Helpless. That’s how I felt as I stood on my second floor deck and watched a brown river flowing through the parking lot of my apartment building. I was also shocked. I had never seen anything like this before.
Radar, my beloved red Nissan Altima, was swimming in one of the deepest parts of the newly expanded community pool. My brain was struggling to process what was happening and couldn’t fathom (pun intended) how worried I should be.
About an hour and a half later, the water had receded. I sucked up all my courage and went down to check on Radar.
I opened the driver’s side door to find puddles of stinky, brown creek water and debris, several inches deep, in my floorboards. Water marks on the plastic between the front and back doors showed that the water in my car had at one point been at least a couple feet high. When my brother later took out my interior to let it dry better, there was not only water in and under all the carpet and seating, but there was a muddy leaf under a plastic sensor cover under my backseat.
I almost cried when the tow truck took Radar away several days later. He could still drive, but the damage was extensive. I won’t see Radar again. If I had known the last time we drove together would be our last, I would’ve gone out on some country roads with the windows down, music on blast. Then again, if I had known, I would’ve just parked Radar somewhere safe before the flood came.
It’s foolish to be sappy about a car. But I was genuinely sad. And not just about the stress of dealing with all the ramifications of Radar’s mortality. Radar holds a lot of true sentimental value for me. Some of the best—and arguably the most adventurous—years of my life I spent with Radar getting me from place to place. I named him after my favorite character from the TV show M*A*S*H, and inanimate object though he was, Radar certainly seemed to fit with that loyal, lovable, quirky personality.
Radar toted me and my college friends around Indiana and beyond, seeking out opportunities for fun and memory-making wherever we went, from the one-way streets of Fort Wayne to the cornfields of Upland. There was singing and dancing and road tripping and visiting country mechanics who restored Radar’s health while sharing fascinating stories of the worst mistakes of their lives.
Radar and I endured many seasons together. We survived precarious conditions on snow-covered roads together by the grace of God. We played music LOUD and drove fast down country roads with the windows down, any time the temperature allowed. We reveled in the bliss and admired the beautiful, rolling, green hills of my home state even as we traversed them time and time again. Whenever we got the chance, we drove across county lines and state borders to visit people we loved.
We moved a lot. To new cities and new residences and new opportunities, Radar filled to the brim with clothes and books and DVDs. We built new friendships, new routines, new rhythms. We navigated the never-ending traffic of Atlanta and the never-ending road construction of Cincinnati. We drove to church, to work, to community gatherings, to soccer practice, to everyday moments with ordinary, incredible people. We drove home.
Radar heard not just my terrible singing, but also some of my most intimate conversations and most desperate prayers. Radar served as my introverted safe haven. He heard my heart poured out in many different ways, on many occasions.
Yes, Radar was just a car. And my new (to me) car is basically a newer version of Radar. There’s no reason to be sad. It’s stupid. Really stupid.
But when I think about it, maybe the reason I was so sad to lose Radar is that his demise seemed to signal an end to an era of my life. And I’m not ready to let go. Of the memories. Of the days the memories represent. Of the people with whom those days were spent.
More memories will be made. More adventures will be had. More friends will be made. I know this. But I’m a hopelessly loyal, hopefully lovable, definitely quirky human being. I truly believe moving on doesn’t require completely letting go of the things that have gotten me this far. Because while the material pieces of the past will be reduced to spare parts, other things will stay with me forever.