Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How To Let Go

1977 Pontiac Grand Prix
Made Especially for Leo T. Shepherd
This car was manufactured to the exact specifications of my parents. It had a small stainless steel plate that read, "Made Especially for Leo T. Shepherd" mounted on the headliner, above the windshield. Mom & Dad bought it when I was 3 years old and they still had it when I left for college. For me, this is the ultimate car. I have been in love with it all my life, and there will never be a car that rivals it. I adore Jaguars and am desperate for a 4 wheel drive, 5 passenger or larger SUV or truck for Guate... but if I had my personal choice for any car ever made it would be the car that I grew up loving.

I drove my first ever date to prom in it. I was all tuxed up, and she wore an incredible white and silver gown that not only made her look like a princess, but it perfectly matched the Grand Prix! The day was an unseasonably warm day that topped 90 degrees. Dad took the cover off of it, polished it up as beautiful as the day it sat in the showroom, and I fulfilled a childhood dream as those four shiny blackened tires crunched out of the gravel driveway in Preble County, Ohio to pick up my date. I soon discovered that the a/c was inoperable. It didn't matter... I was driving this car.

As I neared the big town of Trenton (relevant to Preble Co.) to sweep her off her feet... I realized the second complication of this necessarily perfect day, it was the cities' annual Garage Sale Day. And so... in the 90 degree heat, me with full jacket, scarf, vest, and tails; and her with a full length, lined ball gown... we drove with the windows down a full 10 m.p.h. through the 3 mile stretch to get out of garage sale hell. I looked over at her with her perfect hair (it was 1992) and makeup, and while sweat beaded down her face, she smiled at me. I knew this girl was special.

The torturous drive there was erased by the magical drive home. I had a trusty cassette of Harry Connick Jr., We Are In Love cued to play Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, and as we pulled out of the Manchester Inn & Motor Lodge in Middletown Ohio, I pressed play on the cassette and then hit the button to open the roof. The air was cool and I drove softly through windy roads and hills as I took the long way home through the countryside. A kiss goodnight made the evening complete and I returned the Grand Prix safely home.

Three years later I married that girl.

This perfect night nearly didn't happen. A trip to Taco Bell nearly changed everything. Who knows how different life could have been, had I not so dearly loved that car (at least, according to my memories as a child). 

It was my job to hold the bag of tacos. Of course I dropped them and the whole bag fell into the floorboard and rolled up near the firewall. I'm sure my mom was fussing at me, but I don't remember. I was bent over double, reaching down trying to salvage tacos when the world exploded with violence, crushing and tearing noise, and bright light. Thankfully, I had my seatbelt on. My parents didn't need a law to take precautions to keep their kids safe.

We had collided into the edge of an old concrete bridge alongside the Sorg Paper Company. The right front fender was destroyed, the tire was shredded, and the hood was a folded up mangled mess. I had forgotten about the tacos... I stood there in silence. After determining that I wasn't hurt, mom tried to reassure me by saying, "its ok Chad, we can get another car." That was when I had my breakdown, sobbing, "I DON'T WANT ANOTHER CAR, I WANT THIS ONE!"

I was about 10 years old, I'm guessing it was around 1984... and I still don't know how we got the tow truck there and found our way to Mammaw's house... we had no cell phones, it was late, and we were in an abandoned part of town! Life was tougher then, but my mama was resourceful.

In my child-hood memory, I attribute the fact that we had that car repaired rather than junking it to my own persistence. I remember mom and dad haggling for hours with the body shop about the details. In my mind... I single-handedly saved the Grand Prix (I am thinking my parents might tell it differently).

After all that... I was sure that I would have that car forever. But that was not the case. I remember the call I took in my dorm room. My dad knew how much I loved the car. He explained that he had a buyer for it, and the guy was willing to pay top dollar. Dad said that it would be well taken care of, and asked me if I was ok with him selling it. Dad didn't mention it, but he and mom were helping me pay for school and I knew the budget must be tight. 

I have always trusted my dad, he has never led me wrong. I know that he would give up everything for me... and so, while I felt the pain of losing the Grand Prix, I told him something like, "oh, sure... of course." I think I may even have commented about what a good price he got. 

I spent that night thinking of the memories I had in that car... vacations, the black & red pillow that always sat in the backseat, the trunk where mom always hid my Christmas presents (yeah mom... I always found them & even played with them before Christmas... confession time, ugh).

But... I knew that life was about change. And the education I was getting, and the love of my parents was much more important than the family car. And, I knew the memories of midnight nightingale's with a princess was mine forever.

At some point we all have to learn to let go... if we want to move forward.  The things we believe that we hold on so tightly to, in reality hold onto us. We have to decide if we are willing to let go, or if we are slaves to our possessions and the past. Even so, it is necessarily difficult to let go of what we have... and I believe that is a good thing. It gives us pause to consider where we've been, to reflect on the moments that have shaped us, and the road that has brought us this far.

10 suitcases and 5 carry-ons will hold a few possessions, but everything that matters will be looking to me from the faces of my wife and children as we board that plane. 

I desire more than anything that my children capture the goodness of my parents, embrace the magical moments in life, and always be willing to let go.

I am so thankful for parents who sacrificed so much for me, and a white 1977 Grand Prix that carried me many a safe mile along the road that brought us here. 

We each have a plaque on our lives... 

Especially Made in the Image of God.

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