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There is a car, in the hospital parking lot.

It is a faded red, covered with dust.

Other cars have parked and left on either side of it, every day, but this car remains.

I pass by it, as I find parking, on my way in to work.

I know what it means. 1/
There was a time when it wasn’t faded red, covered in dust. There was a time, decades ago now, when it was brand new.

“Ruby red metallic!”

The car salesman flashes a winning grin.

“Isn’t she a beauty? And to think, she could be all yours!”

The young man smiles. 2/
In the years to come, people will often ask the young man, why did you choose the bright red? It doesn’t seem to fit his personality.

He is quiet, and withdrawn.

His answer is always the same. “It isn’t red. It’s ruby red. Got Dorothy home safe, it’ll do for me.” 3/
Many years later he will discover that the original novel, “The Wizard of Oz,” made no mention of ruby slippers.

They were invented for the movie, to sparkle in new “Technicolor.”

But that’s of no matter.

Sorry for the detour. Life is detours, that you take or you don’t. 4/
He drives his beloved ruby red car everywhere.

Across town. Across the state. Across the country.

When he gets married, a “JUST MARRIED” banner is hung from the rear bumper.

When his wife goes into labor, that ruby red hot rod breaks every speed record in the state. 5/
With the passage of time, he has to make more practical decisions. But he can’t bring himself to sell his car. It’s been good to him.

He knows he’s being silly.

It’s just a machine.

But he’s wept behind the steering wheel, and he’s laughed, and it’s kept his family safe. 6/
So he stores it in his garage. And every now and then, on a weekend, he tinkers with it.

Visiting an old friend.

One who never passed judgment on him. Who only served him faithfully.

His kids grow older. He grows older too.

Perhaps he should sell it, maybe it’s time. 7/
It’s his wife who convinces him to keep it.

“If it wasn’t for that beautiful car, I would never have married you!”

He laughs, but then she says something true.

“It’s not your car anymore. It’s your friend. There’s always room for friends.”

He understands her wisdom. 8/
She dies unexpectedly, several years later, from cancer that had been lurking and managed to escape detection.

He has lost his true love, and his best friend.

The raw depths of his grief threaten to submerge him, and for a time, they do.

And that’s okay.

He’ll be okay. 9/
So now his favorite thing to do is take long drives in his ruby red hot rod. It has become old enough to be cool again.

Retro fever.

His kids want to move back home, but he assures them he’s fine. Not to worry.

He finds happiness, and freedom, on the open highway. 10/
One day he wakes up with a strange pain in his chest. It makes his breath catch.

He thinks about calling 911, but it subsides.

Just to be safe, he decides to go to the local ER and get checked out.

He gets into his beloved car, and turns the ignition for the last time. 11/
As he parks, in the hospital parking lot, he feels strangely nervous. Perhaps he should call the kids. But he doesn’t want to worry them.

He gets out of the car, and notices a blemish on the hood. Spitting onto his palm, he wipes it clean.

It is an unassuming farewell. 12/
He will die later that evening. His children don’t understand. Why didn’t he call them? The reports they’re getting make no sense. Massive MI? Heart failure? Kidney failure?


But he was so strong.

He was Dad. He is Dad.

They fly home that very night, numb. 13/
It will be several weeks before his daughter realizes their dad’s beloved hot rod isn’t in the garage after she unlocks it.

They had all assumed he dialed 911.

They didn’t realize he drove himself to the ER.

Immediately, they make their way back to the hospital to search. 14/
There is a car, in the hospital parking lot.

It is a faded red, covered with dust.

Other cars have parked and left on either side of it, every day, but this car remains.

I pass by it, as I find parking, on my way in to work.

I know what it means. 15/
Sometimes I wonder.

How much gas is still in the tank? How many journeys were still planned, or unplanned? Where did it go? Where was it going?

It was a beautiful car, once, I can see that.

As I drive past it, I pray for rain.

(For all the love we leave behind - ST, 2/20.)
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