Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ethel's Last Ride

I wasn't one of those kids who grew up drooling over certain cars.  I'd have to spend some quality time with Google if I cared to find out what kinds of cars were popular when I was growing up, mostly in the sixties and seventies.  My dad taught me a lot about a lot, but he never knew cars, and I don't either.  Nevertheless, a few of the ones I've had through the years grew on me, to the point where saying goodbye to some of them was met with tears.  Today was the parting of ways with one of the special ones.  Today we said goodbye to Ethel.

When she became part of our family she was just "The Corsica" at the beginning, and later just "the car."  It was in 1999 when she pulled up in front of the house for the first time.  She was shiny, and young, and strong. For three or four years she'd be the family car.  I was still working a few blocks from the house then and didn't need to drive to work and back, and neither of the kids was driving yet, so one car served us well enough most of the time.

Three years later I got the Neon, and when the Mrs. inherited her father's car two years after that the Corsica went to our elder daughter who was a freshman in college.  That Corsica was the last car on earth she wanted.  She begged us to let her trade it in and buy something else with her meager savings.  We held the line.  Either she took it, or she had no car.  She took it.  And, over time, she came to love it as much as if it were an actual person.  It was our daughter's best friend who was also her roommate who christened the car "Ethel" and the name stuck hard and fast.  None of us ever said, "the Corsica," again.  It was Ethel.  And, I suppose all of us came to think of her that way - as one of the gang.

Ethel grew like a typical person.  She needed the doctor now and then, and Dr. Gene at The Car Barn worked some emergency room magic more than once to bring her back from what we'd feared would be her certain demise.  Our little girl graduated, then married, and Ethel went with her as an inseparable friend and companion, serving her well for quite a while.

A week or so ago old Ethel started to run a fever.  Some mechanic down where our daughter lives diagnosed a bum radiator and mumbled something or other about a cylinder and the head gasket to the tune of $1300 worth of repairs.  Gene had replaced Ethel's radiator last year and it was under warranty.  A tow truck was summoned to bring the old girl "home" where her old, familiar doc would take care of her.  Little did we realize that it would be Ethel's last trip up the northeast extension of the Pennsylvania turnpike.

She went straight to The Car Barn and a few days later Gene called with the sad news.  The radiator was replaced, but he told us that without a new head gasket she'd be a running time bomb and would probably blow the new radiator in no time.  Our little girl went car shopping and picked out something to replace Ethel who went to mark time in front of my parents' house till the time would come to part ways with her.

That time came this morning.  The plan was for all of us to take our final ride in Ethel to the car lot, and then to take her to the junk yard after getting some pictures of the old and the new together.  But, it wasn't to be.  We left my parents' place and started heading over to the car lot when Ethel's temperature gauge spiked.  We circled the neighborhood  for the wife and our younger daughter to pick up her Jeep while the elder and I would continue to the scrap yard.

For as time consuming as it is to transfer the title of a car to another person, I was astounded at how fast a transaction happens at a junk yard.  In five minutes Ethel was signed over, the money was in my hand, and that was that.  My daughter is just like me.  She lives with a camera in one hand.  We took some final shots of Ethel before we left her there all alone.

I'd have insisted, if anyone had noticed, that my bleary eyes and sniffles were from some dust being blown around at the junk yard even though it was quite muddy.  It was like saying goodbye to a person.  An old friend.  Like that last peek you get at somebody you love before they usher you out of the room to close the lid of the casket.  When I have to part with that Neon, or the BV, I'll be carrying on like an Italian widow and her sisters.  

1 comment:

irondad said...

It's interesting how you write about the head gasket. Most of the time it's the reverse. Water gets into the oil. Sounds like cylinder pressure is blowing up the cooling system.

The same thing happened to my old red pickup. I understand the feelings of losing an old friend.

This pickup has been in the family forever. My son, who is 23 now, used to talk to the truck when he was a little shaver.

It may be a weird way to look at it, but Ethel will live on. Kind of like an organ donor, you know!