Farewell, old friend

Yesterday I bid farewell to our 17-year-old Prius, a reliable car that carried me and mine over 164,113 miles. We donated it to a local non-profit and I watched as it was loaded on the truck. Even though it was just a car, a possession, I choked up . So many memories.

  • I went to the dealership in November of 2003 to place an order for the 2004 Prius model (the first year with a hatchback) which were in high demand. Because Zippy was less enthused about buying a hybrid vehicle and was busy at work, off I went. Alone, but armed with a ton of research on buying a new vehicle. The two salesmen wanted to treat me like a joke, but I insisted they deduct various costs including fees for taking up space on the lot (since the car would go straight to me upon arrival), advertising, rust-proofing, and upholstery treatment. When they pushed back on one of those demands, I said if they couldn’t accommodate me I’d buy from another dealership in the area. One scoffed: “You’d drive across town to save $150?” I assured him I would. They dropped that fee and we made a deal. When I walked out, I was shaking with adrenaline. I also felt pretty kick-ass.
  • There were so few Priuses in those early years that whenever two passed on the street, the drivers always exchanged a grin and a wave.
  • The summer of 2004, we took a three-week vacation to drive the Prius across the country to visit family and friends. Wildebeest and Zebu were nine and seven. It turned out to be our very best family trip. Ever. No fighting. It was glorious.
  • As Zebu got older and became driving-age, he insisted the Prius had no guts. He was wrong. I could drive up Highway 93, from Golden to Boulder, and blow past most every other vehicle whenever there were passing lanes.
  • Zebu also disliked the Prius because he was too tall and his head touched the ceiling.
  • Wildebeest loved the Prius and its money-saving gas mileage (which averaged about 44 mpg over the years) and often offered to take it off our hands.
  • In those 17 years, we had to replace the battery two times with refurbished batteries.
  • I went through a phase in which I tried to convince Zippy we should start a battery refurbishing business. He never succumbed to my entrepreneurial pitch.
  • The Prius wasn’t great in snow and sometimes I had to abandon it on the side of our hilly street because it couldn’t quite make it to the driveway. We eventually bought snow tires which made a huge difference but some years, due to climate change, there wasn’t much snow so we didn’t bother putting them on. It was like a game of roulette: would we get huge snowfalls and regret the lack of traction?
  • Pre-snow tires I once got the carpool stuck and all four elementary-age kids had to get out to push the Prius from the snowy gutter where it’d slid.
  • Something about our silver Prius attracted accidents. Zippy and I were both rear-ended multiple times** and once I sat with Zebu at a stop sign in the rain and watched as an SUV turned right onto that street and slow-motion slid over to smack into the front of the Prius as Zebu and I yelled, “Noooo!”
  • (** one woman who rear-ended me was named C*rmen Riskey which somehow felt like a perfect name for the situation).
  • When the valiant Prius was taken away yesterday, it bore zip ties and packing tape on various parts of its body.
  • One of the times it got hit resulted in extensive damage that required a body shop. While the Prius looked good as new after that, the gas bladder was never the same and would only accept 5-6 gallons of gas at a time which meant that one of the greatest perks of owning a Prius –fewer trips to the gas station–was no longer the case. Over the years I swore even more than usual as the pump handle clicked off and on as I tried squeezing in a tiny bit more gas.
  • Once I loaned the Prius to a friend who’d only driven later models and she called me to say the fob wasn’t working. Apparently, the newer models would start if the fob was in the driver’s pocket so I had to explain that my Prius fob had to be inserted in a slot in the dashboard. (The same thing happened with the donation pick-up driver last night; when he couldn’t get it to start, he thought we were donating a dead car as opposed to just a seriously wounded car).
  • My brother-in-law drove it once and somehow triggered what Prius drivers refer to as the “red triangle of death.”  He was in a panic but we’d become somewhat nonchalant about its appearance over the years and talked him through it.
  • Several weeks ago, Zippy decided to have the snow tires put on rather than buy new tires. While the Prius was driving very well at that point, it was increasingly touchy so we didn’t want to invest in new tires. After paying an unbelievable $150 for that switch plus disposal of the old, bald tires, there was an immediate change. Like, immediate-immediate. The red triangle of death had returned. When Zippy floored the gas pedal to get up our hill, our beloved old Prius could only muster 10-miles-per-hour.
  • It was time to say goodbye.
  • That goodbye dragged on and on for a whole week because the pick-up company got WAY behind due to the blistering hot weather across Colorado. Several of their trucks died in the heat and one nearly caught fire. But at 6:30 last night, Eduardo arrived to carry my dear little car away.

Here’s the Prius making its final trip down our street. I’m not ashamed to admit there were tears in my eyes as I waved goodbye.

Then and now

I drove Zebu to the airport this afternoon and hugged him goodbye, a parting made easier with the knowledge he’s happy to return to his new home and life in Seattle. After driving the 40 minutes back here, I resumed drafting a new scene in my work-in-progress I’ve neglected for the past four days. The scene is bumpy, but I keep reminding myself it’s impossible to revise a blank page which means ugly writing is better than no writing. I’ve set a goal to finish this draft by June 30 and then will reward myself with a printed and bound copy of the draft.

“June 30th” is my new mantra and it’s pulling me through some rough patches as I write this book. Two years ago today I was camping and photographing birds, without any notion of this latest middle grade novel.

Dark-eyed Junco, State Forest State Park. June 12, 2019

Then again, maybe the story was already beginning to simmer and I just didn’t know it. Either way, I will honor my commitment and finish this draft by June 30. I owe it to myself and the characters.

Waving goodbye

Wildebeest was with us for a little over two months, helping out with his grandma, before he left to spend time with friends in Denver. This morning, he made one more stop here where we had a socially-distanced visit outside in the sunshine. Then he went out through the gate.

January 4, 2021

He’s heading back to his home in Durango.

Saying goodbye to an old friend

In a few minutes, a kind veterinarian is going to arrive at our home to help us say goodbye to Zoey. She’s lived with us the past 13+ years which is more than half of Wildebeest and Zebu’s lifetimes. This morning Wildebeest said goodbye before  heading back to his home that’s a six-hour drive from here. Zebu will be with Zoey at the end.

Zoey’s last trip to Westcliffe. August 12, 2017

We’d originally hoped to say goodbye to Zoey tomorrow because it’s my birthday today. But when the vet offered to come this afternoon it seemed the best option. Zoey’s tired and has had enough, and it felt wrong to delay the inevitable. We’ve definitely made the right decision for her, but the mood is less than festive.

Rest in peace, our sweet Zotato.

For Savannah

In a few minutes, I’m heading to a memorial. I’ve spent the past half-hour trying to find the words to express what I’m feeling and all I’ve managed is this:

Savannah, you are loved.

Leon Russell, RIP

Leon Russell went to the big piano bench in the sky last night. When Zippy told me the news, I felt deflated. But I didn’t realize how hard his death had hit me until I put on “A Song for You.” I couldn’t finish listening because the grief was too intense.

Leon Russell was a singer-songwriter who created music I was ALWAYS thrilled to hear whether it came on the radio, popped up on an iPod shuffle, or was background music in a shopping mall. I never wanted to tune him out. Leon Russell’s music made me smile, made me feel, and inspired me to sing along. His voice was unusual, his phrasing could trip me up, and his piano playing made me want to dance.

leon-russell-albums

These two albums reside in my record cabinet. I don’t remember when I bought the Best Of, but have a very clear memory of buying Looking Back. I’d spent the day at the beach and was in the neighborhood supermarket in West Los Angeles when I passed a bin of deeply discounted albums. (I remembered this being a cut-out, but when I pulled it out of my cabinet just now, I was surprised to see there are no notches in the cardboard). This particular Leon Russell record was being sold for about $2, and I snatched it up. Any Leon Russell is great Leon Russell, right? He could sing the phone book and I’d listen.

Well, I got home and discovered that Looking Back was purely instrumental. Leon didn’t even sing! Not only that, Leon didn’t play the piano! On Looking Back, Leon played the harpsichord!

I have to admit I didn’t listen to that album a whole lot over the years (and I doubt any radio stations ever played cuts from it), but I’m still glad I bought it. That record represents an enduring memory from my time in LA. Also? It’s fun to think of Leon now playing in that super-band in the sky, shredding on his harpsichord while Leonard Cohen plays piano.

Thank you for all the music, Leon.
Rest in peace.

 

 

.

No Regrets

On Saturday we held a life celebration for my father-in-law.

I’d written something to be shared, printing it out in a large font to make it easier for the family friend who was facilitating the event to read: (Memory to share at Stu’s celebration)

I was teary as soon as I walked into the meeting hall, so when the facilitator asked if I wanted him to read my piece or if I preferred to do it myself, I hesitated. I didn’t want to regret not speaking, but I also did not want to fall apart in front of a roomful of people. We agreed to hold off on that decision until the time came.

The ceremony began and I had already accumulated a pile of damp tissues when my nine-year-old niece came up to the podium. Her father brought over a chair for her to stand on so she could reach the microphone, and then she took a deep breath before proceeding to read the thank-you letter she and her two sisters had written for their grandfather. The words she spoke were beautiful and funny and heartfelt, and I cried some more (as did Wildebeest, Zebu, and Zippy).

When she stepped down to a spontaneous round of applause, the facilitator turned to me. Without hesitation I stood, telling him that if my niece could be brave, so could I.

I’d like to say that I read my words in a clear, steady voice and that I maintained eye contact with the audience. I’d also like to say that all the family members caught my inside jokes and laughed. But that’s not how it went. However, I didn’t melt into a complete puddle and I did make it through what I intended to say. Thanks to a petite nine-year-old girl who showed me the way.

Life’s too short for regrets.
Zinnia for Stu