Before me in the driveway, sun shining bright, my suv. And an insurance appraiser telling me that he has determined it “totaled,” the cost to repair it not worth it. As a writer, personification comes fairly easily, but I am not without awareness that my 2002 Toyota 4Runner does not have feelings. Still, I feel sad for it, sitting there, its value being determined by what is seen, not knowing the other truths about it. Maybe because I have felt that. We all have.
10 years after the events that brought that truck to me, after its journey home to New York, from KY, a place that now seems twice as far away, rear damage is now by the words Hopkinsville, KY. It is a seeming reminder that life goes on many turns and the marks of where we have been never really disappear. Maybe it is fitting to say good-bye to it as I commit to the now.
This vehicle knew me in the befores, durings and afters, and so it seemed only natural to continue with it through the whats-to-comes, as I see new turns and new faded words on bumpers. I had decided I would drive it until it would not go anymore.
This truck could have driven me across the country or down the road, the distance is measured by what happened in me. Even just a vehicle, its time with me covered so much…growth.
It was a youth minister with me, cleaning the highway many times. A place to start in prayer.
I drove to see my mom in the hospital each day, as she recovered from her Cancer surgery. I cried the way home many times, sometimes hitting the steering wheel. Sometimes just holding it tight for comfort.
The truck brought my son back to me from the NICU he had been in for 3 days, while I ached to be with him. It brought him home from the hospital and to the doctors’ appointments that marked our days, looking for what to do with his diagnosis. EEGs, EKGs, MRIs…more blood tests in those early years than many have in a lifetime. Specialists, eating in the car, changing diapers in the back. Home from a 48 hour test at the Children’s Hospital. Digesting new information and trying to make decisions for next steps. They call its color “Pearl Blue”. It was just the blue of our truck, waiting in the parking lot, time to go home.
It brought my daughter, so tiny, home from the hospital, her big brother staring at her in awe. Yes, I had enough love for her too. And, no, it would not take away from my love of him. My daughter and I spent hours in the truck after dropping her brother off at his special program every day. We played in it, slept in it, and waited….We bought her first pair of glasses, at 9 months old.
Infant seats, to car seats to booster seats. In another 8 months, it could have seen my son sitting in it without anything, my son whose unknown future is not as important, though not far from my mind, as his amazing smile and the way his kindness touches people. The day he reached from the back seat and asked for my hand and began to pray before his first weekend away at his dad’s house, the sun shining in the window on his face.
My daughter, still small for her age, in the parking lot, sitting on my lap, looking at me through her glasses, touching my face and asking me if I thought I would ever love a man again someday. I didn’t know, I told her, but I was glad for that moment with her, her raw and honest questions and comments (sometimes so very challenging) because I know she is going to make her way.
The special edition features of my truck are the marks that tell the story of a life that keeps going. A scratch, a juice stain, the sand from the Jersey Shore in a crack where it can’t be reached. The echoes of hysterical laughs, hard cries and powerful conversations.
Family vacations, which changed.
In the challenges of 2009, it held me as I came to hard realizations, staring at my cell phone in confusion. It moved stuff. It was deemed mine.
In the process that followed, it drove me to the necessary appointments and helped me to work out the details and emotional impact, as I would head back home, more wearied than expected. Wondering. Keep your head up, Deb.
On January 1, 2010, I brought my first own dog to the vet, barely breathing, in the back of the truck. He had seen me through the loss of two marriages. The vet carried him out to my truck after having put him to sleep. He laid him in the back of the truck, where I had sat with my children’s father. Where I had nursed and changed infants, where I had brought home food for my family. He looked so peaceful. The vet, who has known me since my childhood, hugged me and reminded me of how many people loved me and to not let all that was unfolding take away from who I was. He closed the back door for me. I brought my dog home, the end of his journey, at the start of a new one for me.
In the summer of 2010, my best friend and I put our road bikes in the back of the truck and went to the Catskills for the weekend, a powerfully meaningful trip, where emotions were shed on a ride through the mountains. A friendship going strong for over 25 years.
I laughed a little when the appraiser complimented me on how well I had taken care of my truck, remembering the dog’s upset stomach and the thorough and intense cleaning that followed. I left it out in the sun to air out. The sun became a torrential downpour, with everything, including the sunroof, open and me inside on a work call. “Why are there puddles all over the floor, Mommy?”
Consistently kept clean, it took me longer to get to giving it a good clean this summer after our annual trip to the beach. It reflected my life being a bit out of order. When I finally did clean it up a few weeks later, in late August, the lingering odd smell still remained. Sometimes we have to face our limits. Not long after, a mouse was found in the air filter during a service check. Yep, that will do it. Smell gone. An accomplishment.
It took me to see my father after he had fallen from a roof onto pavement, unsure of his prognosis. Home again thanking God he was going to be okay.
It made numerous trips back and forth to the city before I finally gave it an EZ pass.
Pre-school, Elementary School. Little League, Upwards Soccer…new beginnings.
The truck is in the backdrop of many of the moments that have shaped me sharply over the past 10 years.
It has carried my camera equipment, my teaching bag, new business supplies, and my resume.
It brought home a new guitar and a new dog.
I have received happy and horrible news in it.
I have been in a dress and heels in it and sweatpants and a t-shirt. It drove the same either way.
I have seen new places and revisited favorites. I have parallel parked it easily…and not so easily.
What it may sometimes seem my life has lacked in personal financial and material gain, it has exceeded in expectations of learning. I spent a lot of time in thought in that truck and it never judged me for my openness, my vulnerability, my anger or feeling weak. Talking to myself, to a friend, to God. Hearing my children’s happy stories, hearing me reprimand them, hearing us move on. My once sleeping children in the rear view mirror are now more likely to be speaking energetically…or teasing one another…or telling me they love me.
A month ago, I had a pivotal moment in my life, standing by the door of my truck on a sidewalk on a street in NYC. A moment that could not be measured for what it was, but only for the impact it had on me. Not without awareness of the way my perception of it stands out in the world of relativity that we live in, I can still hear the rain on my windshield that afternoon and what it said to me. How very rare those moments and feelings are; it has stayed with me in a way that has not been easy, though truly part of my journey and some changes. So, I acknowledge it…because I want to own those feelings.
Almost always a person more inclined to share thoughts pretty openly, it becomes troublesome at times when it is not expected or is seen as being the result of lacking clarity or forethought, but it is indeed a defining characteristic, like the bumps and bruises on my truck.
Sentimentality soaked as it is to say it, my truck has been a safe place. A place of escape and homecoming. I can’t quite imagine myself with any other vehicle, picking my children up from school or heading off to a meeting or adventure…of sorts.
Still sore from the impact of the crash, being hit from behind, I know how much worse it could have been when I see the damage.
My 2002 Toyota 4Runner’s value will never be a matter of the cost of repairs versus its book value to me, but that it protected me and my children and that I loved it for what it was. I did not pull up next to a Mercedes or Lexus and feel envy. My truck has been reliable and useful. It belonged to us, the children and me, and would go with us wherever we went. I don’t want to forget to be grateful for that and for what we went through with it in the past 10 years, all of it.