Today I am proud to share a guest post, written by my dad. This essay was not written intentionally for my blog. It came to me in the form of an email my dad sent to our family earlier today. As background, my Grandma Jeanne (his mother) was diagnosed several years ago with dementia. The disease has quickly robbed her of much of her memory, and just a few months ago she was moved to a full time care facility. My mom, dad, and his siblings have spent much of the last 12 months grappling with her decline and all of the logistics and emotions that come with the disease. This short essay made me cry for many reasons. I cry for my grandma, and the confusing life she is now leading. I cry for the journey my family is walking through as we slowly lose her. I cry for the insight and vulnerability my dad isn’t afraid to show. And, I cry for the loss of material things…because sometimes they really do matter.
Most of us are taught as we venture through life not to love or covet material “things” because “things” don’t matter. We are told things come and things go and we shouldn’t put importance on things. We sometimes tire of things but we often then replace those things with what we think are more important things. It is the people in our lives that matter the most, not things, right? We are supposed to say yes, that of course material things don’t matter. The people in our lives should always be more important than things. Today I am struggling emotionally with the parting of a “thing” because this thing evolved over many years to become more than just a thing to me.
John, Patty, Lynn, and I sold my mothers 1966 Oldsmobile today. To most people my mom’s car was clearly just a thing, an old, beat up, uncomfortable thing. For years I thought the same about this thing. Mom’s car was too big, it was a gas hog, the air condioning no longer worked, the radio didn’t work, and the interior was shot. John and I tried to convince mom for years to sell the car and get something smaller, more comfortable, and economical to drive. John and I would banter back and forth with her, often getting her “irritated” as we would laugh about the “hog” that she refused to part with. Mom loved that car. She owned it for 44 years. She stopped driving it years ago and she never would say why. I think it was because mom was uncomfortable and unsure of herself driving it, and she was too darn stubborn to admit it. Stubborn is a trait that did not fall far from mom’s genetic tree, but I digress.
As mom started having trouble doing her finances, I began helping her write her checks. Every 6 months her car insurance would come due. Every time I would say, “Mom, your car insurance is due. Is it time to maybe sell the hog?” She would hem and ha and try and convince me that she really was considering selling it, then she would say, “Let’s go ahead and pay it this time and I’ll think about it”. I would smile and say ok knowing that this issue would replay itself again in 6 months with the same result.
John, Patty, Lynn, and I, all learned to drive in that car. The first car I drove in by myself was the hog. Many cars today look the same, and they are bought, sold, or traded in routinely. Rarely anymore does a car identify someone. That was definitely not the case with my mom and her car. Friends and neighbors knew when they saw that sea foam green tank coming down the road, that Jeanne Sebek was behind the wheel. It took me awhile to realize this, but Mom’s Oldsmobile had after many years become more than a thing to me.
Our mom came from modest means. She was born on Christmas Day, 1929. The same year that the Great Depression began. It’s just a coincidence that mom showed up at the same time. There is no direct correlation of her birth to that event that I am aware of. Because of growing up in this era, mom was and still is very frugal. Mom accepted what she had and she NEVER, and I mean NEVER, complained about what she didn’t have. I have, and I always will admire her for that. That is why she was not just content, but proud about owning that car for all these years. That Oldsmobile had become synonymous with mom. My irrational mind said that no one else should own this car. This car is mom. As I walked away from the Olds for the last time, I knew I was walking away from a part of my mom. Another chapter closed today in my mom’s life story and that makes me sad. Sometimes things do matter.
Post note: In June I was able to squeeze my big pregnant belly behind the hog for the first time. This picture captures the fun joy ride I took with Allison and Jonathan- my first and last time behind Grandma Jeanne’s sea foam green machine. I was trying to look cool behind the wheel but let’s just all agree I look incredibly silly.