(Pictured: Me and my Dad, Brookyn, 1959. Dad’s Car.Not sure the make or model.)
Thank you for repossessing my car (a month, to the day, after my father died.)
Thank you for reminding me that I am alive, that I have connection to the world, to commitments – like paying your bill – and, more important, getting on with my own life.
On the Sunday when your man showed up at my back door
to politely take my car away from me,
my husband and I were sitting at the kitchen counter,
eating Chinese food – because I haven’t felt like cooking –
we’d been talking about the sunset.
It had been seven years (plus three months) since I first began taking care of my father –
since I’d helped him from the floor between the bedrooms and the bathroom- and drove him and all of his belongings – in his 1995 Toyota Corolla – to the first nursing home and then the hospital and then the second nursing home.
Seven years since, while driving his car, I abandoned this small room in myself and let him move in there. Which is why I’m writing to thank you because, when you repossessed my car, something inside of me came back to life – and today, I re-possessed that room.
This ‘room in myself’ is not a ‘real’ room like Dad’s room at the nursing home, overlooking the Hudson, used to be.
This room sits at the center of my body – in the belly – and everyone has one, where we carry around those things which have been (and still are) most important to us: the pink satin toe shoes we never got to wear, the novel we never finished, the plane tickets to Paris that we (well, I) never redeemed.
This room opens onto another room – which all humanity shares – a vast storehouse of all things abandoned: half-written screenplays, imperfect relationships; the houses we did not buy, the letters we couldn’t bring ourselves to send.
It’s the room we spiral into
and out of
revisiting other versions of ourselves
from inception to conception
from delivery to birth
from development to bright bloom
until the colors fade and the air cools
and death comes to sweep us out the door.)
This week, carless,
I’ve been walking around,
the things that have migrated to places they do not belong.
The magazines stacked at the side of the bed.
The blankets, neatly folded, in the pantry. (Huh?)
The paper cups which, for reasons I will never understand, are hidden in the freezer.
with eggs and tea and cream,
liberated from the urgent distraction of ‘having to’
run to the co-op,
write in a cafe, or
race into yoga and slap my sticky mat to the floor
I feel no need to pop
into Anthropologie to weave aimlessly
through racks of clothing I do not need and cannot afford
Instead, I am drawn to the ground,
to the soil
in the back yard,
of my home,
to lie down and let it hold me,
Drawn to this spot just outside of my office,
where this pile of clouds and cobwebs,
has accumulated by the door.
To this room in my own belly
where I’ve been walking around
So, thank you, Toyota,
for by taking away my ability to go anywhere,
you have given me the gift of finally, finally, finally (And please read that third ‘finally’ in the tone in which I wrote it: gasping to the finish line, sobbing, my heart breaking and opening at the same time, freed by grief and abandoned to myself)
– finally coming home.
As for the money, I’m sorry that I forgot to pay you – for three months – yet I feel no shame (though Lord knows your meticulously crafted walk of humiliation) is impressive:
* the way you put me on hold for 47 minutes every time I call, as, all the while a crackly recording of terrible songs is interrupted every 30 seconds by a voice repeating, “Your call is important to us, please stay on the line.” A phrase which is – and I hope you’ll see the irony) the precise and perfect metaphor for the past seven years (and three months) of my life.
* the way that you are holding my car for 7-10 days and then charging me for ten days of holding my car? Seems deliberate, seems illegal, actually.
But I was talking about joy.
This punch-drunk ebullient gratefulness; this effervescent outpouring of light.
Last night, I stood in the driveway where my car had been, before it disappeared,
and I caught myself thinking, They’ll bring it back. How could they not?
Now that that nice woman has taken down the story.
Now that they know that I had the money all the time
– but just forgot to send it
while I was driving back and forth,
in their car,
to my dad’s death bed.
While I was sending the car payment I did not make
(plus another 700) to his health care aide
And how, the next month, I forgot again,
as I was driving
to my mother’s (near) death bed
– which I’d be doing, today,
if I had a car,
to help the woman who is caring for my mother get some sleep.
And how, after dad died
I forgot to send the payment again.
You see, “I was driving,” as I told the (very nice) woman at the Collections Department;
my sister was at the airport;
my other sister was at the train station;
I had to pick up
the catering for the people who were coming over to grieve;
and collect my kids from the bus terminal;
and Dad’s belongings from the nursing home;
and the ashes from the crematorium – in Brooklyn.
And, of course, there was
the memorial to plan
and the funeral
and the burying of ashes
as we stood beside the grave.
So, that night, we’d picked up Chinese food because I couldn’t – I just didn’t feel like it -cook that night.
And it has only just this moment occurred to me that perhaps you called to warn me, while that tsunami of phone calls and emails and private messages and Facebook and Twitter – and those cards those beautiful, hand-written missives of love – was washing in.
That tidal surge which included the text messages demanding, “Amy, I am trying to reach you why won’t you pick up the phone,” and I read them and…
… because my dad is dead and I’m sobbing right now. Duh.
So anyway, if you called about the car payment then, I’m sorry that I missed it.
I wasn’t myself that week.
I am grateful, Toyota, that all that time,
YOUR car was there for me, carrying me (is it too much to use the same metaphor in this sentence – too much to say that your car was carrying me in its belly, as I was carrying my father in my own like some reverse pregnancy, the child giving birth to the death of the parent.
Bloody offspring, gasping until, finally at rest, stillborn, it arrives.
And by the way, I’m calling it YOUR car, because I want you to know how much I respect, after all that’s happened between us, that this was never MY my car.
It was leased, not purchased.
On loan for a time,
mine to drive
mine to carwash
mine to park
and to bump against that damn curb in the Starbucks parking lot
but no more MINE than my father ever was.
on a Sunday evening while I was eating Chinese food in the kitchen.
Yesterday, I stood in the spot where my car would have been with the thoughts of a child threading up from my heart,
Dad will come and pick me up. He will drive me where I need to go – he has always come. He will come… and then, because we both love to, he will take me out to dinner.
But of course, he couldn’t have done that
– it had been so long since he had done that.
But still, before he started falling, for 49 years, he did that – he drove me, almost always in a Toyota –
to Kreiger’s, for homemade butter pecan ice cream
to Tea Village, for those little egg rolls in a waxed paper bag
to high school
to my first apartment
and later, with my mother,
to every one of my children’s
recitals, school plays, Maypole dances, and graduations.
Until the day he could drive no more – when he handed the keys of his 1995 Corolla to my son – and I began driving for him.
And yesterday, standing in the driveway,
the sun setting over the barn,
it occurred to me – just for a moment – that YOU, Toyota, YOU would come.
YOU the financial institution with LOYALTY written all over your sales materials.
YOU the company to which my family has been loyal for 50 years (except for that Honda when my kids were small.)
YOU, perhaps inspired by a celestial nudge from Dad, would come for me.
Is he calling you right now, drawing you from your desk or from dinner conversation, drawing you from reading, as he does with me?
Your phone ringing, inexplicably at 1:11 am, 3:33 am – “Who could this be?”
You reach for your glasses.
You pick up the line.
And no one is there but this static, which, when you ask, “Dad?” whispers it’s own name back in your ear.
Baffled, YOU look at your phone and it’s ‘that caller’ again – the one made of zeroes. The one no longer here but so very much, always, ‘there’.
Anyway, Thank you, Toyota – for repossessing my car so that I could (you get the metaphor by now, right?) repossess my life.
That’s all I wanted to say.