I’m getting rid of my dad’s car.
On its face, getting rid of a car sounds easy. Trade it in. Maybe give it to a grandchild about to earn a license. Donate it.
But my dad isn’t the standard octogenarian dispensing of a car. My dad is a Delco native who survived The Great Depression by joining the United States Marines at age 17.
That combination in a fella – Delco, Depression, military service – makes for a particular philosophy on life. It’s a never-throw-anything-away philosophy. A duct-tape-fixes-everything philosophy. A wear-the-free-T-shirt-but-iron-a-crease-in-your-pants philosophy. A beer-is-the-only-booze-you-need philosophy. A love-your-kids-but-let-‘em-fail philosophy.
Also, my dad doesn’t “see” anything. But my dad “seen” a whole lot.
You Delco folks know what I mean.
So life with my dad means do what you want but don’t come crying to him when it goes sideways. If the radiator falls out of your car, or your pants are too long, or your arm is broken – all of that can be fixed with duct tape. Garages and The Gap and hospitals cost money. So does duct tape, but not nearly as much.
That’s probably why there are only seven hospitals for Delco’s 565,000 people but 22 hospitals for Montco’s 818,000 people. We Montco-raised people do not have the fortitude for duct-tape arm casts. We just don’t.
When my dad needed a car to haul around any number of his eight grandkids, or drive vegetables from his buddy’s garden in Chester County to the Caring for Friends food bank in Philadelphia, or to fix a heater in Perkiomen even though he was a decade retired, he bought a used minivan.
Used. There will be no new cars in this story. Or in my dad’s story. “Reduce, reuse, recycle” is probably seared into his scalp like “666” was on Damien’s in The Omen.
The first thing my dad did when he bought that van was tear out the seats in the back. I don’t know how he drove the grandkids around like that. And I don’t want to know. My dad’s nephew taught me to drive on a back country road when I was ten and I turned out just fine.
The next thing he did was load up on fan belts because each time the minivan went over a puddle the fan belt blew. I don’t know what that means but I do know no one ever had to pick up my dad. Delco doesn’t ask for pick-ups. Delco does the picking up.
And, of course, my dad threw away nothing that landed in his minivan. Oil in an unlabeled glass jar? That might come in handy someday. Number two pencil decorated with mermaids? Some grandkid will use it. A piece of cardboard leftover from some long-forgotten package? Well, what are you going to write on with that mermaid pencil? Your hand?
Sadly, age and disease caught up with my dad. The day I took his keys was one of the worst of my life. My dad drove for a living. I remember a five-year-old me, sitting in the front seat of his Greyhound bus, heading to the Spectrum to see Dorothy Hamill skate.
Taking the keys brought me to the question I think every girl asks herself at some point in her life: What do I do with a seatless, oil-filled, fan belt compromised minivan from the 20th century?
Scrapping it seems my wisest choice. But can I scrap it when random tools and jars filled with unknown liquids populate its innards? Probably not, right? That’s when Matt O’Donnell covers the explosion at the scrapyard.
My brother and I set about emptying the minivan. Which wasn’t easy. Even though my dad can’t walk far, and his thinking has slowed, and he doesn’t possess the minivan keys, he somehow managed to be present for each of our cleanouts.
Remember. Delco Depression Marines don’t throw things away. You might need those vials of mercury. That rubber stamp with the Camp Pendleton return address. That tube of resin. That tire.
I don’t even know what to do with the mercury. What was it even for? I’m afraid to ask. The vials were in a Maxwell House coffee can. I put the can of mercury vials in my garage next to my aunt’s and uncle’s ashes.
That corner of the garage has become the corner of things I just don’t know how to handle. Maybe I should put my mom there.
The minivan, as it turned out, held everything but its title. A car’s title is not as important as, say, the metal thingamajig shaped like a leg.
So, like a good Delco boy, the minivan is down but not out. It’s holding on, weathered but not beaten, immobile but ever-present, showing its age but still kicking.
Huh. Kind of like my dad.
A little duct tape and maybe they’ll both be as good as new.