[Ken named our 2002 Prius "Gypsy" because of the female GPS voice that guided us from location to location.]
Yesterday did’t turn out at all as I expected it to. Funny how some days are just like that. The things I woke up concerned about didn’t end up being anything I needed to be worried about. Nothing life changing, mind you. Just surprises.
I took Kallie for a long walk early this morning. It would be the last one we’d be able to take for a while as she was scheduled for her “lady” surgery later in the day, but would spend the entire day at the vet. It’s the last right of passage for her as a puppy–and the last big planed expense of puppy-dome. She had to fast since 8 p.m. last night so I was already feeling guilty. I dropped her off without incident, though as soon as I left I was a little verklempt. But that all changed when I got into the car and was greeted by more blinking lights than witnessed by the crew of Apollo 13. I’d seen these same lights before back in April. It was a costly expense I was willing to pay because I wasn’t ready for more change–particularly involving the car that Ken and I bought together.
As I drove my sputtering, decade-old car home, I could barely get it to 20 mph when flooring it. I put the hazards on and kept pulling over to let other cars pass. I came to a stop at a red light at the intersection of Clark Street and Irving Park Boulevard–blocks from my home. The light turned green. I pressed the accelerator. Nothing happened. Correction, horn honking happened–from behind me. I jumped out, swearing like a convict singing a happy tune, and tried to push it through the unending, diagonal intersection. But it was too late. The light had turned. So, there I waited, ears growing hotter by the second as I prepared to push my dead weight car through the intersection, followed by I-don’t-know-how-many cars. I didn’t have the courage to look behind me.
Just as the light turned, a gentleman coming toward me on the crosswalk waved and motioned. He was going to help me. Seriously, someone coming forward to help during a moment of primal, basic thoughts “must move car” changed my outlook and lightened my mood a little. He helped me push it through the intersection (crossing back to the side he’d already come from once), and I pulled Gypsy over to the curb, jumped in, and pondered. Only blocks from home, I considered my options, trying not to be upset or annoyed. (In my mind, the way Ken would have helped me handle it, lovingly coaching me to remain in the moment.) I resigned myself to call AAA, and remain seated in the car until it came. Then, I tried the ignition. It started. Car on. Check. Pushing on accelerator. Car moving. Check. So, for about six blocks, pedal to the metal at not even 20 miles per hour, windows rolled up, I was repeatedly screamed “GET OUTA MY WAY, YOU BASTAGES!” as I urgently–yet slowly–inched my way home.
After having her towed in and enduring what turned out to be a really chatty ride with the tow driver, I sighed heavily as the repair tech went through the short, but detailed list of what needed to be repaired. I stopped listening at some point, until he got to the total. Though not hefty, it was another fairly large expense. And more than that, my confidence in the car was waning. As a hybrid the engine often shuts off when at a stop, but at the intersection mentioned above, I didn’t realize it had not just stopped, but rather died. So, I decided should I find something that I was satisfied with, I’d get a new car.
Unlike my experience in April, this felt correct. It was time for some change. Fun change. Non-earth shattering or life threatening change. So, I put my sales associate through her paces. I’d been interested in a RAV4, Toyota’s small SUV, but I was surprised how little leg room it offered for moi. So, it was back to the Prius. I wasn’t interested in any other model.
A few hours and piles of paperwork later, I was all set. It had felt very grown up to make this decision and test drive and look around at different cars. It brought to mind the day Ken and I bought Gypsy in LA. It felt a little more serious then though. Maybe it’s a matter of perspective. I know serious. This was important, but I’d dealt with more serious matters.
There is some comfort in knowing the direction of my life without Ken is still one he would like and feel comfortable in. I share the company of a Chow he would adore, and together we ride in a car he would love, and in no small way had a hand in helping me choose. A year ago, or six months ago, losing Gypsy wouldn’t have been an option. As vestiges–trappings, never the feelings or memories–of my old life fall away, I find that it’s okay. Necessary, even. I think now more than ever in the past, I expect things to be different and to find change where I’m not even looking for it.
My sales associate was very compassionate when it came time to saying goodbye to Gypsy. I wasn’t sad though. It was time. And it felt like it. I didn’t take the time then to think of all the adventures had in that car (front seat and back) and all the places it took us. I had to get going. While waiting for final prep of the new car, the vet called to tell me Kallie’s surgery would have to be postponed because she was running a low fever. It made sense because her nose had been running since Friday. Initially it was phone diagnosed as allergies, but she had a cold. And she’d been fasting since 8 p.m. the night before. So I needed to scoop her up, get her home and feed her some food and some lovin’.
I pulled out the “Automotive” file folder which is packed full of ten years of receipts, maintenance reports and even the original key tags. Flipping through it is like reading a version of a diary of my life with Ken. Unlike the car, the folder might have to go back into the file cabinet…for now. As I drove home and engaged the GPS, I was relieved to hear a familiar voice telling me where to go. Gypsy lives on–probably via some Toyota version of the Cylon Resurrection Ship, I would imagine. (Ken would enjoy the BSG reference.) The new car, Gypsy 2, styles with the sun visor extender Ken fashioned and SpongeBog floor mats. A new beginning with some old friends along for the ride.
I snapped a photo of Gypsy before I left the dealership, smiled, and drove away completely and blissfully ensnarled in my present.