For all the love we leave behind
February 22, 2020 10:15 PM   Subscribe

There is a car, in the hospital parking lot.

It is a faded red, covered with dust.

Other cars have parked and left on either side of it, every day, but this car remains.

I pass by it, as I find parking, on my way in to work.

I know what it means.

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posted by Johnny Wallflower (25 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
h/t scalefree
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:16 PM on February 22, 2020

MetaFilter seems determined to make me cry today. Guess I'll go with it.

My Grandma always drove a red convertible. Not the same one; she kept getting new ones. She let me take my road test in her car. I felt like the coolest kid in town for one brief hour.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:33 PM on February 22, 2020 [9 favorites]

When I broke my leg in my teens I didn't realize I'd left it at school until my leg had completely healed and I went to go ride it again. Both the seat and the front wheel had been stolen but it was still there.

Doesn't have the pathos, I'll admit.
posted by solarion at 12:51 AM on February 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

When I broke my leg in my teens I didn't realize I'd left it at school

What a twist.
posted by groda at 2:16 AM on February 23, 2020 [68 favorites]

Hm. That "it" was meant to refer to a bicycle. I did not leave my leg anywhere.
posted by solarion at 2:22 AM on February 23, 2020 [28 favorites]

There's a 1950 Buick Special that will be mine one day. I hope that day is still a looong ways off...
posted by Harald74 at 2:57 AM on February 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

(Recently, the government here in the UK, entered into a deal which involved getting much needed new hospitals built right away- but where the companies who helped finance the construction would get to make the most of ongoing revenue opportunities those hospitals might create. Like car parking fees. The British kids of hot-rod driving dad would be about to receive a large bill for the over-stay penalty and impounding of his pride and joy. Death of driver no excuse under regulation 95.b clearly displayed by the entrance)
posted by rongorongo at 3:28 AM on February 23, 2020

Hospital parking in England is one of the biggest rip offs that exist.
It cannot be right when even the staff have to pay their exorbitant fees!!
posted by Burn_IT at 4:44 AM on February 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Parking isn't generally free at US hospitals either, not even for the employees.
posted by octothorpe at 5:39 AM on February 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

Maybe 15 years ago I answered a Craigslist ad for a mid-80's Sunrader RV -- a tiny little thing built on a Toyota pickup. I'd never owned or traveled in an RV, but for some reason it was appealing so my wife and I drove the 1/2 mile from our house to a sprawling 2-story apartment building at the edge of our small, rural college town. The building was on the SE corner of an intersection, and going around clockwise the other corners held a scrubby bit of woods, a small corn field, a struggling Italian restaurant.

The seller is a short, fit, very capable-seeming older woman, living alone with no sign of ever having married or had kids. She'd been some sort of engineer -- Chemical? Electrical? -- at a time when that had been exceedingly rare for women. She invites us in and we spend a long while talking about all the places she'd traveled in the RV, the friends she traveled with, the fact that the hood wasn't original because she'd once neglected to set the parking brake and the truck had rolled downhill and taken out one of the porch columns of some historically significant building. When I ask why she's selling it, she makes a brief handwavey mention of having a health problem -- something about ALS, which I didn't know much about. She clearly wasn't eager to educate me.

She gives us a bunch of little stuff useful in an RV -- silverware, small cooking utensils, a special screwdriver for the square-drive screws that hold the thin interior wood paneling to its framing. A cheap cotton and polyester blanket. Less explicably, she throws in a couple of original paintings from an Israeli artist she'd liked.

We pay her for the RV, sign all the paperwork, thank her profusely, and before we go she asks whether I know anyone who would be interested in a vintage convertible. There's an unexpected parking level under the apartments, and she takes me down to see this gleaming cream-colored thing. I wasn't enough of a car enthusiast to register a make and model, but it was unusual. Soft curves without edginess. Not a Corvette. European. More graceful than a Karmann Ghia, and more luxurious. Probably some variety of Mercedes from the 60's. I admire it, genuinely gushing over its graceful lines and improbable condition. She wants to sell it. Could I use it? I don't know the price, but I know I couldn't afford it and I say so. A minute or so later she's asking again whether I'm sure that I can't use it. I insist that even if I could afford whatever it was worth, I have no place to park it, no way to care for it. She relents, we thank each other again for the time and the stories, the telling and the listening. As we drive away I have the lingering notion that had I said I wanted that car, the price might've been whatever spare change I had in my pocket.

A year or so later, after we've taken a couple of trips in the RV, I dial her number to thank her again, and to tell her where we've been. It is disconnected. I track down her brother who lives nearby, and learn she is already long gone.
posted by jon1270 at 5:49 AM on February 23, 2020 [58 favorites]

How do you learn to trust the flow of time again?

...... drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

I don't know how else
posted by Pembquist at 9:23 AM on February 23, 2020 [11 favorites]

A few years ago, I went with two of my neighbors to escort a police officer to do a welfare check on a woman who lived down the street. She took extensive daily walks through our hilly neighborhood carrying her dog, a tiny gray thing who had grown too frail to walk on its own. She was a fixture and all of us could count on seeing her several times a week.

Once, when she saw me waiting for the city bus she asked me if I was a high school student. When I replied that I was a researcher at the local engineering university she cooed in surprise and kissed my hand. Everyone on my block had a similar story.

A few years later, when we didn't see her for a few days I compared notes with my neighbors and the three of us (two nerds and one nurse) went to check on her. No answer. Fearing the worst, we called the police. The three of us were in our early thirties by this point, each of us new moms. We compared notes about her and found out that she'd given each of us a different name when she introduced herself. She is still "Helen" to me. But the dog's name was not in doubt, "Cookie Bear".

There was no answer and the cop was reluctant to try to get inside without a good reason. A few days later we called again and dispatch gave us our answer. The day we started to notice her absence Helen had a massive stroke and was taken via ambulance to the hospital. She would die less than a week after our welfare check. The dog was being taken care of by another neighbor and there was nothing left to do.

I walk by her house often and am happy for her that her days without her dog were short. It's all any of us can ask.
posted by Alison at 9:33 AM on February 23, 2020 [19 favorites]

I made my first trip to Manhattan in January of 2002. Spent a week at a cheap hotel at Front and Wall street. Got pass out drunk at a bar in Times Square.

The pictures and notes were still plastered to walls in the area, wilting and water stained. Pedestrians welling up with tears as they walked past. The silty white powder of crushed concrete still nestled in cracks and crevices along the streets.

And, in the nearby parking garage, rows of fine new cars covered in dust.
posted by CynicalKnight at 10:54 AM on February 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

MetaFilter has, I think, a few cars covered in dust. This one comes to mind.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:02 AM on February 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

Gut punch. But thanks for posting this.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 11:32 AM on February 23, 2020

Hospital parking in England is one of the biggest rip offs that exist.

If you make hospital parking free I better be getting a refund on my bus fare or a free sandwich when I cycle.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:44 PM on February 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

[ricochet biscuit and others who have been concerned over the years - I can tell you that person lived. Also, separately, let’s not have a fight about bikes vs cars in here, please.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:10 PM on February 23, 2020 [24 favorites]

How do you learn to trust the flow of time again?

The first death I really felt was my dog's, when I was 40. It was the first time I felt like my reaction to death wasn't a sort of performance for the sake of other people; it just hurt me directly. Then went an uncle when I was 47, followed closely by my dad that same year. Trust isn't such an issue, because I know now that time isn't making any promises. For me, accepting that loss comes one way or another has fostered real gratitude for whatever there is now.
posted by jon1270 at 3:35 PM on February 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Thank you for that update , LobsterMitten. I’d never seen that thread before and my heart just broke reading it. I’m very glad not to wonder. And I will never click another thread like that again — not sure I could bear not knowing.

This post and comments in general made me very sad, which is not a criticism at all. I just don’t have anything else to add to it other than that observation of how it made me feel.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 3:43 PM on February 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

How do you learn to trust the flow of time again?

First, it is one breath at a time. As you plan the memorial, chose the clothes and jewelry and flowers and music and Mass card and all these niggling little details that never occurred to you that you had to make a decision about, figure out the flowers return the borrowed books to the library, return to "real" life and struggle to function at some level of "OK".

Then the time you count between breaths gets a little bit longer, until you forget to count the breaths and start feeling moments that will haunt you in unexpected places and times. But it never fully goes away. You just get used to it.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 5:28 PM on February 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Today was the first anniversary of my dad's death. I've been driving his car, the first car he'd ever bought brand-new, since he became too ill to drive. For the past week or two, I keep having dreams where I've hit something or had a malfunction in his car and I am paralyzed by the fear of how angry he's going to be. My mum's going to sell it, she says, but I'm not sure, as it is now an economy SUV that's 13 years old and I don't think she'll get anywhere near the amount of value it still has to her. The day it goes will be the day he's really, really gone for me.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 1:19 AM on February 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

Jesus Fucking Christ I was not prepared for that. Middle age is terrifying.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 6:48 AM on February 24, 2020

Parking isn't generally free at US hospitals either, not even for the employees.

When my 2nd daughter was born, one of the 'orientation' items was to pre-pay for parking. They also had an option that they called something like 'pre-pay for relatives' or something innocent like that (I don't remember exactly), but since they didn't give you a 2nd pass, it was really for you to throw up a guess if your wife or child was going to spend a few extra weeks in the hospital. They had packages for up to a year.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:39 AM on February 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

How do you learn to trust the flow of time again?

Inexorably, you learn you have no other choice. This might sound callous (but it's not meant to) but after you've buried a few friends or loved ones, you start to accept death as part of your life. It is, afterall, the singular goal we're all rushing toward, whether we like it or not.

That's not to say you eventually won't grieve them as deeply as you do now. You absolutely will. All I'm saying is you will come to understand it all as simply part of the deal called living.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:58 AM on February 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

How do you learn to trust the flow of time again?

I'm so sorry about your loss, captain afab.

I lost a bunch of people, starting fairly young, including some who were deeply important to me and including some deaths that were very traumatic.

I never really did learn to trust the flow of time, except that you can't avoid it. Sounds cliche, but the only way to avoid loss is to avoid loving people, and I don't regret loving those people one bit even though their deaths (and other losses) ripped my heart out of my body.

I do think I remember more than other people that everything ends, and sometimes much sooner than you think it will, and very often in ways you have absolutely no control over. It's a weird quirk of our human brains how often we default to "this will go on forever unchanged". I once said to a therapist, "Well, everyone I love will eventually leave me or die unless I leave first. That's just true. What do other people do, just not think about it?" And her answer was, "Yes". I never did really figure out how to stop thinking about it, but I like to think I made it a little more productive so I'm not just curled up under my desk all the time.

The only answer to that seems to be to be as present as we can and love deeply now, knowing that the future is completely uncertain, and knowing that you will break in two again, probably many, many times over. I also know that weird sense of regret at not being 100% PRESENT ALL THE TIME. But that's not possible, so I've also had to learn to accept being a human being, which isn't so easy. I just try to keep coming back, keep savoring as much as I can of the present moment, keep loving, however imperfectly.

Oh, and some Buddhist stuff helps me.
posted by herd_o_turtles at 10:38 AM on February 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

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