The boys were washing Gramma's car. Even though the old blue Dodge, its battery long since dead, seemed less a car than a dinged-up ornament in her driveway.
Ryan, with the relatively useless whisk broom Gramma had give him to sweep the floor matts asked, "Why are we cleaning your car, anyway, if you can't drive it?"
My mother's license had been temporarily suspended. Spectators to the car-washing, my mother and I sat outside in fold-up chairs on the lawn.
My boys like washing cars. They probably wouldn't have been asking the "why" if Gramma hadn't vented a bit too loudly for big little ears, what she had vented at the optometrist who had dared to suggest she may not be able to sign the DMV mandatory eye-test form: "If they take away my license, I'll have a stroke."
"What's a stroke?" Kenny had asked, not really caring about an answer, dreamily hosing down the car, pausing to watch his watery reflection slide down the windows.
Before anyone could answer that question, Ryan had interjected his own perfectly, unfortunately, practical one about why bother washing a car that can't be driven.
"It needs to be clean for my driving test," Gramma said.
"You have to take a driving test? Don't you already know how to drive?" Ryan asked, in that tone that can make even the most mature of adults feel foolish.
Except for Gramma. "Well, clearly, someone thinks I don't know how to drive. Just because I made a little mistake. Why those pedals have to be so close together, I don't know. Anyone could make that same little slip."
"You mean about your 'saga',"Kenny said. He really liked this word. He would use it at home now when he'd relate some story at school, the "saga" of some kid throwing up or getting a bloody nose on the playground.
Gramma had been the one to coin "saga," for the driving of her car into the wall of a carpet store. A saga that continued, as at 93, she had been issued not only a mandatory eye examination, but a mandatory date at which she must appear at the DMV. The state one. An hour away. The "Department for Investigations."
"But what are they going to think when they see my car now?" she said, waving a hand at the brand new crack running along the front bumper.
In the time between having her radiator – crushed by the impact with the carpet store wall – replaced, she'd rear-ended a car; she'd simply been checking her hair in the rearview mirror while stopped at a red light. (This was before her license was officially suspended, and I had suggested she perhaps not check her hair in the mirror anymore.)
Ryan waved the whisk broom at Gramma. "We need a vacuum." Ryan in general, resents most things, except Legos and origami, that don't need batteries, if not a computer hard-drive.
"Well, if I was still allowed to drive, I could be taking it up to the carwash. Where they do have vacuums. Ones meant for just that, cars."
The dirty fact is, Gramma's car is a relic. It smells like a moldy basement; the window mechanism had broken so the window was left half-open all winter, to all the elements. The car farted, rattled and clanked. Ironically, she'd bought it back when she was sure it would be her last car; a good thirteen years ago when she was a spright eighty.
"You have time to get it fixed," I said, just to ease her angst. The mandatory test date wasn't scheduled for another month, but she was fretting daily, reading and rereading the little driving manual she'd been issued.
"Well...I'm not going to waste money on this car if I'm never going to drive again."
Having my mother admit, in the very least, that she may actually not drive again, surprised me. And oddly, did not relieve me. As much as I hoped it would be DMV to confiscate her license. Not me, having to take away her keys.
"You don't know that," I said.
She didn't answer. It unnerves me when my mother can be at a loss for words; it doesn't happen very often, hardly ever in fact, as she is too resolved to have issues addressed as she sees fit, from how dishes should be loaded into the dishwasher to signing petition after petition to bring home our soldiers. Resolves I can see as too perfectionist, but others as huge-hearted, if not heroic.
Ryan actually seemed unnerved too. "Well, it wasn't that dirty. I got most of the mud stuff off."
Kenny who is never unnerved by anything, suddenly shot the spray nozzle up at the sun. "Look, rainbows!"
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