Friday, January 23, 2015


"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;"
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

Much has been written and discussed over the past hundred years or so about Americans' "love affair with their automobiles".  As a committed Christian, I am well aware that this "love affair" can border on idolatry and in fact can be idolatry.   I admit that as much as I would like to own a brand-new car someday, it's possible that I never will, because I can get much too wrapped up in worrying about the slightest dent or scratch to the car's exterior, or about a stain on the upholstery.  This may be part of why the Lord has had me in very old cars for the past couple of decades!   My last two cars have been what I called my "Lt. Columbo cars".  They've been like that beat up 1959 Peugeot which was his trademark vehicle on the old "Columbo" television movies all the way from 1968 through 2003!   My cars were old and beat up, and yet sporting Massachusetts license plate #280.  It's a long story, but I inherited those specialty license plates when my parents passed away in mid-2000 (within seven weeks of each other).

I got my parents' 1989 Volkswagen Golf in 2000 and I drove that car until early 2010.  At that time, the brakes failed [totally] in downtown Framingham.  I literally drove the car right into a snowbank to stop!  It was towed to my driveway by AAA and it sat there for three months until I sold it to a young mechanic who loved fixing up old Volkswagens.  Right now, I'm without my own car, and frankly I hate it, but I easily forget that in 2010, I went for almost three months with no car of my own.  It was a little easier then because I lived withing walking distance of work, my barber, my bank, and my post office box- not twenty-one miles away like today!    

I was very blessed in May of 2010 to receive a gift of precious cargo from my daughter Amy and son-in-law David:  A 1995 Subaru Impreza sedan which they'd owned for several years.  Amy and a friend drove it all the way from Springfield, Missouri to Framingham, Massachusetts.  During the Subaru's final eighteen months, it really looked like what I call "a junk heap" but it was not too bad looking when I got it in May of 2010.  There was something very special about that car because I first drove and "experienced" the green Subaru sedan on my time of "sabbatical" there in Missouri in April and May of 2009.  The Subaru was not Amy and David's only vehicle.  They pretty much let me use the car quite a bit during that time.  I've written on the blog in the past about the "private retreat" I had at the Hermitage Spiritual Retreat Center, located about an hour and a half's drive north of the city of Springfield.  I well remember the drive up there and back, and seeing the Subaru parked there during my days of prayer and reading and reflection.  My wife joined me for part of the time in Missouri and when she was there, we did an overnight in Branson, also using the Subaru.  Thus, when I registered the Subaru as my car in May of 2010 it was already sort of an "old friend".  I deliberately never removed the Missouri inspection sticker from the car's windshield.  (In Missouri, the sticker goes on the opposite side of the windshield from where the Massachusetts stickers are displayed.)  And, I was even kind of proud of the "Reliable SuperStore" dealer's decal on the trunk of the car.  (Back when I went to Bible College, that was known as "Reliable Chevrolet"!)  

The Subaru had just over 156,000 miles on it when I got started as the owner.  Upon being junked a couple of weeks ago, there were 270,911 miles on it!  Yes, I put 114,000 miles on that car in four and a half years!   It was especially during the year and a half of living in Webster and commuting every day to Framingham that I put about half of those miles on the car.  After about a year, the Subaru started looking a little "ratty" and after two years, it frankly looked terrible.  In several places, the exterior trim fell right off!   The metal "door" over the gas cap area broke off.  In the pre-Halloween snowstorm of 2011, a tree fell on the roof of the car, leaving several large dents!  The driver's seat had a few rips and tears in it when I got the car.  By about a year ago, it was all torn up and looked horrible.  There was "stuffing" from the inside of the seat that was coming out all over the place.  The Subaru had four "hub caps" when I got the car.  They were not factory hub caps.  I think my son-in-law must have bought some look-alike ones at an auto parts store.  One of those plastic hub caps broke in pieces when I had a tire blow out on the Mass. Turnpike on Christmas Day 2011.  One broke when I whalloped a curb a few months later (note: Mary Ann, you did NOT just read that- please disregard!).  I think another just fell off.  For the past year or so, there was only one lone hub cap on the car.  The paint was not perfect in 2010 and by 2014 "looked a little rough" to use one of my son-in-law's expressions.  One day in a parking lot, somebody drove into the left rear tail light and cracked and broke the red plastic covering.   I had to order a new one of those to pass a state inspection, and I had my friend Bill install it.  In February of 2014, as I was opening the door to get out of the car, a woman in an S.U.V. smashed into the door and demolished the window glass!   I got a replacement window put in at an auto shop, but honestly, it never quite worked as well.  On the day we moved out of the Webster apartment in June of 2012, the car's nice radio died!  Following the radio's passing, I would keep a large "boom box" in the back seat and listen to it when I drove.  Can you picture me trying to change stations and work the controls while driving?!  I can't either, and yet I did it- and it was quite unpleasant!

Somewhere around late 2012, I began noticing that at times there was a strong odor of gasoline when I'd exit the Subaru.  At other times, none.  It took me a long time to discover why that was the case.  In November of 2013,   I noticed a puddle of gasoline almost the size of a dollar bill behind the car's right rear tire.  Above that stain was the gas cap and fill area.  Yup, there was a small leak somewhere in that area.  When I bought gasoline, especially when I filled it up fully, there would be a stain and that gasoline odor.  When I had less than a quarter of a tank of gas, there was almost never any gas leak.  And, I discovered I had a power steering fluid leak.  That  left a stain the size of a half dollar coin any time I'd been parked for more than a couple of hours.  So, for the final year of the car, most of the time I had to try to park it off of pavement at my residence- not always easy to do!  One of my biggest thrills of the past couple of years was being an in-studio guest on Dan Rea's "Nightside" radio program on Boston's WBZ.   The night I was on air, my brakes were almost completely gone on the Subaru!  The drive to and from the station was frankly scary.  Just two days after I was on "Nightside" I lost my brakes completely on Route 126 in Ashland near the McDonald's.  Thank God, I did not hit anyone or anything.  I steered the car off the road and had it towed to an auto shop.

Yes, I was having a real love/hate relationship with the Subaru in 2013 and 2014.  It was like a ninety-year-old man in ill health.  I knew it was going to die at any time, but I just kept wanting to think and believe the best.  I will spare you all of the gory details, but the Subaru totally died for good on Sunday morning, December 21 and it was hauled off to a junk yard a little over a week later.   Even during the "bad" times with the Subaru, I never forgot that "we" attended that retreat in Missouri together and that "we" each had a "Springfield, Missouri connection"!   I don't miss the leaking gasoline, nor the leaking power steering fluid, nor the "ratty" appearance of the car; but on another level, there was a sentimental connection to that car- especially connecting it to my daughter, that I will never forget.

Right now, I'm "carless" and it's frankly a very difficult time.  A friend (who deserves an "A" for his effort and hard work) did a great job locating a good and inexpensive Saturn for me three weeks ago, but due to some circumstances beyond his or my control, this turned out to not be a workable plan.  We had to pass on that car, and right now we're back to square one. 

I wonder- where will my next "Volkswagen" or "Subaru" come from?   The Lord provided those cars and I am frankly trusting Him to provide another.  And, will I feel as sentimental about this car when someday it's time to say good-bye to it?

1 comment:

Diana Hayes said...

You’ll find a way towards your new car, Bob. Hopefully, it will be another Subaru. You’ve been with your old one for quite a long time, so it's understandable why your connection with it verges on a sentimental level. Good luck with your search for your next ride!

Diana Hayes @ Baldwin Subaru