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The Girl at the Cashier


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The "Wu Word" Blog


I blinked my eyes more than a couple times.

Please tell me I’m seeing things, I thought.

Nope, there it was again.  The little ‘check oil’ symbol was appearing and then disappearing yet again.  I tightened my hands on the steering wheel and gritted my teeth.  I hated anything that had to do with cars because I knew just about nothing about them. 

What could possibly be wrong with Perry now?  I had changed his oil literally a month ago.  How could the ‘check oil’ symbol be blinking yet again?  The timing of Perry acting up couldn’t have been worse.  He was throwing a temper tantrum just when my life was in upheaval with work drama.  Yes, I must admit, I was just being a petty brat. 

If Perry had acted up like this about five years ago, I would have freaked out to my Dad.  Now, I bitched and moaned with a one-liner sentence and didn’t even tell my Dad when I headed to this new auto shop with a guy by the name of Frank that was a major sleazoid by calling me “sweetheart” and “honey” when he acted like he was doing me the biggest favor in the world to fill Perry up with oil yet again.   

Rather than go to Frank again to find out the root of what was causing Perry to lose oil so quickly, I went to my trusty mechanic by the name of Jim that Perry had been a frequent flyer patient of in these last couple of years with alignment, battery, tire, and a laundry list of other issues. 

Jim gave me the dreaded verdict after I prayed for a simple (aka: cheap) issue with Perry: “Your car’s engine has issues and is burning the oil out your tailpipe.  You need a new engine.”

I grilled Jim with a million questions about used engines and its parts, estimates, and logistics to bring Perry in yet again for another issue.  In the midst of harassing Jim on nearly a daily basis, it dawned on me for the first time in all the years of driving Perry and bringing him to and from garages for updated and necessary repairs that the cost of a used engine would cost even more than Perry was worth. 

Perry was worth nearly nothing in paper money at this point, but all the memories that came from my time with Perry in nearly 20 years of having him was worth everything to me.  How silly and sentimental I was to place so much human to a hunk of metal?  Not silly at all when the reality is that we put so much into our materialistic items when meaningful memories are attached to them to the point that we cannot detach. 

I have rewound many memories of my times with Perry since the news that the absolute core of him (his engine) is dying.  Perry had been my sister’s car and then given to me way back in the early 2000’s, but he was a 1998 car.  I had to sit on two pillows to see over the steering wheel.  I had a handicap sign and a lucky Chinese sign that adorned Perry’s rearview mirror on the inside and two “Donate Life” stickers sporting on the outside. 

He was my first car to cruise in on road trips with blasting music and the sun blinding me as I wore my bright purple sunglasses alongside friends as well as quiet and contemplative drives all alone at nights with a full moon as my guide.  Perry and I survived at least two car accidents and the roughest and iciest of New York winters together.  I have stuffed Perry to the brim with items of my life: organ donation and transplant goodies for advocacy events, my swim bag, my reusable bags for food shopping, and material things that have made up more memories for me.  With Perry, I received my first traffic violations for speeding (not my fault, I promise!), sang loudly to my favorite songs, cried tears when I did not want anyone to see me, went to vital medical appointments that have completely altered my life, and had long talks with loved ones.   

I keep talking about Perry in the past tense, but he is still here.  I brought Perry to Jim again to give Perry his heart/core again—aka: a used engine.  While Perry is sitting in the shop for yet again part to be removed and replaced yet again, I am bewildered as to how much I have experienced with Perry and how much that has changed in nearly 20 years of my life and living.  But, most of all, I am most awestruck at the similarities I see between Perry and human beings in the aging process. 

Perry started out as a brand new shiny car with that fresh, intoxicating car scent, automatic windows that rolled up and down, automatic locks, and material all intact.  We all start brand new in body, mind, and spirit to be fed and filled with moments and people that make us.  Over the years, Perry’s cosmetics and physical forms have deteriorated, just as us humans do.  Nothing and no one lasts forever.  We cannot escape or put a stop the aging process, which consists of our physical form and shell that takes a toll of increasing problems and deterioration, yet, as we ‘ fall apart,’ we gain all the more with our mental and emotional awareness that is often scary and invigorating.  We become all the ‘more than’ in substance when the surface is only ‘less than’ in the aging process.  The aging process is a great and challenging phenomenon and privilege filled with life experiences that gift us greatness of understanding, responsibilities, and wisdom.  Age and the aging process catches up to us and time is always ahead of us.  I see all this in my time I had with Perry, now, and what will lie ahead.

There will come a time that I will have to give up Perry.  He will no longer be here, as will many of the people I love and care for so profoundly.  There will be another new car available that will provide a ride of new memories as I get older and age.  In this ride of life and no matter it be in the literal sense with Perry or with another new car, there will be people there along with the ups and downs and twists and turns that are inevitable in life. 

But, for now, I enjoy the time I do have with what I have and who I have in my life.   And, unlike so many, the reality has hit me that it took Perry’s latest debacle  to make me understand that we are actually all embedded in the aging process as life and time continues to forge forward. 

Here is to aging and what may come and may be, will be! 

Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary :-)

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