For everything there is a season; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing – Ecclesiastes.
Parker, my 1991 Buick Park Avenue, had another scary ‘mechanical incident’ recently. It won’t be his last.
He’s nearly 30 – ancient for a sedan.
My wife insists it’s time to let him go. She drives the Nissan Quest. Jim – much younger – was getting an oil change, so she took the Buick.
“I’d just entered Valley Village mall parking lot,” she said, her voice shaking, “when the brake pedal suddenly went spongy. I pumped it like mad. That slowed us down, but it took the curb at the back of the lot to stop us. Thank god I wasn’t on the Lougheed Highway like you were when it happened.”
Mark, the mechanic, said the brake hose on the left wheel was leaking.
“I bled the brakes, topped up the fluid, rebuilt the line, and replaced the proportioning value. Are you intending to keep this car?” he said.
“Of course,” I snapped. “He’s family.”
It was an expensive, two-hour job that sounded like the triple bypass surgery a hiking friend underwent last year. It takes super-human will power to survive a brutal operation like that and get back on the trail, step-by-step. But my buddy climbs Alouette mountain again like a frisky young goat, and he’s 75.
Parker’s a trooper, too. I was hoping his story would be similar.
“You’re not facing facts,” the wife repeated. “That car shouldn’t be on the road. I won’t take him out now, and you shouldn’t either.”
I’d buried the painful memory of Parker’s first braking incident. We were headed west on the Lougheed at nearly the same mall when his master cylinder – an essential part of the braking system – gave in with a foreboding sigh.
Pumping the pedal and turning into the curb stopped us that time, too. Yes, I should have retired the old boy after that, but anthropomorphists avoid final farewells as long as possible because they see human traits in objects such as sweaters, (Old Bob’s getting holes in his sleeves), or cars like my first.
Nancy was a 1953 the four-cylinder Ford Prefect. We’d be together today if a friend hadn’t dumped cold water in her radiator. Cracked her engine block. It hurt to see her hoisted up indignantly and towed down the road.
Today, as most of my parts pass the ‘best before date,’ the eye doc monitors cataracts, and arthritis settles comfortably in my neck, and so on, I struggle to abandon the old friend I’ve shared intimate personal information with while cruising down the freeway listening to John Denver sing Annie’s Song – you fill up my senses like mountain in springtime.
Not any more. Parker’s been running on borrowed time. He keeps mobile thanks only to wreckers or GM dealerships as far away as Texas. That’s where he got horn fobs when his stopped working. Wrong color, but they worked.
An ignition coil is like a human heart – think pacemaker. It provides the spark that sets a vehicle in motion. Parker had a transplant in 2012. Got it from a wrecker in Abbotsford. No guarantee it will last.
On Pender Island, a branch flew up and smashed Parker’s beautiful grill. He looked like Philadelphia Flyers’ former captain Bobby Clarke of ’70s fame.
I knew how depressed he must have been when his smile was gone.
What else? Starter motor, hood release cables from Stave Falls Auto, brake cable – only one left in the U.S. – a Bellingham GM told me.
You get the point: the time to refrain from embracing is very near. I’m sure Parker has resigned to it. He’s had a good run thanks to donations from other Park Avenues who went before him. I’m sure he’d like to reciprocate – donate anything with life in it.
Maybe, we all should. Sadly, organ donations are down in Canada. There’s no age, or medical or race restrictions for registering online, but only 50 per cent of us choose to sign up before we die.
I’m not sure what Parker will decide for his final resting place. He might want to go to his old friends at Stave Falls Auto, or be donated to the diabetes foundation.
I told him Nancy’s final stop was a high school automotive shop.
“She helped the kids learn,” I said.
I’m sure that pleased the old boy, and last week, I read him these comforting words from A.A. Milne: Promise you’ll never forget me. If I thought you would, I’d never leave.
Fear not, Parker, my old pal. We are near our final good-bye, but I will never forget you.
Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.