Just before half term, at the most inconvenient time possible, our main family car died. We were due to go away to Wales for a week and needed the car to get ourselves and all our stuff there. It went for it’s annual MOT four days before we were due to leave, and it didn’t come back. It was gently put to sleep by the nice people at the garage. I didn’t even have the chance to say goodbye. If I had had the chance, I would have taken lots of photos of the interior and exterior. All I have, is two car magazine-esque photos taken by my unsentimental husband. I do, of course, have the memories.
It had had a good, long life. It was 12 years’ old. It had served us very well. It was just slightly older than my oldest son but it came to live with us when he was about 18 months’ old. We have grown up as a family together. It saw two more babies being born. It drove two more babies home from the hospital. It has been vomited on, pooed in and bashed and battered by 10 years of family life. It has lived in Charlbury and Shrewsbury. It has driven from Charlbury to Banbury hundreds of times. It has made its way to Borth a fair few times. It knew how to drive to Sainsbury’s with its eyes closed. I cried when it didn’t come home. I grieved. I’m not being melodramatic. I felt that pang of pain when bereft of the chance to say goodbye to a loved one.
At first, after we purchased it, I didn’t like the car. It was big. I named it ‘The Tank’. I actually avoided driving it. It was too big for me. I was scared of it. Then I scratched it. Then I scratched it again. And again. It was just too damn big. I still feared it. However, after about six years of ownership and perhaps sixteen more scratches, I reached a point when it was so scratched that my fear of it subsided and I didn’t feel anxious at the thought of driving it any more. Then I drove it all the time. I warmed to it. I came to love it. I still called it ‘The Tank’ but I eventually came to love it in a weird love-hate way. It became ‘mummy’s’ car rather than ‘daddy’s’ car. Last year we bought a new, second, smaller car yet I still preferred to drive The Tank. It took me four months to pluck up the courage to drive that (and only then because ‘The Tank’ died and I needed a car to get to Wales).
The point of this weird thought is: why did I grieve for a piece of metal? Why did I feel a similar pain for the car as I had felt for our old cat, Liquorice, when she was taken from us quite suddenly.
The difference with these two scenarios is that I got the chance to say goodbye to Liquorice. I also have lots and lots of photos of her. And she was a living thing with a personality. Whereas, a car?
My argument here is that the car did in fact have a personality. How can that be so when it is made of metal? It wasn’t (it even hurts to write about it in the past tense) living. But to me it almost was. It was definitely male. It was stubborn. It was big and clumsy. Yet it was very caring. It looked after me and my babies. It protected us and took us to where we needed to go whenever we needed it. Even though I didn’t want to feel affection for it, it persisted and waited until I was ready to love it back. It didn’t give up on me. So for that persistence, I grieve. I feel guilty that I didn’t love it for such a long time. I ignored it. It deserved better. I wish I could go back and say sorry.
I am feeling better now than I did two weeks’ ago when the car didn’t return. However, this experience just adds to my belief that we can love things as much as we love living beings. Of course I didn’t love the car as much as I did Liquorice but the feeling of loss, albeit less intense, is the same.
Rest in peace, ‘The Tank’.