Saving My Father's Auto SoulS

I guess I really have to blame my mother. Yes, despite my father's best intentions for automotive excellence, she was the lowest common denominator.

My father was always a gear head, not in the manly do-it-yourself sense, but in the encyclopedic passion for all things automobilia. Naturally, he instilled his awkward knowledge of useless facts onto his children. It began early, around grade school, when we began to play the "name that car based on its headlights." Note that this was the late 80's, so every car had basically the same square headlamps. The game began with my brother and I yelling car names out, usually at an ungodly hour during a way too long car ride, while my mother was sleeping and my father was fighting to stay awake. He would join in eventually, yelling over us (I believe it helped him stay awake) while my mother, jarred awake, yelled at him to pay attention to the road. She would get overly nervous and do that thing that all old people do when they are nervous in a car: that slow motion preemptive limb flailing that is somehow supposed to save you in the case of a head on collision. You could tell she secretly despised all of us when we got in the "auto zone". She wanted to obliterate our love of cars because she knew, deep down, that someday, we would be just like him.

This deep seeded hatred slowly became more evident, especially when it was time to buy a new family car. This was undoubtedly the pinnacle of our childhood. We would both jump onto our ten speeds and embark on the 30 minute trek to the town library. We would rush in, fly down the magazine racks hoarding every piece of automotive literature available. Then we'd bolt towards the secret niche that would be our automotive research laboratory and read for a few hours, debating the virtues of new vehicle features. I found myself to be a bit more sedated, and would constantly argue the interior refinement of the Benz (especially the air vents, I was fixated with those air vents), while my brother, constantly fough me for more horsepower. He was diligent in his quest to make the case to my father about the versatility that a 2+2 coupe offered. His main argument usually ended with him lamenting over the increased safety that a coupe offered: "but, it only has two doors, so we can't escape!"

Once fueled with ammunition, we honed in on dad. He was easily excitable, and we could get him going real easy. But we knew this would be short-lived. We had to make it past the gatekeeper. Dad would always talk to mom about cars without us in the room, I think partially as a defense mechanism. He wanted to keep us pure, not taint us with the real world struggles of a family who needed something "practical and reliable". Eventually he would come back to us, his tail between his legs, with that look that a lawyer has when he has to tell his client that its life without parole. He would then utter the phrase countless children have heard, and will hear for centuries. The phrase any car-loving child never wants to hear. "We're getting a Volvo."

Now hear me out. I like Volvos, they are great cars. But they did not inspire. Not in the 1980's. Well, that's not entirely true. They inspired me to learn to sew (the countless tears in my clothes from exiting those seats and those incessant razor sharp leather buttons). They inspired me to take up a sport (that was the only way I was going to get any girl in high school to like me). They also inspired me to grow a pair and be assertive, especially when it comes to cars and women. I would say this has worked with mixed success. I own the truck of my dreams (a '71 Chevy C10) and just finished negotiating the purchase of a '08 VW GTI for my wife. We have a baby on the way, and I would have to say I almost understand where my parents were coming from when they bought a Volvo. No, that's not true at all. That car was nonfat plain Greek yogurt.

Now my father is retiring, he has survived cancer…twice, and he still drives a Volvo. If there was ever a chance for a man to turn things around, this is it. He has been contemplating purchasing a fun, retirement car, so he can tool around town and do old man things. He has been discussing the purchase of this car for now 10 years. We have discussed strategies for slipping this car past my mother for almost as long. But I think she has already won. He knows her power and over the years, this dream car, with endless potential has shriveled. I remember it was first a Porsche Speedster, then a Honda S2000, then a Porsche Boxster, and now, get ready…a Nissan Frontier. I'm sorry, what did you say? He must have leaked it to our mom at some point because there is such a gaping hole in that line of reasoning that I cannot think of any other explanation.

Upon hearing this most recent utterance, I heard a piece of him die. Not like when he said Volvo, for I think he knew there was hope for the future. But I think he knows this may be his last car. I have talked this over with my brother, and we are going to help him. We are going to fight his fight. My parents came down to visit my wife and I last weekend, and I let him drive my pickup. I have never seen that man so happy. I owe it to my father, who has instilled me this gift, to help him stand up to my mother and buy the car he wants.

To be continued…

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