Pay It Forward

When I was a senior in college, I depended on borrowing my father’s car to see my future-wife-to-be, Muri, during school vacations.   As I said in The Negotiator, dating my wife before I had my own transportation … especially for the 30 mile drive all the way to Bridgeport, CT, where my wife lived … required that I convince Dad to let me borrow the car, in spite of the fact that we both knew he’d give in eventually.   Like most men, Dad loved his cars, including the champagne Pontiac Catalina he had during my senior year (Isn’t it weird to think that Pontiac doesn’t exist any more?).   Although Muri and I had not reached the point where we were sure we’d end up married, we were seriously dating … sometimes it would be three or four in the morning before I headed home.

One night as I was speeding along the Connecticut Turnpike a 3:30 am, the left front wheel came off my father’s beloved Pontiac.  I actually saw it go bouncing past  the driver’s side window.  Microseconds later, a plume of sparks sprayed from the brake assembly dragging on the concrete pavement and the car veered sharply to the right, headed for the roughly 100 foot drop at the edge of the freeway.   Amazingly, I managed to control it, bringing the car to a perfect stop on the shoulder.   I calmly got out of the car, retrieved the wheel, then nearly collapsed as I realized how close I’d come to disaster.   I walked down the nearest exit ramp to a gas station, knees still shaking, dreading the call to my father.    Here’s what I remember … the first words out of his mouth were, Are you OK?

Yesterday, my wife and I were relaxing after babysitting the grandkids in Arizona when my Blackberry chimed that it had received a text.   When I looked, the first things to catch my Older Eyes were my son’s name in the from box … and the words really bad accident.  Later in the note I learned that the car was undrivable and the airbags had deployed.  I texted back, Are you OK? He’s sore and bruised but OK.   When I called him, I got to start the conversation the same way.   I’m back in California today, helping get the car, which we gave him only six weeks ago, to a body shop and they’ve already unofficially said it’s totaled.  Seeing it, I know that those airbags saved him from serious injury.   I don’t know where we go from here but I know that paying forward my father’s wise words honors his memory … and that I’m grateful for those air bags, even if their replacement cost of $2000 is largely responsible for the car’s status as totaled.    Perspective doesn’t always come easy.

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4 Comments on “Pay It Forward”

  1. undividing Says:

    So glad your son is okay!!

  2. oldereyes Says:

    Thank you … to some degree they’re your babies even when they are grown.

  3. territerri Says:

    As a parent, one of the scariest messages you can receive is that your child has been in an accident. (Been there.) I’m so glad your son is okay and hope he’s feeling better soon.

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