to start this letter off by saying there’s nothing more uncomfortable than driving someone else’s car, but that’s not exactly true. I suspect that, given enough time, and pointed where all of the necessary (and some of the extraneous ones, like the sound system) controls are, I can get used to being behind the wheel of any vehicle. It didn’t take me all that long to accustom myself to those big boats they were using for support vehicles for the Ragnar run to Camp Awana back in November, for instance. And I won’t lie, my own vehicle was uncomfortable enough to drive on Tuesday, when the steering frame gave up the ghost; driving 40 mph down Palatine Road is an intimidating prospect when you don’t know whether the car might just decide on its own to drift into the next lane, and what you’ll need to do to correct for that before something goes terribly wrong.

It’s not even that I have a problem with driving your car; mine has been in the shop from time to time even back when we were together, and I’d have to do this. It was a little confining, to be sure – your PT Cruiser always felt so small, compared to the SUVs that I was accustomed to. But it got me to work and back, when I needed it – although, now that I think about it, it was you who got me there and back more often than not, dropping me off and picking me up, since you still needed that car to get around during the day. I really didn’t drive it at all that much, nor did I wish to.

Be that as it may, the real discomfort in driving your car is the fact that I’m driving your car. It’s the one thing we have left that is, quite literally, still yours, inside and out. From the unique purple paint job (you had wanted to find a replacement in the same cranberry color that your old one was, after it got wrecked by someone pulling out of a side street without looking, but once we realized we wouldn’t be able to find a used model in that factory color, you were happy to go with getting a custom paint job; the purple you selected was so much more like you, anyway) to the fact that so much of your stuff is still in it (both Kerstin and Jan got out a lot of the worst and the weirdest, but your hairbrush and a number of old papers with your handwriting on them are still in there, and I don’t have the heart to get rid of them), it remains as the last shrine to your memory.

For all I know, it might still have your scent about it, although my nose isn’t sensitive enough to verify that. Heck, I have to watch videos of the two of us in order to remember what you sounded like; for me to remember when you smelled like is pretty near impossible.

(Just to give you an idea how insensitive my nose is, they were apologizing on Sunday at that church in Long Grove how about the fact that there’d been a slip-up when they were holding a food pantry type event earlier that week. Evidently, a packet of fish had been improperly stored, and it began to rot; they were apologizing for the scent three days later. For my part, I wouldn’t have noticed had they not made the apology.)

For now, regardless of your scent or spirit hovering around it, it’s still a useful little thing. It can get me – or Daniel, when he’s of a mind to – where we want to go, and bring us back. But it’s not going to last forever. Despite inheriting your parents’ love for them, Chrysler had stopped making PT Cruisers years ago – it’s why it was so difficult to find one to replace the one that had gotten totaled. This thing is barely five years away from being considered an antique, and it has 125,000 miles on it. At some point in time, its useful life is going to come to an end. And then what?

This is probably just me staring at the ax in the ceiling once again, but I wonder what we’ll need to do with that car at that point. I can’t imagine anyone else with it, and I can’t bear to junk it. It would be like throwing you out; not that I haven’t done a lot of that already, between your clothes and so many other things of yours. But this is somehow different, something bigger, something we put so much into to make it uniquely yours. It doesn’t belong anywhere else but here.

For now, the only thing I can think of is the fact that we still haven’t gotten to a point where we could move a car into the garage (although that will be remedied by the end of May). We’ve endured the last twenty years without being able to use that place as intended – as a place to put a car – what’s the next twenty or so years of my life? It’ll probably be the final resting place for your little car, once we can’t do anything more with it. It’s the only thing I can think of to do with it.

And I know – and you would kid me about it – that I’m getting so far out in front of myself here. Best to use it and enjoy it while I – we – can, and not worry so much about that unfortunate future days. There are too many days between now and then to concern myself overly much with ‘then.’ You’d probably even reassure me that hey, at least I have a plan in mind, however makeshift and jerry-rigged it might be. Just focus on the now for now, and let those future concerns be for the future.

Until then, honey, wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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