Pondering the Pavement

April 1, 2019

Carma: What Zooms Around Vrooms Around

“The little old lady from Pasadena
(Go granny, go granny, go granny go)
Has a pretty little flower bed of white gardenias
(Go granny, go granny, go granny go)
But parked in her rickety old garage
Is a brand new shiny red Super Stock Dodge…”

– Jan & Dean, ‘The Little Old Lady from Pasadena’

 

MY COUSIN, GEORGE, HAD A SERIOUS SWEET TOOTH.  Over the years, his passion for candy & pastries left my own in a cloud of powered sugar. It got to the point where all he would eat was sugar in nearly any form. There were bowls of M&M’s in every room of the house (God love him). You’d also find a healthy mix of Reese’s Cups, butterscotch and peppermint hard tack candies, and even a scattering of the “fun size” Milky Way bars just to shake things up. The kitchen was home base to nearly every variety of mass-produced cream filled snack cakes you could think of and then some. He lost all his teeth several years earlier, so what was the harm in living primarily on candy? A Willy Wonka wet dream in the making.

CandyDishNear the end of his life, another staple of sweetness found its way into his home and bloodstream: spearmint lifesaver candies. Those little individually wrapped suckers (see what I did there?) were sprinkled all over the house. After he passed away in 2018, his wife carried on this tradition. When she passed away, lacking 2 days of being 7 months later, we found a nearly endless supply of those candies in every nook & cranny of their home. In addition to two glass bowls full of the little breath-freshening morsels, they were also strewn throughout the house like loose change. As a matter of fact, one side of one of her purses was stuffed to the seams with ‘em. This particular pocketbook played host to her driver’s license, a rain hat and about 4 dozen of those little lifesaver candies.

They were both tough old birds (said with the best of intentions) cut from the same racing checkered cloth. They shared a love for sweets, cars, stubbornness and one another. Once either of them dug their heels in, there was no force on earth that could budge them. Trying to dissuade them from a decision was the equivalent of trying to find a vegan with any functioning taste buds: you can try but why waste your time?

Here’s an example: Marjorie had difficulty getting around in her later years. She was getting stooped over more & more each year and she needed a hip-replacement. Despite her growing list of limitations, she still forced herself to get up and go as best she could. After my mother, Mildred, bit the big one in 2017, I gave Marjorie one of Mom’s three canes. It was adjustable, so I knew it would be ideal for her shrinking stature (she went from 5’6” to 4’9” over time). I took it down to its lowest level and showed it to her. She wrapped her well-manicured fingers around the handle cautiously, sizing up both the cane and what it represented. She politely thanked me, assuring me that it would be beneficial to her “down the road.” She then asked me to place it in the corner of the living room. I did as she asked and, as God is my witness, that cane stayed in the corner, collecting dust, for nearly two years. She never once used it.

Flash forward to 1:11am on February 12, 2019. Marjorie had passed away less than an hour earlier. The intimate gathering was silently waiting for the arrival of the funeral director. We had convened in the living room, quietly immersed in our own moods and memories. There wasn’t a single sound outside of the sporadic sniffle or sigh. We were all startled back into the present by a loud unexpected crash. The unused cane had just toppled to the floor. A communal gasp filled the room, followed by a ripple of stunned silence. Never one to miss a beat, that’s when I started laughing. Either my mother was swinging by—just making her (unwelcome) presence known—or it was Marjorie letting me know that she still had no need for that cane! I’m sticking with the latter because I just stubbornly refuse to give mom any more credit than I absolutely must at this point.

If Marjorie had a theme song to her life, I’m convinced it would have been “My Way.”

After the funeral, the executor offered me the opportunity to purchase Marjorie’s car from the estate. It was being offered to me at the Kelly Bluebook value. A heck of a good deal on a 2006 Dodge Charger with only 10,607 miles on it. Yup. You read that right. A 13-year-old automobile that had averaged nearly 816 miles per year. It was literally a car that was driven by a little old lady once a week. She had to stop driving it because she could no longer see over the dashboard. It had been kept in a garage and was in pristine condition. George & Marjorie were extreme car enthusiasts. They had both been stockcar racers in the 50’s and 60’s (and had plenty of trophies to prove it). They owned a highly successful Chrysler dealership for nearly 30 years. You could say motor oil raced through their veins. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, the car would be in excellent shape.

Of course, as is my custom, I hesitated. While still a helluva deal, it would take a noticeable hunk out of my savings. But, in order to go beyond my home to expand my work base, I would have to go beyond my means, not to mention my overall comfort zone. How friggin’ poetic. As usual, I found myself asking for a sign. Fun Fact: in storytelling, this is referred to as “foreshadowing.”

Something I almost always do is check any form of numerology connected to an event. Later that evening, I stepped out of the warmth of their home into the brisk winter West Virginia air. And by “brisk” I’m referring to single digit temps. I firmly believe “six” should NOT a temperature. At best it’s an amusing misspelling of “sex” or the number of days in a week I wish to dine on cheesecake. Nothing more. I stepped into the garage and added up the license plate. It totaled a five. In numerology, five is the number of big ass change. Sure, most numerologists leave out the ass, but I feel it accurately gets the idea across. Getting the car would most certainly be a big ass change in my life. One for the Other Side.

However, my mother was also a five. Shit. I shook that one off, sticking valiantly to the idea she has nothing to do with this (OR my life) on ANY level.

Stubbornly, I checked the vehicle identification number. This number, a distant cousin of pi, is a long rambling series of digits composed of numbers AND letters. I reached an 11 by totaling up the numbers of the VIN alone. This made me quite happy. My peeps often use an 11 as a “thumbs up” from them. But something/someone was nudging me to add-in the numerical equivalent of the letters, too.

Well, shit. Five. (insert intense stare accented by furrowed brow here)

I turned on my nearly numb heel and went back inside, the sound of the garage door descending in the background. I sat at the kitchen table for quite sometime pondering my situation. The only sound in the house was the monotonous ticking of a clock. At least that’s what I assumed it was. After awhile I realized the tick-tick-ticking was my own forefinger on my left hand tapping the table. I just sat back and laughed.

I do that a lot these daze (not a misspelling BTW).

I shook my head and said, probably aloud, “What should I do, Leigh?” Asking advice from a dead person is a pretty normal activity for me these days. I almost said “paranormal activity” but I opted to avoid the pun. Damn friggin’ mature of me, don’cha think?

I was to give my decision the next day. Prior to calling in my choice, I bundled up like Ralphie’s baby brother in ‘A Christmas Story’ and walked to the local McDonald’s. This was the only location where I could sign onto the internet. My cell provider has no cell towers in the backwoods area, so this was my only option to discover what was still going on in the world. After thawing out, using the steam of my hot chocolate to spring my metacarpals back to life, I checked my email. After scanning through a mercifully small assortment, my eyes and heart stopped when I saw an email bearing the simple subject line of LEIGH.

It was an email from one of Leigh’s daughters. Stunned does not even begin to cover what I was feeling. I have not heard a peep from any of her children since the day of her funeral 12 years earlier. The day after I nonchalantly tossed Leigh’s hat into the ring of the situation, this girl—nay, young woman—decides to reach out to me. Holy Expletive, Batman. She opened the email with this:

“I’m not sure why I feel nervous to reach out to you,
I remember you being a very warm and welcoming person. 😊
I’ve wanted to contact you for a few years now.”

I sat there, dumbfounded, on the verge of tears. My emotional upheaval must have been more noticeable than I thought because a fellow patron asked me if I was ok. I just said my nuggets were especially good that day and waved them on… Leigh was always one to insist on going after the brass ring. Taking chances was as commonplace as inhaling and exhaling for her. So, with a lump in my throat and its twin in my gut, I bought Marjorie’s car.

Right after signing the paperwork, I drove the car to the cemetery where George & Marjorie are buried. I wanted to offer a simple ‘thank you’ for this opportunity. As a medium, I know I don’t HAVE to go where the physical body is located. I know that’s not them. That’s simply the outfit they wandered around in, nothing more. But the physical part of me needed to be humored. George & Marjorie are buried, alongside their own parents, in the back part of the large graveyard. However, my great-grandmother (George’s grandmother), is in a lone plot just as you first enter the property. I stopped the car, parked, and walked across the crumbling roadway to her gravesite. I couldn’t just drive on by without saying “HELLO.” That would be rude, and I was raised better than that.

LoneCandyI gave my silent tribute to my great-grandmother as I wiped away some wet leaves from her flat marker. I then turned to head back to my car (admittedly, it still felt awkward thinking of it as “my car”). Something caught my eye as I returned to my car. Something small and white to the rear of it reflected a glint from the sun attempting to peek through the rolling winter clouds. I walked over to it and was simply dumbfounded. As God is my witness, it was one of those lifesaver mints! Keep in mind that the mint was on the ground several feet behind the car. When I got Car&Candyout of the car, I walked directly across the street to my ancestor’s burial spot. I did not walk BEHIND the car and then across. There was no way one of those mints could have fallen out of the car when I opened the door, nor could it have fallen out of my pocket as I crossed the road (sans the chicken). Upon seeing it there, all wrapped up in its cozy cellophane wrapper, I had no choice but to just burst out laughing. That’s pretty much my custom for just about everything these days.

I drove back to their now all-too-silent home. I steered the Dodge behemoth into the garage, my face still aching from all that non-stop smiling all the way back. I glanced at the clock and realized for the first time that the time was no more accurate than a lackadaisical dieter’s weight log. I opened the glovebox to retrieve the owner’s manual. It’s a thick novella filled with far too many mechanical instructions for my taste. My general knowledge of the workings of an automobile is as follows:

1) Slip key into ignition.

2) Turn key.

3) Magic elves make it work.

I thumbed through the index but, alas, there was no mention of elves, gnomes or lawn fairies to be found. It’s always sad when a long held belief system is drop-kicked to the curb. My chubby index finger found its way to the page number that would allegedly provide me with SIMPLE EASY TO UNDERSTAND steps to setting the accurate time on the clock. I didn’t WANT to duct tape a Timex onto the dashboard, but I was most certainly not above such a solution if painted into a corner. I thumbed through the pages, but my plight was halted by a bookmark of sorts. My lips pursed as my eyes bulged out of their respective sockets as I realized what I had found. The bookmark was a Christmas gift tag that read, “To Marjorie From Mildred with Love.”

XmasTagI did the only thing I could do: I bounced my head off of the steering wheel a few times. Try it. It’s surprisingly refreshing.

So, yea, I’m willing to bet on the fact that George & Marjorie set the whole thing up. And, apparently, they had a wee bit of help. Ahem. There’s no doubt in my skeptical mind that they’re all three gloating about it. Honestly, I can’t say I blame ‘em. With that being said, “Thanks, George. Thanks, Marjorie… (insert heavy sigh of semi-defeat here) … and thanks, Mom.”

 

 

 

 

 


Car

“MY” Car.

“Well I’m not braggin’ babe so don’t put me down,
But I’ve got the fastest set of wheels in town.
When something comes up to me, he don’t even try
‘Cause if I had a set of wings man, I know she could fly.”

—The Beach Boys, ‘Little Deuce Coupe’

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