Monday, March 10, 2014

Things get older ~ my column from Sunday's paper

There’s an old pickup truck behind our barn that was once the color of a spring sky, but years of dust, bird droppings and a tarp of atrophy has changed the color to a dappled blue. It must have been beautiful when it was new, but things get older.

The first few years Jilda and I were married, neither of us made minimum wage so our first car was an old Plymouth Valiant. It must have been white when it was new, but by the time I got the title, it was the color of old piano keys.

Even though it didn’t have air conditioning, it was a decent car and the odometer clicked off the miles like a slot machine. The mileage gauge finally stopped a year before the old workhorse died, so I’m not sure how many miles it had on it.

A few years into our marriage, I landed a paying job with MaBell and we bought our first new vehicle. 

It was a Datsun pickup and it was the first air-conditioned vehicle we ever owned.

On the drive home we both giggled at the new-car smells. The aroma was a blend of dye in the carpet, and the interior components. It took a while to realize that we couldn’t smell old cigarette smoke in the seats.

Something else that was different was the whisper of the engine, and the clicking sound we heard when I flipped a switch. These are memories that settled in a good place in your mind.

The first few months we noticed the odometer when it flipped over the first 100 miles, then the first 1000. Soon things began to change when we got the first ding in the door at the grocery store, and I found myself going a few weeks longer between washings. Before I knew it, I’d spilled coffee on the console, started tossing candy wrappers in the floorboard and pulling peanuts from the crack in the seat when I was fishing for my seatbelt. Things get older.

That’s not always a bad thing because with age, comes good things too. You feel a comfort in the confines of your car. You learn just how far you can go when the gas gauge starts bumping the E. You know if the old beast has enough pep to get around a Sunday driver on a short two-lane straight away.

Your favorite CDs are all within reach and you can manage to find your favorite radio station with the punch of a button without taking your eye off the road.

But the best part is no car payments. I think a car actually rides better when there’s no bank toting the note.

Both of the cars we now own have been paid off for a number of years. We've learned to live with the quirks and smells that seem to change with the seasons. 

We add a little oil every now and then, and I'm amazed at how good my truck looks when I hand wash it.

Our vehicles are almost like old friends. Jilda's Volvo, Ingrid is a 1996 with almost 300,000 miles, and we decided at the first of the year that she must be replaced (the car I mean), probably by summer. It was a difficult conversation because like an old friend, it will be hard to let that car go.

We’re looking for a newer vehicle that will take us into the next phase of our lives.

Jilda will retire within the next few years and we plan to hit the road, playing music and seeing the real America, which is only visible from the highway. It’s something we’ve dreamed about for most of our lives, and we’re finally getting to the age where it will happen. Like old cars, there are some benefits of getting older.


  1. There are some great benefits into aging... I do like how we become more comfortable in our own skin... have a great week Rick :)

  2. It's amazing how some possessions can become like old friends. As for moving to new phases of our lives, that can be a good thing too. I like the person that I am today far better than the one I was twenty years ago; more confident, maybe a little wiser and certainly far more tolerant.

  3. I had a Honda for 17 years before it had to retire. Believe it or not, I miss it, even though I'm getting used to the new car we bought a few years ago (a 2005 Jetta). But old cars have memories attached to them.

  4. Loved this column, Rick. I have a 19 year old Saturn, and it's breaking my heart that I'm going to have to part with it when the heat arrives ~ dead computer that controls the fan that cools the engine. I've replaced the computer once, but it may be hard to find another, and the Saturn is showing its age in other ways! Have a good one!

  5. Good dreams to have: Hit the road, Rick, as soon as that time comes. My parents talked about their some-day trip all their lives once Dad retired from the farm. But the thing about farmers is that they don't really retire. They did some traveling but not enough.

  6. You touched my heart with this blog. I can relate to the car thing and exploring your own country is a dream come true.
    Just because you live somewhere doesnt mean you know it . Unless you are a tourist you are busy making a living.

    1. Thank you. I appreciate your kind words.

  7. My first car was a used Mustang. It was my older sister's until she got married. Then I got to drive it to high school. X and I drove it early in our marriage and then it bit the dust. My brother towed it from Kansas to Arizona so her could refurbish it. His sons told me it sat in front of his house, rusting away, and then he died. I don't know what happened to it after that. Now I ride in a Mustang with Willy Dunne Wooters. Your column is great.


  8. Thanks Janie. I just read where this week is the 50th anniversary of the introduction to the Mustang. I remember the first one I ever saw like it was yesterday.

  9. I think it is wise to hang on to a vehicle unless it stops working or we have a use for a new car. I wish you good luck with finding a car as good as your current car and build memories with it.

  10. Love this! Get going with your travel plans as soon as possible. There's so much to see in this country. We started doing this before retiring and have continued to do so since retiring. Earlier on we went to Europe several times and saw some wonderful things...great memories were made. After 911, we decided to see this country more and have never regretted that decision. We've been up and down both coasts, as well as across the gulf states and those bordering Mexico. We've have driven through and stopped at many states in between here in the Midwest and all those other places. This country is so beautiful and so different from place to place...don't miss any of it!


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