Sometimes things aren't just things.
There are certain things that are imbued with the life of the person who's gone. In some cases it's their favorite possession. Or sometimes it's just the things they used or touched the most often, or it could even be something they didn't like at all and they were always complaining about. But what happens is that these things are so connected to the person, just seeing them can elicit a vivid flicker of memory and for a moment, that person is alive.
At least that's how it is for me.
Dad loved cars. In fact he loved cars so much that, back when he was in college, he stopped going to class and he got a job plus played a lot of poker and he saved up money to buy himself – get this – a Porsche. (I'll tell you that he later regretted missing all of his college classes, but that's another story.) And back in a post called See, good things do happen I mentioned that someone had written to me who knew him back in 1974, and she remembered his car.
So recently I was back in the town I grew up in and it was around one o'clock in the afternoon and I drove past the YMCA and turned left past the post office. And a thing about Dad was that he went to the YMCA almost every day around noon and he always parked his car in the same place, right by the post office. So when I found myself, by chance, passing the Y and the post office at one in the afternoon, I couldn't help but look for his car.
It's been almost eleven years since he died. And still I looked for his car, a silvery-grey Saab sedan. It was midday by the post office and there was something so deep and desperate in me that just wanted and maybe believed that his car would be there – his car, a symbol of his life, his aliveness.
Of course it wasn't there.
And it upset me and so what I did was that I pulled over and sat for a while in the quiet and wondered how I could feel this way, after eleven years.
But I'll tell you this. Yesterday I happened to be driving my brother-in-law's special edition Volkswagen, a turbo-charged six-speed. Dad would have appreciated this car – because even though he no longer drove a sports car as he had in his youth, he still had this deep appreciation for cars that were built to go fast.
And as I drove, in the roar of that engine and the cushion of the black leather bucket seat, it was almost like Dad was there.