With its odometer closing in on three hundred thousand miles, our big black truck grumbles now when we stop at red lights. I can hear a fan whirl, gears click, parts roar. Bungee cords keep the tailgate from flying into traffic. A series of ropes keeps the back window shut. Spiderwebs creep across the windshield, one tiny crack blossoming into patterns. The tires are shot.
For the past seventeen years, my husband and I and that truck have worked hard.
“Stop the car,” I told Gary one day, almost two decades ago as we were traveling south on Santa Rosa Boulevard. “Pull in here.” We were in our little red Ford pick up, a wisp of a truck we used when we first started out. It worked hard too, but I decided we had outgrown it.
Saw blades threatened my neck for the last time. Since it didn't have a back seat, we piled our valuable tools from its bed to the front every time we had to lock up. Lots of times, I was stuck with screwdrivers jamming into my thighs or scratchy stuff I couldn’t identify chaffing my arms. Blades occasionally drew blood.
We pulled into a dealership and bought the Tundra that afternoon.
Many years later, right after Lauren was born, we sold our commercial laundry service, and the new owner wanted to run that business in our coin-op laundromat. Gary and I needed to build a space behind the washers and dryers, a place the new owner could call her own.
That week, I learned to use a skill saw, unloading two-by-fours from the back of our truck and cutting them to size while Gary hammered them into place. Every now and then I paused to nurse our baby in the midst of that chaos, sawdust mingling with the smells of bleach, detergent and grime. No wonder Lauren’s immune system is formidable.
Before we opened our flight school, I drove the truck to an odd man’s house. He had just closed his retail shop, and I loaded up his fixtures, his computers, and his peculiar life story. It was freezing that day, icy rain threatening to obscure my vision. The man talked and talked and talked, and I wanted to leave. So I crammed his used stuff into the cab and drove away, oblivious to the damage that stuff was wreaking on our upholstery.
Not long ago, a teenager slammed into Gary as he drove our truck to the hardware store. Shaken, the kid eased out of his totaled car, gaped at the damage he caused, and apologized profusely.
“He learned his lesson,” Gary told me, “no need to alert his insurance company and make his lesson even worse.” Our truck was still drivable, although a little less visually appealing. Since no one was hurt, we let that story end there.
After my dad died, I took the Tundra to a car wash, ignoring the obvious fact that our truck was way too tall. Those heavy brushes crushed the top of the cab while I wondered if they would crush me too. A stupid mistake, a physical manifestation of grief.
How many trips to the dump? How many trips to the hardware store? How many worksites? How many moments?
Yesterday, we decided at last that it’s time to turn the page, and we bought a new truck. This one doesn’t have a cassette deck, and its CD player works. Its windshield is in tact and the tires are new. One era is over; another one begins.
This milestone coincides with the end of my weekly column on breast cancer. For over a year, every Monday, I’ve shared stories about my experience, and now it’s time for change. BreastCancer-News, the outlet that published my stories and provided a small but reliable paycheck, is shutting down the site.
Letting go is an interesting process, one that involves freedom and loss and hopes and possibilities. As the blank page opens, I write my first tentative lines, take that first tentative trip.
This morning, tea in hand, I glanced at our driveway. A new red Ford pickup, like the one we started with but all grown up, gleams in the blazing desert sun. An image of a circle flashes in my mind.
And whatever’s around the corner toys with my imagination.
An end and a beginning, as usual, all rolled up into one.