Monday, March 14, 2011

Granpa Car

I drive my dad’s dad’s grey, large, wide, somewhat beat up, old Oldsmobile

I don't know what year it is

I know very little about cars

But there is a pealing off sticker on the back window that says “Kenyon College,” and that means it's mine

But there is bucket seat in the front, it remains empty now, but it’s where my sister used to ride, squashed between Bubbie and Grandpop on drives in and around Port Charlotte

We used to go there for New Years

She was the eldest

And I preferred to sit next to my mother


My earliest memory of this was in Florida,

Disney World,

We drove there,

I was three,

I was afraid of the "suits,"

Those men who dressed in costumes and were supposed to be my favorite cartoon characters,

But Goofy and Donald were unimpressive, and you can't see their eyes when they do this,

It's fucking terrifying


Grandpop remarried after Bubbie died in '98

He moved to a different part of Florida

I was a flower girl,

It was my first and only time in a wedding,

Depressed that the purple dress had a scoop neck that itched,

The other flower girl was Grandpop's bride's great granddaughter

I was large and awkward in comparison,

Big curly hair,

And some sense of betrayal to Bubbie, though I don't think I understood why at the time


I did see porpoises once,

In the lake, by their condo

It was maybe the coolest thing to ever happen to me

And I had been hoping to see a manateee

But I never got the chance


There is a mezuzah stuck to the dashboard,

The yellow hat he wore to shield himself from a Florida sun sat comfortably in the back for years, long after he moved to Ohio to live with us,

long after his kidneys failed


A broken umbrella in the trunk,

Toothpicks scattered on the floor, crammed in the seats

I’ve never moved these things,

Laziness more than sentimentality, I suppose

Except for that mezuzah

I left it there for some reason, even if it got me mocked in high school


I’m overly cautious

My friend's mom once dented the passenger side door,

A doe jumped in front of me, broke the headlight but not her body

And I get lost,

A lot

But I have never once had a ticket

Never squashed a squirrel or a rabbit

And I have never wrecked the Granpa Car


We call it that

My pals from back home

We called it that when my pals from back home all started driving,

And it was cool to name our cars

"Shitwagon. Bessie. Laxi Taxi. The Edvan.”

I was overly cautious,

Didn't pass the test the first time,

But the first song I drove to,

In the springtime,

I was nervous,

Too much to sing along,

Was "The Joker," by The Steve Miller Band


He gnawed on my ear once,

Instead of a typical kiss on the cheek

And he patted me on the backside,

And told me I was getting heavy

And once, even though I didn’t ask him, he told me that he wasn’t particularly afraid to die

That he was ready

I think I reacted in the same way to all of these occurrences

“Um, okay…” trying hard to avoid eye contact,

Trying hard to block it out as fast as possible,

Hoping against hope for a parent to intervene,

To make the moment

Less real


These days

When I’m driving too too slow on the freeway,

When I need gas about as often as I need directions,

When some classic rock comes on the radio,

and I open the windows that never quite close all the way,

and I let my big curly hair fly out all over the place,

I sing louder and clearer than I was ever capable,

That first time on the road, or

that night in the hospital

when my mom tried to get me to sing a song from a play

that Grandpop was sure he wouldn’t be able to attend


I blush,

At like moments,

Like all of those uncomfortable moments,

Not just mine

What he has seen,

What the car has seen,

What we’ve shared,

without even knowing,

And what I wish I could go back and,

Do over,

And I would have listened more

And I would have laughed it off more

And I wouldn’t have been afraid

And I would have just sung “An English Teacher,” from Bye Bye Birdie

Like my mom had wanted me to

Like he probably didn’t really want me to,

But he would have politely nodded,

As sick as he was

Because he did love musicals

And he did love me


With all this knowing,

What I feel now,

I find myself glancing down at that dashboard,

(not for too long, I have to keep my eyes on the road)

And I don’t feel particularly spiritual,

And I’m still afraid of dying,

But I turn up the radio

I open up the window,

And as cliché as it sounds,

I sing loud enough that I am almost certain,

I mean

I think

He can hear me



And it makes up for it.

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