a few years after my Grandpa died, my Grandma moved to Milwaukee from Madison to be closer to our family. As part of her move, she wanted to downsize her car. It was about 1994 and I was about 10 and remember when she brought her new car home. I remember going all over town in her little red car. We’d go to the food store, the mall (to buy me baseball cards and sporting goods), movies (like Seven Years in Tibet and Wag the Dog using the senior matinee discount of course) and out to eat (Chinese was a favorite).
She loved to spend time with me and I could do no wrong and the smallest successes made me a “genius.” We always drove around in her little red car. It was impeccably clean and even had a little trash can on the floor in the middle of the back seat. She used to bring it over to our house and pay me $1-5 to wash the car. She’d watch, but get distracted when she wanted to see me shoot baskets or show off some new soccer skill.
One day when I was probably 11 or 12 we were driving down Silver Spring and her windows started to fog up. She couldn’t figure out how to get them clear and I flipped two dials and they cleared up really quickly. I think I heard that story about 100 times the rest of my life. As she started to get older, she drove less, but still loved her car. She took shorter trips or we’d meet at her apartment and one of my parents would drive. She equated her car with her independence and loved to go to the mall or the food store. As she moved into her mid 80s, we started to notice that the car would have random dings and scratches, so we got red paint so that I could fix it.
As she neared her 84th birthday, her driving was getting worse. Her night vision wasn’t what it used to be and my parents decided to talk to her about potentially selling her car. Asking someone to give up their car is incredibly difficult, especially when they love to drive. For a year, my grandma said no. As I got closer to turning 16 and her driving got worse, my parents tried another tactic. I sometimes practiced learning how to drive on her car, since it was an automatic and we only had manuals. My parents told her that she could give the car to me and that I would take her around whenever she needed a ride. She agreed. The 7 year old car had 21,000 miles on it.
When I passed my drivers test on my 16th birthday, my life changed. I could go out to friends houses, drive to soccer practice, go to brewers games. I drove to reffing instead of biking. My friends and I drove all over in my little red car and some of my best memories happened because of that car. Whenever we drove over to visit my Grandma in her apartment, she always wanted to come down and see her “little red car.” As she got older, our movies and Chinese lunches turned more to doctors appointments and lunches at her apartment. She loved that I drove her car and took good care of it, even though it was no longer impeccably clean (the trash can had been replaced by my soccer stuff). One time I took one of our other family cars to pick her up for a doctors appointment and she wanted to know what had happened. She really loved that car.
It was the perfect college car. It took me to spring break in Florida, countless road football games, tons of NCAA basketball tournaments, the 2006 National Championship hockey game, two trips to Tennessee for “man weekend” with my friends, three of my best friends friends weddings and tons of random road trips. It let me work on consulting projects in other states and continue to ref soccer. It took me to all of my ExchangeHut and Entrustet meetings in Madison and in other states.
Unfortunately, it also took me to my Grandma’s funeral. She died in 2009, just short of her 91st birthday. I know she would have wanted me to be in the procession driving her car, so I made sure it was there. I’ve kept driving her “little red car” ever since. Even though its now has a few dents and the inside isn’t impecibly clean, I love my car. Every time I get in, I remember my Grandma and some of our adventures together. People sometimes ask me why I don’t get a new car, but I don’t even think about it. It runs perfectly and it’s never given me any problems. I bet it’ll run for another 10 years.