Saturday, December 20, 2014

Grandpa's Silent Night

The fireplace was beautiful. A large ten foot wooden plank topped a wall of rounded field stones. My Grandpa built that fireplace. Twinkling lights, statues, bowling trophies, and angels decorated the mantel. The wood crackled and snapped as the Fire roared, the sweet smell of smoke lightly scenting the room. The fireplace was part of our family, always lit when we gathered together at my Grandparent's home in the woods.

The room was full of family...cousins and second cousins, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles. Our voices united as we sang Christmas carols along with Grandma's old player piano, a ritual that has lasted for years. "Get your guitar out Barbie!" someone says. So I pull out my guitar and let the piano take a rest. A rousing version of Jingle Bells ensues.

My Grandpa Barton was a mechanical engineer and college professor who swore he couldn't carry a tune. That fact was confirmed by many members of the family.

But I found out it was a lie.

At the last Christmas celebration of his life, the family was once again together, singing songs of the holiday. I was seated right next to the fire and Grandpa was on the foot stool directly in front of me.

"What do you want to sing next?' I asked.

Grandpa said, "Silent Night."

And so we began.

I had to lean forward a bit and tilt my head to hear, but Grandpa was singing. Softly, tenderly. It was the voice of an angel. The most beautiful version of Silent Night I have ever heard. His pale blue eyes framed by raised eyebrows gave a look of extreme sincerity, as though he were singing to baby Jesus himself. Tears welled up in my eyes.

My Grandpa passed away in the fall of that year, but he left me with a memory I will never forget. When I sing Silent Night, I see and hear him sweetly singing right along with me.

Merry Christmas Grandpa.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Goodbye Dear Friend

Back in 2009, my trusty purple Jeep Cherokee started breaking down. I couldn't afford to keep getting it fixed, so I traded it in for a newer Jeep Liberty. The minute I pulled out of the dealership, my heart sank. I felt like I was abandoning an old friend, a part of me. I looked in the rear view mirror and I swear I saw tear raining down on the windshield of the little purple dot shrinking on the horizon. I grieved for months.

Unfortunately, I had to drive by the dealer on a regular basis, and there in the lot was my Jeep. Rejected. Orphaned. Abandoned. More tears.

It took awhile, but I fell in love with the Liberty. True I now had to stand on my tippy toes to get a canoe on top of her, she made up for being tall with her cool steering wheel and awesome look. We went to the UP countless times, hauling canoes and push poles on our way to go ricing.

This summer, the nickel and dime repairs started. The last big one, over $1000, was in mid-summer I think. I looked at some newer models, but out of the corner of my eye, my silver Liberty sat there like an abandoned puppy. I opened her door and drove away.

Today, I got some bad news. Another potential repair that was going to cost me $1200. I just don't have it. Tears welled up in my eyes. I knew I was going to have to put her down.

I have driven Jeeps for 20 years or more. Every new model makes me cringe, they just keep getting farther and farther away from the utilitarian vehicle I once loved. Hell, those things that are supposed to be roof racks wouldn't even hold up my coat collection. Even the Wrangler, now the trendy ride for those who can't afford a Hummer, can cost over $40,000. I use my Jeeps for what they were intended once upon a time. In the field. In the woods. In the mountains. Carrying kayaks and canoes.

So I test drove some Patriots and found one that worked for me, ignoring the fact the name of this vehicle always reminds me G.W. Bush. It is shorter than my Liberty so no more tippy toes when I load a boat.

I tried not to look out of the window from my seat at the dealer's during the grueling five hour process of paperwork and signatures. I did not want to look at my Liberty. I tried not to remember our good times. I only ruminated on the cost of the repairs, trying to ease my guilt. But when I unloaded my stuff from her nooks and crannies, I couldn't block the sadness. I love my Liberty. I hate that I can't afford to repair her. I kissed her goodbye and made the salesperson promise to put her somewhere on the lot that I wouldn't see her when I drove by.

Its funny what you think of as you sit and wait and wait and wait to buy a car. I had a profound realization involving old age and trail ratings.

I have owned several Cherokees, a Wrangler, and the Liberty. All of them were trail rated.

The Patriot is not. I got heated seats and a sun roof. And Sirius radio. The salesperson said, "well it is all-terrain, you could look at it that way".

Then it hit me.

I am no longer trail rated either.