The houses sat across from each other, a Texas farm-to-market road dividing their lonely skeletons. My great-grandmother living with Aunt Ruby. My great-grandfather gone to his home above. Both grandparents gone to meet him. Each house still possessed an expanse of lawn – grass growing despite the loss of tenants to mow. It became my mother’s job to periodically shave the wild mane of Johnson grass and trim the bushes of my grandparents’ homestead and it was my chore to tag along and help. It was a sad job because we still mourned their loss and the decay of their Victorian gingerbread house was an added sore spot.
Often, we ventured to the great-grandparents’ simple farmhouse across the way. We peered in the windows and checked in the smokehouse as well as the outhouse and sheds. It was not our job to care for this lawn, but it was our responsibility to check for vandalism. I always went out to the carport because it was here that the old 1946 Chevy truck sat neglected. I had fallen in love with its gentle curves, large round headlights, and grinning chrome grill. I coveted this truck. I wanted it for my own even though I was not yet of driving age. Mother informed me that it belonged to her cousin. That was that.
After the passing of my great-grandmother, my father asked Momma’s cousin if he wanted the old truck. My ears perked. I couldn’t believe that it could be that easy. By the end of my father’s bold conversation, he was the owner of my truck! Well! I didn’t even know he was interested in it!
Daddy’s love must have run as deep as mine – deeper, really. He spent his last living days pumping money, energy, and precious time into bringing the old jewel back to shine. You see, he was dying and I think he knew it before the cancer was even found out. Friends, old and new, came together to help him get it running. And he did, he got it going, bumping along in it’s ancient gears. He tried to take me for a ride in it, pride oozing from his pores. I was pregnant with my youngest daughter and all the jostling up and down on the old spring-cushion seat caused my stomach to cramp in pain, forcing us to return home.
Daddy died not long after. I walked to his open casket one last time and my knees went weak. Caught by my husband and my daddy’s best friend, I made it to lay my hand on his. I sobbed like I knew how bad I was going to miss this man, though I didn’t really have a clue.
I watched for years as the old Chevy sat outside, neglected. All my father’s hard work was going to waste. It was like watching Daddy die another slow death. I finally asked Momma if I could buy it from her. She told me it belonged to me as well as my siblings. It was part of our inheritance. If I wanted it for my own, I would have to buy my brother and sister’s share from them with their permission. I made the calls, got permission, sent the checks, and picked up the truck. It was finally mine! It took many hours and lots more money to get her purring again. I got to drive her twice when death hit again…the death of my marriage.
It is sad when a thing you love becomes the symbol of pain. It sat again, unused. I gave it to my daughter as a part of my inheritance to her – the same daughter I was pregnant with on that first ride. She had no way to store and keep it so it sat once again at my mother’s house. It is hard for me to describe what I felt every time I saw what was happening to the old girl.
Maybe it was not my responsibility any more, but I still felt the guilt. I discussed it with my daughter. Really, I told her. “I’m going to take back the truck, get it running again, and you can have it when I die.” What could she say?
Armed with Daddy’s manuals, all the tools I possessed, and all the products recommended by the auto parts store, I headed to Momma’s. Momma hadn’t been feeling well, but she couldn’t help herself. She came out and helped me. She instructed me how to hook the towing chain to the truck and her tractor. She pulled and I steered. Once out in the open, we took out the seat so that we could remove the gas tank that sat beneath it. (Yes, that’s where they put the gas tank! Right under your bottom!) I crawled underneath and removed all bolts holding down the brackets. We cleaned out the tank and hung it upside down to dry out. The next day, we put it back in the truck, filled it up, put in a new key switch because the original keys had been lost, and began our efforts to get it started.
Momma was in her element – glowing. She told me how she used to watch her daddy work on the tractors; how she loved to help him. She said this old truck wasn’t much different from those tractors. It amazed me all that she could recall.
Finally, with her behind the wheel and me, spraying starter spray straight into the carburetor, the old girl coughed back to life! I jumped up and down, shouting and clapping like a little girl. Momma whooped and hollered as she gunned it with more gas. I looked under the hood and a fountain of gas was shooting up. “Kill it, Mom!” I yelled. “We’re spraying gas!”
Ok. So we had to call in some professional help. We still got it running and took if for a quick spin around the pasture and down the dirt road. What a memory! The old ’46 is still with the mechanic who is kind of old himself and taking his time. I’m hoping it will be ready by spring when I can take it for a real drive…when everything will be coming back to life and not dying.