Making Mental Notes While He’s Still Here
After our second child was born — back when my husband, Todd, had an undiagnosed weak left arm — we purchased a used minivan.
We found the van on Craigslist and drove two hours to purchase it. Six months later, Todd was diagnosed with ALS. We made plans to move north, to the snowy Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and we were thankful for our all-wheel-drive Toyota Sienna.
Todd was glad I would have a reliable vehicle after he was gone.
Neither of us expected that he would outlast the vehicle. He has lived longer than expected, and vehicles in the Upper Peninsula have short lives with our heavily salted roads.
A year ago, a piece of metal fell off my van. I brought it to the mechanic who works on our vehicles.
“This fell off,” I said, holding up the rusted hunk of metal.
“You want me to fix it?” he asked.
“What is it? Is it important?” I asked.
He tossed it in a scrap pile in the corner of his shop. “There. Fixed. It’s a heat guard. Just don’t idle the van in a grassy field, and it’ll be fine.”
I’m thankful I found a trustworthy mechanic. Todd used to handle all the vehicle repairs. He knows enough about cars not to be taken advantage of by auto shops.
Little by little, the repairs and the problems on my 2006 Toyota Sienna added up.
The drive shaft fell off. The dashboard lit up with trouble lights, but the vehicle didn’t give any codes to determine what was wrong when the mechanic plugged it into his computer. There was an odd whirring noise in cold weather, but it went away after the van heated up.
The last straw was the air conditioning quitting again. This time, the system wouldn’t hold a charge, and the summer has been insufferably hot.
It was time for a newer vehicle. I’m glad I had Todd’s help in weighing the options.
The trip was difficult on Todd, as he had to sit in the back of the van in an upright position for hours, and then under the hot sun at the dealer as we inspected a few vehicles.
We needed lunch, but didn’t want to go into a restaurant because we are social distancing, so I got takeout and we went to a friend’s house. Her house wasn’t accessible, but she was gracious enough to set up a fan in her garage, and we ate there.
We got back late, and Todd was exhausted. It confirmed what I already knew in my gut: Todd’s traveling days are over.
The following week, I looked at vehicles at our local dealerships. Rather than bringing Todd out in the hot, humid weather, I test-drove the vehicles up to our house and parked them in our garage so Todd could inspect them.
Todd researched the reliability, options, and fair prices online. He found some models had issues with transmissions and others had issues with electronics.
We settled on a Ford Edge that our local dealer purchased at auction. It had lived its earlier life farther south, and should last another 10 years up here. It’s smaller than my old van, and it will be a good vehicle for my daughter to learn to drive in after a couple of years.
I’ve never purchased a vehicle on my own. My dad helped me buy my first car after college, and I drove my Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera until Todd and I were married. He helped me find my second car, a Ford Taurus, and then the Toyota Sienna.
It’s a small victory that Todd outlasted our minivan, and now he’s again glad that I will be left with a reliable vehicle after he’s gone.
Although he was around to help again, I was much more involved this time. The next time I purchase a vehicle, I will probably be on my own, so I made mental notes of what he looked at and the questions he asked.
I’m preparing for the day when I won’t have my best friend and life partner.
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