Anyone who knew my deceased husband, Brian, knew of his love of Nissan cars, especially, the 280Z. 280Z’s were fast, sleek, beautiful sports cars. Brian collected two of these cars in 1985 when we came to Texas from Wisconsin. He said that the beautiful weather of San Antonio made it possible to have a collector car because San Antonio never got snow or experienced the hideous salt they poured on the streets after the snow to make driving manageable in the north. Everyone who was from Wisconsin knew that the dreaded salt corroded cars. I digress when I mention that I remember riding in my mother’s 1952 Plymouth and having water splash up through the floor boards because the bottom of the car had completely corroded due to that salt, so I did not argue when he passed on that reason for getting two sports cars. Unlike, Jay Leno, who keeps his vintage cars in a warehouse and admires them, Brian had us use these cars as our everyday means of transportation. His car was a white “Z” with red leather interior and two seats. When you road with him, the car enveloped you in the smell of leather and Brian’s Polo cologne. Brian kept it perfect. If a small stone happened to scratch it, he immediately retouched it. He washed it weekly and waxed it often. My car was a four seat 280Z. It was a metallic brown. As the family car, it was not in quite the condition that Brian kept his, but he tried to keep mine nice, too. The lovely brown leather interior often smelled of groceries, candy and potato chips. You see, our two young children were often hungry on the way home from school. Most of our relatives knew enough to drive in to San Antonio because arriving from the airport with lugguge and subjecting their old bodies to crunching in to a 280Z was more than you should ask of an aging gramma and grampa.
Our family took only one vacation in our “family” 280Z. That was a 1200 mile trip to Wisconsin for my only sister’s wedding, and than back to Texas. My sister is twelve years younger than I am and sometimes, for a minute, I would catch myself thinking she was my daughter. I loved her like a daughter. She was going to have all of us “stand-up” in her wedding. We couldn’t afford to fly four people, so we piled into the “Z” with our tuxedos for the guys and bridesmaid dresses for us girls and began what the children lovingly call, “Our First and Only Family Vacation.” The “Z” did have a trunk, so our luggage could go there, but the kids, as I recall, also had some things packed between them in that tiny backseat. These were the glory days, the “good old days” before handheld games, ipads and cell phones, so all the kids could do was read and write. Arguing and fighting would have been an option, but Brian was a man of extreme self-control and discipline, both for himself and for those around him, so neither child argued, complained or mentioned that we were all burning up from the heat of the Texas desert and the hot drive shaft that went through the middle of the car and made the air conditioning seem non-existant. We got up at 5 a.m., were on the road by 6 a.m., and drove until 6 p.m. stopping for a McDonald’s meal (he loved the filet-of-fish), at noon. You would think Brian had been a general or something in the military, but he developed all that discipline and internal control all by himself. Well, maybe his mother had something to do with it. Anyway, we made it to Wisconsin and back, the wedding was lovely and my sister now has been happily married 25 years.
But why do I speak of this 280Z? Brian kept this 280Z all of the years of our marriage. He even kept it when he got cancer, went through chemotherapy and kidney dialysis. He kept that car until he died. But shortly before he died, when the chemo and the dialysis were taking its toll on him, he drove into the garage and scratched and dented the amazing white, now old, but still perfect, 280Z. He came into the house and said,
“Why did I bother all those years to keep the car perfect? Why didn’t I let anyone else drive it? Why was I afraid it would get a scratch or dent? Look now, in a minute, I have scratched and dented it.”
It was one of those Ahh-Hahhh moments that echoed through his universe. Those of us who are clumsy and have dropped, spotted, stained or ruined many things in our life have these OH-OH moments of ruination all the time. Someone who has the remarkable ability to keep things spotless and perfect don’t have these moments as often. In fact, this might have been his first. What followed for him were a terrible series of OH-NO moments as he lost many of the abilities we all take for granted every day: the ability to step up a step, the ability to feed yourself, the ability to get out of bed, the ability to think coherently. One by one these abilities were taken away from a man who had done so much perfectly throughout his life.
Where is the God of Surprises in all this? Well, after Brian died, I thought I would drive his 280Z just once before I sold it. I really didn’t need two cars. So one day I was driving it to school. The car was driving well when all of a sudden all of the dials and lights in the car went on at once including the windshield wipers. I was really afraid. I didn’t know if it was going to stop in the middle of Bandera highway and I would be a stranded widow, or if I should drive it immediately to the Nissan dealer. It did this for about a block, and then all the lights and dials went back to normal and I drove on to school. I smiled than because I knew that it was my Brian driving with me in the 280Z for one last ride in a beautiful car.