Years ago, I had 2 dear lady friends in Hazlehurst. We visited often and enjoyed each other’s company. One of them was a former teacher of mine; the other, her mother. I came to know the mother through the daughter and through circumstances. One sad day the daughter, who had just visited her cardiologist in Macon, keeled over from a heart attack and died on the sidewalk. The shock almost killed me, and the mother was practically non-functional after losing her only child. She moved about the house and occasionally the town like a silent ghost. I worried about her constantly and took care of her affairs as much as possible. I wrote the checks to pay her bills and mailed them for her. Nobody paid by computer back in the 80s of course. Sometimes I went grocery shopping for her. I guess I was trying to fill in for her daughter. Whatever the reason, we became very close.
In time, she started to function again, albeit slowly. I still helped her with checks and the business aspects of her life that her daughter had taken care of before, but she again assumed the grocery shopping and the day-to-day affairs. One day she said to me, “I’m going to sell one of the cars. Since I can’t bear to sell Valerie’s, I’ll sell my Rambler. Do you know anyone who might want to buy it?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I replied. “Larry has admired that car ever since he saw it the first time. He’d love to have it if we can afford it.”
“Since it’s y’all, I’ll let you have it for $500,” she said.
Now this car was old, but well-maintained—a good solid car. The next day we were the proud owners of a red and white Rambler. Larry was beside himself with joy; he sang all the way home with all the windows open.
Mrs. Smith was respected in Hazlehurst, but people were wary of her. She was the kind of person who valued highly anything she had for sale but thought people who tried to sell to her were con artists trying to sell her a bill of goods. She, however, was not that way with us. She loved us and gave us a magnificent deal on that car. Larry drove it to work for several years, and often people tried to buy it from him. He refused emphatically. Sometimes I drove it to school. No luxury car, it was plain and simple, a sturdy, dependable vehicle exhibiting many of the qualities of its original owner, who’d bought it new and kept it under a shelter its whole life. It got good gas mileage also—yet another bonus.
Along about this time our eldest son, Calvin, was learning to drive, itching to do so, as teenaged boys are wont to do. Teenaged girls too probably. I wouldn’t know. I never raised any girls and it’s been far too long to remember what I wanted as a teenager. Anyway, he was out for a spin on a Tuesday afternoon one Spring day when the driver of the car behind him took his eyes off the road and crashed into the back of the poor Rambler. Fortunately, Calvin was unscathed, but the poor car was not. The state patrolman called Larry, who went to collect our son and to arrange to have the car towed. We waited as patiently as possible to hear from the insurance company. While we waited, Larry mourned his favorite car. Calvin once again had to share the other mundane family cars. He and his friends had considered the Rambler cool.
Finally, the insurance adjuster called.
“I’m sorry about your vehicle, but thankful your son was unhurt,” he told us. “However, since the car was so old and not worth much in terms of today’s cars, I can’t give you much for it, even though it’s totaled and cannot be repaired. I can only offer you $500.00.”
“That’s terrible,” Larry told him, cutting his eyes at me. “That Rambler was a classic and very important to this family, but if that’s the best you can do, then so be it. I won’t argue with you.”
I put on the saddest face I could manage and showed him to the door.