31 August 2013

The negotiation process was somewhat easier than I thought it would be: I obtained a check from my credit union, filled in the amount of money I was willing to spend, and set my laptop up on a table in their showroom. I was in the midst of email when an associate finally asked me if he could help.

"I want this car," I said, handing him a paper that detailed the Equinox that, according to their online records, had just come in the night before, "for this price," showing him the check. "You will find," I said, "that the incentives I am eligible for are detailed on the sheet, leaving you with some money to find. My car for trade in is the silver VUE in the parking lot. I have to leave in two hour and a half hours. Go see what you can do."

And he did.

While they didn't meet my price completely - I wrote out a supplementary check to cover the bit they were unable to find - the trip did result in a new vehicle. I'd been considering such a move for a few months now. Oskar was getting old, creaky, less fuel efficient, and induced a bit of nervousness. While he'd really given me not a single lick of trouble aside from the occasional mid-priced repair, I had the sneaking suspicion I would not last the coming winter with such luck.

But it was really only a sneaking suspicion, which brought on a whole host of other doubts: was I getting rid of him too quickly? What were my qualifications to make such a claim? What were the environmental implications of my decision to buy a new car? The impact on my bank account? It was a dangerous spiral, this whole line of thinking. It came down to this: While not an expert in auto mechanics, I drove Oskar every day. I could feel him getting tired, if cars can get tired. Someone who had the know-how to keep him running would find him and he would serve them well.

And I am a guy who's lucky enough to have a professional position. This wouldn't kill my bank account. I had done a decent job paying down my debt load in the last year. This would be okay. The credit union thought I could handle this. My financial advisor thought the same thing.

Thus, I found myself in the waiting room of the car dealership, minutes remaining on the timeline, when the salesman found me and detailed everything they were able to do to make the deal happen, save for a bit over overage. He had obviously worked hard on the package and was excited for the deal. But my time was up and I would be back on Friday morning. Handing him a deposit check, I left, and went home.

It was on the drive home that the idea of actually trading Oskar in hit me and the most irrational of arguments emerged: I couldn't get rid of Oskar. My mom would never sit in the new car. She had sat in Oskar. We had taken him to Green Bay to finish holiday shopping. We had arguments about why she could not smoke in my car. She had been there. I couldn't possibly pass him off to someone else, could I? Not when she had sat in him.

It was a strange moment of grieving, the kind of grieving I hadn't experienced in a long while, so sudden and forceful it felt as though the wind had been knocked out of me.

How was something so central to my being - my mother and the loss of her - become entwined in this purchase? This pursuit of a thing? That, there, was the rub: the loss of my mom was bigger than any one thing I've ever owned, Oskar included. This moment, I came to understand through conversation and a few sleepless nights, was less about Oskar as an object - Oskar who, indeed, had ushered my mother around a time or two and had carted me and my things through four moves. I would miss him, this is true.

This was about being forced to recognize yet another first. I remember other firsts: my first day without a mother I could call and who would answer the phone, the first graduation without her in the stands, the first birthday without a card.

My first car my mother has never ridden in.

I find the notion that grieving eventually ends to be laughable and wholly untrue. It persists, follows you, springing up at surprising and inopportune times. There are always firsts. There is always the missing. And while Gert is the first car my mother will never ride in, she will take me far and wide over the coming years. Oskar has left her some huge tires to fill. There will be many trips to be had, more adventures to be undertaken. And that's how Diane would have wanted it: to know Gert would safely and reliably take me to my destination, especially if that destination was home.

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