A New Set of Wheels

Within the archives of male mythology there lives a notion that men spend most waking hours thinking only about two or three topics. One topic is cars. Not long ago, my master plan included a Dodge Pro-Master high-top work van. It would be diesel powered and have a very functional camper configuration. Most importantly, it would be stealthy and enable a bit of sleep almost anywhere. Time not spent in the Pro-Master would be in a Volkswagen Golf R. The R is an inconspicuous hatchback coupe with a 300 hp motor. Even the insurance company wouldn’t know the difference.

A fellow can dream, can’t he?

Attention density is a stubborn characteristic. Even with an accelerating understanding of ALS, I nurtured these car dreams. Multiple falls and the surrender of small dignities eventually built a case for new strategies. I do now have a van. Instead of a clever camper configuration it has a wheelchair lift.  But it is stealthy.  My need for speed is appeased by a power wheelchair having a top speed of 7 mph. It is simply a different contemplation of fast lane. I will probably affix an inconspicuous “R” name badge. Irony is the root of humor. I can still have some fun.

The need for mobility is resounding.  Perhaps it started with the Sunday drives of my childhood. Each week the family shared some ritualized windshield time. My father’s good intentions waning as three boys squabbled in the backseat. Mom lit up a Kent while imploring Dad to relax. And the next Sunday we all piled back into the Chevy wagon. Perhaps this was the precursor to screen time. Passive viewing of the mid-century landscape evolved into passive viewing of some crazy ass-hole in a YouTube video.  But Dad was better than YouTube. He would swear at lesser drivers, slow down to moo at small herds of cows, and allow us to throw small bits of litter out the window.  It was even fun when he would threaten to beat his restless backseat tribe.   His humor always returned when a dairy bar arose on the horizon.

I am thrilled when Allison is setting out for errands and invites me to come along. Loading and unloading is chore and Allison does it with grace and generosity. I have become the faithful dog, encoded with an entitlement to forever ride along.  I keep my head inside the car for the most part. And I’ve noticed that strangers are loathe to scratch my ears and comment on my good behavior while awaiting Allison’s return.

And then we drive away, and I gulp in the scenery like it is water and I am stranded in a desert. It is definitely about the journey and not the destination. After all, I have the ending figured out. Until then, it is all about wheels in motion. I can even re-imagine my ten-year old self rolling through the Pennsylvania country-side. An aggrieved voice from the front seat asking, “do you kids want me to pull this car over?” I imagine my forever reply, “No, Dad. Let’s keep rolling”.

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