Because of recent events related to the Coronavirus, I have had time to reminisce about illness and, for some reason, vehicles. I began reflecting how we become so attached to our vehicles, for so many different reasons: pride, a midlife crisis, at times just to fulfill a bucket-list dream and many times, simply for sentimental reasons.
In 1968 I bought my first Shelby, a GT500, and at the same time, my mother bought my father a 1968 Ford Camper Special pickup. As a young teenager, I enjoyed many special moments with mom and dad in my father’s pickup. My mother and father, who had a true love affair with nature, didn’t take long to buy a cabover camper so that we could spend many wonderful outings together, fishing, hunting and sightseeing. My father knew the meaning of taking excellent care of everything thing he owned, and that included his pickup.
After I moved to California, the only times I saw dad’s pickup was when I went to visit either at their home on the coast or their home in Eastern Oregon. On a few occasions’ dad loaned me his pickup while I was visiting, like the time I used it to go hunting in Eastern Oregon or when I used it to tow mom and dad’s trailer to Salem, Ore., to participate in the U.S. Olympic Skeet tryouts. I will cherish each and every one of those memories for as long as I live.
There came a time that my father stopped driving, and on his own he gave up his driver’s license, unaware at the time that he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Dad’s pickup eventually sat idle as my mother accepted the enduring hardships that accompany this terrible disease. As with all Alzheimer’s patients, dad slowly began to lose his memory and ultimately, his entire identity and the ability to care for himself. Having grown up knowing my father as a genius, one who cherished his family, who worked hard and loved life, it was extremely difficult to watch his demise.
I remember the day I drove to Oregon to bring dad’s pickup back home since dad had wanted me to have it. Before leaving, I was sitting with dad as he looked out the window at his pickup, and he had a small grin on his face. When I asked him what he was thinking, he said, “By God, we sure had some great times in that truck, didn’t we?” Then his mind slipped away to thoughts of hunting trips to Canada many years before I was even born and believing it was in this pickup. That was a difficult 550-mile drive home as my son, Will, stood with his arm around my neck, in the driver’s seat right beside me.
For years after that day, I too was quick to buy a cabover camper and take my family on many adventures just as my father did with mom and me. My daughter and son were always ready to jump in that pickup and hit the road. Eventually, Will and I started using it to take his kart and equipment to kart tracks around the country. It didn’t take long until dad’s truck was towing an enclosed trailer laden with racecars and all the necessary accoutrements. To say, we had fun with dad’s pickup would not do it justice.
Regrettably, there came a time, I sold dad’s pickup thinking it had served its use. It didn’t take long to realize the heartbreak. Some years later my son began inquiring as to the whereabouts of the truck and expressed his desire to get it back. After some homework, I was able to track down the man I sold it to and I tried to buy it back, but he was reluctant to sell it. When I asked why, he said, “You see, a short time after I bought your dad’s pickup, my father came to live with me. He loved that truck and for some reason, he insisted on washing it every single day. Sadly, we finally learned dad had Alzheimer’s, and it was the only thing that kept dad happily occupied.” It was difficult, but something I had to respect and possibly better than most could.
One day I received a phone call and that man’s father had succumbed to Alzheimer’s and passed away, and the owner was willing to sell it back to me. In a very short time, my son had reached a deal and bought dad’s pickup. Now its being driven regularly again by Will in Texas and it has even pulled our old racecar trailer on occasion.
“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before … more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” ― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations