Monday, September 20, 2010

The crash column...

Today I had to say goodbye to a dear friend. A friend that’s been there for me, our girls and our family for almost nine years. A friend who’s been dependable, trustworthy and always ready to hit the road at the turn of a key.

I’m talking about my minivan.

I didn’t want to say goodbye. My beloved van was taken away from me, and without any warning.

It’s still hard to write about what happened but here’s the short version: I was driving the girls to school and stopped at a crosswalk. The driver behind me did not.

Now I know why people say, “It all happened so fast.” Because it did. In the split second I saw the driver zooming up behind me, my car exploded from the crash. It was very scary. I almost couldn’t understand what had happened.

Are you OK? I shouted back at the girls. Yes, they said with white faces, already moving out of their seats towards the front of the van.

“Everyone out of the car!” I said.

With trembling fingers, I called my husband. “We’re OK,” I said, “but someone just ran into me.”

I’m on my way, he said.

A few minutes later, he was there, along with the police. I was completely frazzled. Get out your AAA card, my husband said. AAA card? What is that? What does that look like? It was hard to focus.

Luckily the driver of the car that hit me was insured. And more importantly, no one was hurt.

Except my car. The back and sides of the van were crushed and buckled. A tow truck was called to cart away my wounded car. Little did I know it was the last time I would drive her.

Two days later we got the news from our insurance company. The van was officially “totaled.”

What? Totaled?

Yes, they said. It will cost more to fix the car than it’s worth. You won’t get it back.

This isn’t fair, I said.

I wanted to tell them that I didn’t care how much it would cost to fix. My minivan was priceless to me. I loved my van. I babied it almost like a child, getting regular oil changes and checkups. I kept it clean inside. It had low mileage. But best of all — it was paid off.

This was the van that we brought our youngest daughter home in after she was born. The van we drove to Disneyland and Monterey and over the hill and through the woods to grandma’s and grandpa’s and everyone else’s house. I carted the girl scouts all around town in my van. I once shoved a 7-foot Christmas tree inside it. I knew every little detail about my van, like the way the interior light switch had to be turned just so, and the precise angle to turn the rear view mirror to referee shouting matches in the back seats.

This was my first accident, and I had no idea how skittish I would feel after the crash. Now when I drive around town I am convinced everyone is going to crash into me. Something “bad” had happened to us, therefore, something else “bad” could happen to us again. When will I get my confidence as a driver back? It just takes time, people tell me.

Today, we had to visit the van one last time to clean her out and say goodbye. I dreaded that drive to the auto body shop. I almost didn’t want to see her again. It was too sad.

Ron from the shop took us to the back where the other crushed up cars were. It was like visiting an auto body graveyard. I saw my poor car. She looked deflated. I carefully walked around to see where the driver rear-ended me. It was worse than I remembered. The whole back end was crushed inwards. The quarter panels poked outward at odd angles. Even the roof had small dents where the force of the crash compressed the car. Opening the doors, my husband helped me clean out nine year’s worth of kid supplies and stuff. Videotapes, water bottles, blankets, CDs, notepads, pens, bits of candy and broken pencils. We filled five bags.

Ron gave me a sympathetic hug. The car is totaled, but it won’t be crushed, he said. It’ll become a donor car. Someone else driving their own beloved mini van will get a new door, or window or new seats from my car. That made me feel a little bit better. My car will live on.

After the van was all emptied out, I sat in the back seat one last time. I looked out the windows my girls have looked out of a thousand times. Stepping outside, I kissed my fingers and touched the back of the car. Then I wrote a quick note and left it in the glove box.

“Goodbye to our minivan,” it said. “We loved this car.”

Next time in Surrendering to Motherhood: A “new” car.

1 comment:

{april kennedy} said...

Oh how scary. I am glad you are all OK. Do you need help finding a new old car. Dave says it should be my second job! Can't wait to see what you get. I'm guessing....another minivan!