At long last, the grieving period for my 15-year-old, 235,000-mile-strong red van is over. This August she died while attempting to haul our youngest son and the contents of his college house back to campus. That van’s final act of kindness may have been that I was not the driver on her last voyage.
To say I loved that van would be an understatement. I was a walking advertisement for the Toyota Sienna van to all within earshot. It had comfort, practicality and versatility all rolled into one.
That van hauled bread donations to the food pantry, meals to sick friends, and more plant material than the legal limit. My small gardening business was well served by her. It is a fact that my van could hold far more than any pick up truck. Baseball players were taken to practices, games, and end-of-season parties. There were countless trips to skate parks, grocery stores, and emergency rooms. It was the only suitable vehicle to take to holiday gatherings, offering enough space for wrapped presents, food contributions, and our four family members. She was even featured in our annual Christmas card one year. Vacations to West Virginia, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Washington DC, and elsewhere enjoyed her company.
Our family loved to take “jammy” rides in that van. She was like the home where everyone convenes – welcoming to all, casual enough to put your feet up on the coffee table and stay awhile and comfortable enough to take a nap or speak in a loud voice.
That car took a beating but wore the battle wounds proudly. I could always spot my van in a sea of other red vans by the large rear dent, the missing hubcap, and the cracked tail light repaired with duct tape. Her doors were slammed way too often and too hard by an angry teenager or his menopausal mom. But she bore witness to many bonding moments between mother and sons, husband and wife. Tears of joy, frustration, or sadness were shed in her well-worn seats. Pep talks were held, confessions were made, and forgiveness was sought or given inside those van doors.
Like each of us, she had her quirks, comforts, flaws and above all, memories. Thanks for all of it. I will never replace you. Perhaps the real reason for my lingering grief is the final acceptance of a passing phase. We no longer have kids’ ball games to attend or teenage boys to take to ski resorts and school functions. We’re still on a wonderful journey but we are now on a different route.
Maybe it’s time for a little red sports car?