death and dying, gratitude, healing, hope, spirituality, travel, trust
Goldie, as some of you know, is my 2008 gold Honda Civic. When I moved to North Carolina from Colorado in 2009, I pulled into town in a blue Subaru Forester towing the smallest U-Haul trailer available. Soon after I arrived, the transmission completely went out on the Forester. I couldn’t afford to replace the whole thing, so I had to let it go and get another car. That’s Goldie. I didn’t name her for a long time, and didn’t say it out loud until after the high drama of April 2015. I went off the road on a dark, rainy night, in either a hydroplane or bump in the road event. I was airborne, spinning 180 degrees and down a steep embankment, getting tangled up in some heavy brush and missing the trees below by inches. Goldie was still running! I got stuck trying to drive back up the steep hill and needed to be towed to the road, but I was able to drive home from there. That was the night I decided that I should appreciate her a little more, and call her by her proper name.
Goldie and I have been through a few exciting events. In the fall of 2012, I was hit on the passenger side by a young man who was in a hurry to leave the bank parking lot. The force deployed the airbag, which tore out the fabric on the car ceiling. That and other damages took Goldie away from me for close to two months. I finally got her back, only to have the engine overheat a week later. What?!? I had her towed to the body shop, because I thought it had to have something to do with that accident and all the work they did. No, they didn’t think so, and so I towed her over to Brueilly Auto Repair. Steve Brueilly had been recommended to me a couple years prior, for minor work. My friend told me that he was highly qualified, and just as important, he was trustworthy. If he can help you out he will, is what I was told. The next day, Steve called me and said “you’re not going to like this. You have a cracked engine block. It costs upwards of 4,000 dollars to replace, and there can be a lot of damage from the crack. I was devastated. I didn’t have that kind of money. I envisioned myself paying two car payments: one for the Civic, which I wouldn’t be able to repair, and another for a car that I would have to buy so I could get around. I called my dad to make sure that this report about cracked engine blocks sounded accurate. He groaned and said yes, it’s very expensive to replace. I decided to just think about it overnight. Steve called me the next day, saying that something seemed strange to them there, so he had called up to the dealership in Greensboro and had them run the VIN number. Turned out there was a recall on that engine block! He told me to get it up to the Crown Honda in Greensboro, and they’d get her fixed up.
I was in a shocked state, but thanked him profusely for following up on this for me. If he and his staff hadn’t taken the time to figure out what was going on, I would have been in some hot water. I called my dad, this time with a remarkable update. He was delighted and relieved for me, and heaped praise on Brueilly for his consideration and help. “He could have just told you the cost for the job, take it or leave it, and not given it another moment’s thought. He’s a mensch!”
This second event, with the engine block, actually spilled over in 2013, mid-January. Dad had been receiving monthly chemotherapy since October, in an attempt to shrink a liver tumor, a metastatic event from a primary retinal melanoma. The retinal condition had been treated a few years prior, and he had been given clean bills of health at all follow ups with the eye specialist, but it wasn’t really gone from his body. By mid-January, he was getting ready for the fourth and final treatment, with the plan to see the oncologist in February to review whether the treatment had the intended effect, and possibly bought him some time. He expressed some pain and fatigue at that point, but we are certain in hindsight that he was not telling anyone exactly how much pain he was in. He kept about most of his usual daily activities. Dick Marcus was not one to lay around and watch television, but one day I called him, it was a weekday, in the afternoon, and he said “Honey, I’m not feeling well. I’m lying in bed in the middle of the afternoon. You know that’s not a good thing.” It broke my heart, but he was not to be coddled, and it was the only time he alluded to such discomfort. Even then, he thought it was more the side effect of treatment that was getting him down than progression of the disease.
At the end of January, I received a piece of mail from him. There was a note that read “Give this to Brueilly, with my thanks. He might get a kick out of it. Love, Dad” In the envelope with the note was a plastic card, one that he received copies of every year as a member of the Retired NYPD Lieutenants Association. I put it aside, thinking I would stop by one day soon and deliver it to him. Two weeks later, I was flying to New York City to say goodbye to my dad, for the treatment had not worked, and he was gone within days of the oncologist’s report that there was nothing else to do except provide comfort care. Soon after his death, I pulled out the envelope with the card intended for Steve Brueilly. I didn’t want to go and see him and give him the card. I was afraid I’d burst into tears, unable to finish. So, I put it aside, thinking “I’ll get over there soon”. I’ve been there since for auto care, and I’ve never thought about that card. This morning, I was organizing some paperwork. I saw my father’s handwriting on an envelope, and curious, I pulled it out. I could feel the outline of the little plastic card. I read, again, the note, and held the card in my hand. I’m keeping it with me in my glove compartment. Hopefully I will remember to pull it out and present it to Steve the next time I’m over at the shop. I do think he’ll get a kick out of it.