Last Drive

Since I live in the outskirt of the city of greater Des Moines, I travel some distance everyday for work. I drive close to 40 miles a day roundtrip. I don’t mind to drive though, as long as the traffic is moving fast. In reality it only takes me less than 25 minutes one way, which is less than the average time Americans spent going to their workplace. I know if I drive in Metro Manila, that distance I covered will take me an hour or two, plus a lot of cursing.

In addition, as I have written in the past, I go once a month to our satellite clinics (I go to 2 outreach clinics now) which is about an hour and a half drive from our main office. Even though it is about 80 miles away, the travel is easy with open highways that goes through scenic rural Iowa of rolling hills of farmlands and prairies. In fact I even consider the drive relaxing (read previous post “Zen Driving”).

For the past several years I have made this journey alone, except for my thoughts, the radio playing the music I picked for that day, and my trusted car. The other day, I made that same journey again. But somehow, something was different.

It was my last drive on this trip with my “old” car.

My car is getting old. Like dogs, 1 car year is probably comparable to 7 human years, especially if you drive it a lot. I have read in car reviews that the average life span of a car is about 10 – 13  years or about 150,000 miles. Though there are cars that still runs good even after 200,000 miles.

My car is 10 years old and approaching 150,000 miles. It may be considered already a grandma in car years, though it still runs well, however it’s getting expensive to maintain. Not too long ago, I have to change some parts that costs a hefty sum, that I wondered if its worth spending that amount. I surely would not like to spend more than its remaining trade value.

Thus I decided that its time for it to go.

But on our last trip together, I let it run wild. Instead of zen driving I transitioned to rallye driving. I shifted to sports gear all the way, and I let its engine revved as we climb hills and raced through open highways, bringing out its racing heritage. My car may be old, yet it still has lots of feistiness remaining in it.

As we were whizzing through open country roads and as I was listening to its engine growl, my car was singing to me its swan song.

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(*photo with and iPhone)

Vintage Driving

I was scooting from one patient’s room to another in our clinic the other day as it was a busy day for me. Our schedule was full and our clinic was busting at the seams with patients. I think that’s good. Not good that many people are sick, but good in the sense of job security.

Then in one stretch of time in the afternoon, I saw three nonagenarians (person in their 90’s) back to back, to back. They were there for asthma follow-up and regular check-up.

Two patients were both 94-year-old ladies, and one patient was a gentleman who was 93. If you don’t look at their records and peek at their birth dates, you would think they were much younger. Decades younger.

All of them were in remarkable shape despite their advanced age. They will put to shame some of my 40 or 50-year-old patients.

All of them still live independently. All of them were spry and sharp, and were still quite active. And all of them still drive. Not drive their family crazy. But they still drive a car! In my opinion, there’s no reason why they cannot.

I know that driving nowadays is getting easier and easier. With most of our cars with automatic transmission, it does not take a lot of skill to drive a car. And now with our advancing technology, there are “smart” cars that will automatically stop and avoid collision, or keep you in lane, or adjust your distance to the cars in front of you, or warn you of your blind spot, or cars that even park itself.

I know not very long from now, we will have self-driving cars, which are already being tested, cruising in all our highways. Then driving ability and skill will not even be necessary.

But still having a very old person at the back of a steering wheel can be a scary thought. If you think about a frail 90-year-old lady with failing eyesight, very poor reflexes and perhaps lapsing memory too, barreling down the road in a big Buick, and you’re in the crossroad, and you wonder if old grandma will be oriented enough to release her foot off the gas and step on the brake.  Will she be able to stop in time not to run you over?

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(picture from classbrain.com)

Back to my patients, out of curiosity I asked one of my 94-year-old lady patient what kind of car she drives. A vintage automobile perhaps?

She told me proudly that she drives a bright yellow, German-made, convertible with an accompanying vanity plate. I bet you with a car like that she does not drive slow like a grandma.

Great grandma was still driving in style!

When I came to examine the other 94-year-old lady, I was more than curious to ask what car she drives. As a jest I asked her if she also drives a convertible? Her answer blew me away.

She told me that she used to drive a convertible until 2 years ago, but traded it for a more subdued style of car. She does not care about convertible anymore as it just messes her hair.

Yet she said that she cannot give up though the type of car that she was used to drive, all these years. So even though it was not a convertible, it was still this kind. What kind?

She still drives a stick shift! Ageless indeed.

 

 

 

Someone to Watch Over Me

“Your bear needs a car seat”.

With a knowing smile, that’s what one of my partners at work told me, a few days ago. He was talking about the teddy bear in my car.

He claimed his curiosity was piqued when he saw a teddy bear securely strapped with a seatbelt in the back seat of a car, and wondered whose car was it. Then he saw a white lab coat with a name embroidered on it, hanging on the back rest of the front seat. He then learned that it was mine.

I was busted for having a teddy bear in the car!

my silent passenger

You probably wondering, why does a grown-up man have a toy bear?

That teddy bear was placed by my wife in my car right after our son was born. We were still in Florida at that time. It was for the purpose that whenever our baby rides in my car, there’s a toy that he can play with to keep him quiet, and also to keep him company in the back seat.

Sure enough, whenever my son and even my daughter whose 5 years older, rode in my car, they played with that teddy bear. It pacified them. It cheered them. It kept them company. My son even gave it a name. He called it “Dr. Teddy.”

That was some time ago.

We have changed home address at least 3 times, moved to Iowa since, and I even replaced my previous car. But that bear remained in the back seat of my car.

And my son? He does not even sit in the back seat anymore. He now sits in the front seat whenever he rides with me.

In the US, the traffic law of most states only allow children to sit in the front seat of a vehicle if they are more than 80 pounds, or more than 5 feet tall, or more than 12 years of age. My son is all of the above now.

My daughter? She herself has been driving for about a year already.

Perhaps I just did not notice how time have gone so fast that that bear was not needed anymore. Or perhaps I was too busy and just did not have the time to remove the teddy bear. Or maybe I just cannot let go of the bear, and the period of time and the memories it represents.

Though I don’t particularly miss tangling with infant carrier, or futzing with car seats, or changing diapers.

For you parents with little children, who probably gets annoyed with the ritual of fastening carriers and car seats, or perhaps are fed up of the duty of changing the dreaded dirty diapers: embrace these rites of passage. For tomorrow, you blink, and they’re gone, except for the memories.

Or maybe, just maybe, that the bear was not really for my kids, but for me. Someone to watch over me, and keep me company when I’m all by myself.

The bear stays.

(*photo taken with an iPhone)

Goodbye Big Brother

It was his last day with us. After spending several years with our family, that feels like a lifetime, we had to say goodbye to him. As we were driving him to his destination, my son, who actually grew up with him, lovingly said, “Goodbye big brother.”

But before you feel terribly sad, I am just talking about our car.

Our family car, a Honda SUV, was getting old. We bought it 11 years ago, and took it home a few days before my son was born. In fact it was brand new when my newborn son rode home in it from the hospital. We were still living in Florida at that time. We rode in it when we moved to Iowa, and kept it all these years.

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In this day and age that many people change cars as often as they change their clothes, it is hard to get attached to a car. But I guess we are different. Though I read a recent article that due to slower US economy, many Americans are keeping their cars longer.

My father, when we were in the Philippines, kept our family car, a Ford Cortina, for more than 20 years. We drove it until it cannot run anymore (see previous post here). Come to think of it, we got it when I was 2 years old, and I even used it to take my girlfriend, my eventual wife, on a date. Too bad my son will not have the chance to take his “big brother” dating.

Back to our Honda, we drove it to parks, markets, church, school, office, hospital, gym, concerts. music practice, birthday parties, weddings, and funerals.  We have taken it on vacations, camping, hiking, and long road trips. From the urban jungle of New York City to the wilderness of Wyoming. From sunny roads of Florida to the snowy highways of Minnesota, and many other states in between. We even drove it out of the US to Canada, from Niagara Falls to Quebec.

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It did not just carry us to places and destinations, but it also carried our stuff, like our luggage, tents, bikes, and other equipments. It even carried our Christmas trees every year from the tree farm to our home. Yes, it carried a ton load of memories.

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But after 11 years of faithful service and with almost 170,000 miles, one day a warning indicator light went off. We brought it to the local car dealer, and after doing diagnostics, they told us that it needed a new transmission and some other parts that need to be replaced. And how much would that cost us? $7000 in total. Ouch!

Then we asked the dealer how much can we trade it in for? We were told that it was valued at about $3000. And the value will not increase even if we have it repaired. Are you kidding me? It would be more expensive to repair it than to trade it in! Where’s the logic in that?

That’s when we decided that it is time to let it go. “Let it go, let it go! Can’t hold it back anymore…(ala Disney’s Frozen)…..Let it go, let it go, you’ll never see me cry.” Sorry I got carried away.

It was cold and blustery that night. We parked it in the dealer’s parking lot. I took a final photo of it with my kids. After doing our final silent “ceremony” with it, we said goodbye to our car.

As we were driving away, I looked at the rear view mirror and took a last glance of it as we left it there in the cold. I felt a certain sadness. I swear, I thought it waved goodbye back.

But the sadness was mixed with excitement, as I hear the roar of the engine of our new playmate. Vroooom!

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Hello there!