I’ve never been very good at long-term relationships.
That’s not so much because of a lack of commitment on my part, but rather the paucity of people willing to put up with me for any length of time. Hey, I’m self-aware enough to know I’m not an easy person with whom to get along. I’m moody, negative, angry and generally a toxic personality.
And those are my good days.
The flip side to that, however, is that when I do find myself in a long-term relationship, I’m all in. I’m loyal to the bitter end. I start ending all of my sentences in prepositions. If you are willing to stick by my side, then I am willing to stay by your side for all eternity.
Unless, of course, you start leaking oil. And transmission fluid. And power steering fluid. And brake fluid. When that happens, I make no promises. At that point, it’s time for you to go.
And that’s how I found myself last weekend, breaking off the personal relationship I’ve had with my car for the past 14 years and 196,637 miles. I am now the proud owner of a (sort of) new car and already have sold off my old vehicle for what amounts to a couple of oil changes and full tanks of gas for my new vehicle.
Truthfully, it seems like a sad — and relatively cheap — end to one of the longest relationships I’ve ever had with anything in my life.
I purchased my vehicle in January of 2004, not long after my wife and I had found out our first child was on the way. Up until then, I had been strictly a pickup truck sort of guy, but with a child on the way, I knew I would need space in which to put a car seat, because silly laws prevent you from strapping them into the back of your truck bed.
And so because I love my daughter (whom I hadn’t even met yet at that point), I was willing to trade in my pickup truck for a small sports utility vehicle.
For those next 14 years, I made thousands of memories in that car with family and friends. I brought both of my children home from the maternity ward in that car. It was the car I used to take them to their first days of school. It transported them to the doctor when they were sick. It was used to take them and their friends to Little League baseball, jump rope, gymnastics, dance and pole vault practices.
It also took me to thousands of sporting events throughout the state. I figure it’s been my vehicle of choice for more than 150 high school football games, dozens of Ohio State football games and more games involving other local teams and athletes than I could possibly count. Of course, it wasn’t all work, as the car also took me to family gatherings, weddings, funerals, concerts and anything else that wasn’t within walking distance (and given that I consider most anything beyond my mailbox to be “not within walking distance,” that covers a lot of territory).
I guess you could say that car was pretty good to me for 14 years.
Unfortunately, I probably wasn’t always as good to her.
I wasn’t always particularly diligent about keeping my car as clean as I probably should have. One of my friends referred to it as a “rolling trash can.” When Sophie’s friend and teammate Madeline would ride with us to or from practices, she would say, “I guess I’ll be sitting in garbage.”
Still, though, for the better part of 14 years, she got me where I needed to go (mostly, anyway). Until, of course, she couldn’t any longer. The trips to the mechanic became more frequent over the past few years. On the most recent visit, my (very honest) mechanic told me, “I could charge you a few thousand dollars to fix all the problems, but I can’t promise you won’t be right back in here again in a few months.”
And with that, I knew it had come time to part ways with my beloved vehicle. When I was offered a few hundred dollars for it, I kind of smirked — deep down, I knew that was a fair offer, but the memories she has provided myself and my family the past 14 years can’t possibly be measured.
I imagine my car likely will be stripped down for parts, but if someone does happen to buy it — someone with a little money and a whole lot of patience to get her up and running again — I hope they can get a fraction of the memories out of her that I did.
Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News, a division of AIM Media Medwest.