Friday, August 24, 2012

Maggie's Cool Car - A Goodbye

It’s been a long time coming and a lot of emotional work to get to this point, but Sunday a guy is coming over to look at Maggie’s cool car.  I put it up for sale about a month ago.  It only took me about 2 ½ years to do that.  I’m terrified that this jerk is going to want to pay me for it and then do something really crazy like drive off with it.  I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like to watch that car head down the street.   If it’s ok, I’d like to tell the story behind Maggie’s Cool Car as I originally told it on my personal blog on September 2009.  It’s long.  I think you’ll see why it’s so hard for me to let go of Maggie’s Cool Car.

September 28, 2009
Today the Mercedes dealership called to congratulate Maggie on three years ownership of her car.  Apparently, I bought the car back on September 28, 2006.  While I didn’t realized it had been three years, I clearly remember the event but it seems like so long ago.  The car was an early graduation gift from me to her.  She was so, so happy about it but she was also studying for her finals or something else important that my show of kindness was interrupting so celebrations were brief.  Nonetheless, she posed for a few photos and then shooed me off so she could continue her colligate grind.  It was a fun day and one of my favorite memories.

Maggie and I had a master plan.  She was going to graduate law school and then I was going to head off to business school.  It was a grand plan and one we were both quite excited about.  The end of that plan, at least where the specifics started getting fuzzy, was when I graduated from school in May 2008.  The finale, we decided, was for her to be pregnant with our first child as I marched across the Acton finish line, diploma in hand.  From there, we weren’t really sure where we’d go but hey, we made the plan back in 2002-ish.  And having a first child set in motion a whole new plan of in and of itself.

When Maggie started law school, we had two cars: a Corvette (2000, white, awesome) and a Jeep (Wrangler, 2000, bright yellow, bad ass.)  Both were amazing vehicles in their own right.  But the Corvette was mine and I certainly didn’t trust my crazy, phone-talking wife to drive it.  That left the jeep as Maggie’s daily driver, yup, even to and from Waco on I35.  Now, in case you’ve never driven a stick-shift, jacked up jeep with massive 32” tires on I35 at Texas highway speeds, trust me to say that it’s unpleasant.  Big tires on short wheel-based vehicles tend to wander.  And big tires don’t stop rolling very quickly, making for some hair-raising moments each trip.  Making matters worse, this particular jeep didn’t have cruise control (you don’t need cruise control for rock crawling!)  But she drove that jeep every day and never complained once.  She was a trooper, a real champ.

Maggie had never had a go-fast, sexy, wind-in-yer-hair car.  And with children soon coming, there was a short window for her to live that dream.  So, in keeping with the plan, we decided to buy her a fun car she could sport around in while I’d get a family car that would hold baby seats.  She could drive passionately until the day came when we needed to trade cars.  Then I’d drive the sports car and she’d take over the family-mobile.  It was a great plan.  Have I mentioned lately how happy I was to be married to my sweetie?  We were perfect together.  But I digress…..

After a fun bit of looking around, she decided that the Mercedes SLK 350 was the car for her.  It’s a fun convertible and, really, just an impractical car but it wasn’t for practical; it was for her smiles.  So I went a-searchin’.  I had to special order the car with the options we/she wanted and (apparently) it showed up on September 28, 2006 at the dealership.  Eagerly, I showed up a few hours later with Niko riding shotgun.  A long hour or so afterward, me and puppy were headed to Waco in a brand new SLK registered in Maggie’s name.

Maggie was still in class when we arrived, which was all part of my master plan.  She didn’t know we were coming, see.  <insert evil laughter here>  I headed over to the flower shop that, by now, knew me (or my credit card, rather) by name, Baylor Balloons.  There, after introducing myself after nearly three years of constant business, I left with a single red rose in hand.

In the parking lot of the school I found the jeep, which weren’t too hard cuz it’s big.  REALLY big.     And yeller.  Did I mention cool?  Leaving Niko safely in the car I started up the jeep and, whoops….. where the heck was I going to put the jeep?  Did I mention it’s big?  And very, very yeller?  Finally, after some mental debate, I figured I was going to have to break the rules and, thus, parked it around the side of the law school in staff parking.  I figured if the rent-a-campus-cop showed up then I’d explain the gag, take my licks and move on.  (For the record, they never did.)  Good, jeep was gone.

Back where the jeep used to be parked, I placed the very shiny, very brand new Mercedes SLK 350.  Under the windshield wiper blade I placed my single red rose.  Now the waiting game began.

Over to the side of the law school building parking lot is a quaint little park with some benches and grass.  Niko and I took up temporary residency there and I started my light reading while waiting for my soon-to-be-quite-surprised sweetheart to break out of the building.  And wait we did.  Fortunately, I was somewhat engrossed in my book and the time kind of flew by.

Finally, after a decent sunburn on both me and Niko had developed, I spotted my sweetie walking out of the building.  I can recognize that walk from miles away.  Immediately, my heart spun up to full on rumba.

Oh how slowly she walked from the law school doors to the place where she thought she left the jeep.  Her saunter was making me sweat with anticipation.  Finally, as if she was in another universe on the way there, she stopped and looked a little puzzled.  She looked around (like she was going to find the jeep!), probably wondering “Where the heck did I park?”  No, she wasn’t fooled for long, my smart girl.  She knew she parked it right where this…..  this…. really pretty, really shiny car is.  Then, one gigantic smile appeared blinding out everything and making my heart burst through my chest with joy.  She walked over, picked the now-wilted rose from the windshield and began looking around, but this time not for the jeep but for the perpetrator of the crime.  Of course, I wasn’t very shy and bounced over, all grins myself.  I figured she would have figured out it was me eventually.

The next few minutes were all about hugs and kisses, Niko kisses included.  She was just thrilled.

Maggie loved that car.  She drove it around proud like it was a Ferrari.  She beamed when she talked about it.  Top down, top up, in the rain, in the sun – she loved, loved, loved that car.  780 days.  That’s how long she got to drive it. November 14, 2008, the day they hooked up that damned pain pump, I did something I still have a very difficult time coping with to this day – I took her car away.  You can’t possibly imagine how bad that hurt, or rather, still hurts.

I’ve never been a controlling person.  Gosh, couldn’t be with Maggie.  She had her own way and she was quite good at convincing you she was right.  Ms. Independent and I loved her for it.  Very much.  But, with this, I put my foot down and did not budge.  It was heartbreaking.  It made me sick.  I was fighting for something I didn’t want, fighting for something that represented something I hated and for something I didn’t believe in.  Oh, gosh, it was tough.  She argued.  We fought.  She cried.  I cried.  Repeat weekly.  Heck, repeat daily.  She pushed.  I held fast.  Then one day, she quit fighting.

Something came up months later about the car and we touched the subject again, but not in our fighting stance.  She said that she was still angry with me but she could tell that it was something I felt strongly about so, while she still didn’t agree, she agreed to go along with what I wanted, for me, for us.  We never spoke of it again.

I’ve driven her car nearly everywhere I’ve gone since, well, since she’s not with me anymore.  I try to always put the top down and pump loud music through the speakers.  I don’t always feel like singing but I do anyway.  And I drive fast, like Maggie did.  There, flying down the highway, music blaring and me singing, I feel a little bit closer to her.


  1. Thank you for this posting. It exemplifies why we have emotional attachment to so many "things". I have been left with two cars, hence two sets of insurance costs, payments still on one, twice the cost of car maintenance...logically it does not make sense to keep both. Consequently I am in the process of getting rid of mine and trading in Sean's sporty Lexus for something in between. It's all emotional. I keep telling myself Sean is in my heart, not his car, or mine for that matter.
    You know that Maggie knows you took action for her safety and also she is perhaps watching you enjoy that car. But all cars eventually get old, sold, traded's just particularly tough for us.
    And so we carry on (sadly)...

    1. It's helpful to know that you and others out there can understand. God, it's not _just_ _a_ _car_. It is so much more.


  2. I am so, so glad you bought her that car and didn't wait for some unforeseen, sure to happen, date in the future. Those 780 days were damn good. I hope the exact right person buys her car, the one who will love, love, love it like she did. xo

    1. It's interesting... Every time I hear someone waiting until they retire or waiting for this or that, I mention to them "Today sure is a nice day! Wouldn't it be even better to be doing that/ driving that/ living there right now?" And there's always an excuse that when put on the scale of perspective we widow(er)s have, seems mighty flimsy. Ya know, we might have waited until after she graduated from law school to buy it. If we had, she probably would have never known what it was like to have a go-fast, sexy, wind-in-your-hair car. If for no other reason, she didn't have any hair when she graduated. Genius move on our part, even though we didn't know it at the time.

      Maggie drove that car with passion and the biggest smile you could ever imagine. I'm proud I have those memories.

    2. I so get this. My husband left 2 beloved Harleys; it took me over 2 years to sell the Electra Glide, and only to a very good friend of ours. I cannot part with his first Harley, the '99 Softail; I still pay the insurance. It's too big for me to ride. Sometimes, it's not "just stuff"...indeed.

  3. I still have my husband's "flower van," a 1995 Dodge Caravan with flowers painted all over it, just like hippy times (we couldn't afford a Mercedes :-)).
    We bought it for $695 about a month before he died because his car had been totaled out in an accident (not his fault, just sitting at a red light when someone ran through the light and played bumper cars and his car was hit He was OK). He only drove the flower van twice before he went into the hospital for the last time.

    The flower van is my truck when I take out the seats and my bus when I haul around grandchildren and dogs. I love the flower van. It will break my heart when I have to send it to that junkyard heaven in the sky.

    My husband's all time favorite vehicle was his Subaru Outback. His car was always a respository for junk and Pepsi cans.

    I'm glad your wife had a chance to drive an awesome car. And I know how hard it is to sell something so special.


  4. Your post really hit a note with me and brought tears to my eyes. I'm sorry you have to go through getting rid of her car, it's not just the "stuff" it's so much more, I hope it goes easily for you. Beth

  5. When my husband died, he/we had 7 vehicles: his car, my car, 2 jeep cherokees for kids, a 15 passenger van with most seats out so he could haul tools and lumber, another work van and a plow truck. One by one I have sold them, down to 3 now. I see each of them on the road around town, it's especially hard to see the 15 passenger van....I, too, am glad he bought what he wanted, even when I said no more.
    I keep reminding myself they are just things, they don't matter anymore. But every time I see one on the road, I expect to see him behind the wheel. Keep holding on to those memories, Chris, they will help you through many a long night.

  6. I love this post! I love that you didn't wait to buy the car. Top down,music loud,drive fast - the only way!

    It took me a long time to sell my husband's vehicles. Many nights I sat in one vehicle, in his spot, touching the gearshift where his hand would've rested, remembering our adventures. It took me many days of repeating, "It's just stuff. It's just stuff.", before I could sell that vehicle - although it was so much more to me.

    My only regret is that I sold one of the vehicles to someone who lives near my home. Occasionally, when I'm headed home from work, I'll meet that vehicle. It's an instant rollercoaster as my heart and head try to reach an agreement and register the fact that it is not my husband driving that vehicle anymore. Three years have passed since he died. I still miss him. J

  7. I also go and sit in my husband's truck, in his seat, my hands on the steering wheel. I open the glove compartment, the middle storage compartment etc. 3 years and the stuff in there is all things that he put there. I feel close to him in there. Now my youngest son drives it to and from college, loaded up with furniture, refrigerators, book shelves etc. He keeps it at school so it's not in my driveway anymore. But at the end of each semester when I pull around the corner on my way home from work, I still gasp when i see it in the driveway... and I think for a second, "oh great, Michael's home"! Then it hits me...

  8. Love this post Chris, and hope the process goes smoothly. Hugs to you!

  9. Oh this goes right to my heart.
    My husband was never able to drive again after his surgery.
    His brand new "retirement" mercedes sat in the garage.
    He said "get rid of it"
    It broke my heart. He only drove it a few months.
    He never drove again.
    One of the most painful limitations of his disease.
    When I drive on a sunny day I try to picture him - wind in his hair, top down, that amazing smile on his face.
    Oh - I understand how you fell.

  10. Wow, this was timely for me. After over two years I recently decided to donate my late husband's car to charity. This week I received an email from them that they have my title and the car will be picked up soon. I steeled myself to clean out the car. The items I found in it were so "him:" tools to keep it running, several lengths of tow rope, strap clamps, etc. All signs of a man who was good with his hands and prepared for anything. So this first car we bought together and that served us admirably for 20 years is ready to go. It has over 250 K miles on it and is in rough shape...the parallel between its current condition and my husband's body at the end was powerful. I have taken care of them as best I could, made memories with them, loved them well even during the times they were maddening, cherished them throughout the years and let them go even though I was not ready.

    It represents so much more than a way to get from point A to point B. But it is time. I release the vehicle secure in the knowledge that all of the memories made with it stay with me and my kids.

  11. My husband was a control freak about cars...he put them in his name only so that he would have total was not a nice or respectful way to conduct business in the context of a relationship, but that is what he did. The last HUGE fight we had was over buying a car...the issue of cars to me is generally a black blight on our years together


    He sold my minivan (over my intense objections) and got me the closest to my "dream car" that I will likely ever have...a Mercedes C32 AMG. We could have never afforded the new price of >$50 K, but the used one was a nice compromise.

    He got pleasure out of seeing how much I liked that car and he had the gratification of buying his wife something so nice. I thought we have many more years and many more cars in our future, but we didn't. Im glad he bought that car and I am planning to keep it until the maintenance costs become an avoidable nightmare.

    My husband bought himself a cute Acura SUV and my sons argue that it is "too good of a car" for thier baby sister to drive and wanted me to sell it. No, not gonna do it. He bought it and she drives it and fiffle on anyone who doesnt like that.

  12. Thank you for this post. I am struggling to let go of my husband's two cars. He is gone (unexpectedly) a little over 2 months now and seeing his cars gives me comfort. Thinking of selling them is like losing a part of him. The cars represent our family trips, our fun travels, his smiles as he drove them. They were us, they were our family. My young daughter and I don't want anything to change, yet I have to continue to pay the loans monthly. They are not just cars. Losing them is losing him. All too painful.