When I was fifteen years old my paternal grandfather passed away. It was the first time I really understood that someone I loved was gone. Grandpa would no longer come over four days a week for dinner. No more pockets full of butterscotch candies. No more nightly Wheel of Fortune competitions. No more stories about my grandmother who passed away before I was born. No more head shakes and smiles, “You remind me so much of your grandmother. Everyone loved your grandmother.” I was devastated by the news and I felt a void in my heart for a long time.
After the funeral, once everything had died down, my father and his brother had to go to my grandfather’s apartment and clean it out. Their other brother, my Uncle Paul, was living in Florida, but he trusted that my dad and Uncle Jim would weed through the belongings and save anything of sentimental value. They also split up furniture– some dressers, end tables, and chairs– they each took something home. The last item up for discussion was his car. Grandpa had purchased a 1984 Chevette outright. They could have sold it and split the profits, but my uncles told my father he should take it. I would be driving in less than six months, and they knew that my father drove me to and from school every day. I happened to go to a high school over thirty minutes from my house; my father truly appreciated their kindness. It was decided. In June, a black four door Chevette appeared in my driveway; it waited patiently for me to learn how to drive.
Once I learned to drive, my father taught me the other important rules that they do not teach you in Driver’s Education. He told me that when turning left onto a side street, always allow the car turning onto the main road to pull out first. He told me to always wave when someone let me into traffic, allows me to change lanes, or moves forward so that I can turn. Most importantly, he told me that I would be safe. He pulled down the driver’s side visor, and pinned to it was a plastic St. Jude Travel Club Member Medallion.
“Your grandpa got this medallion about ten years ago. He took it from his last car and put it in this car. He believed that the medallion kept him safe in travels.”
I looked at this little plastic pin, and it immediately meant something to me. Not only did it protect my grandfather over the course of the past ten years, but it was something that had meaning to him. I felt like I had a piece of my grandfather with me, and maybe just possibly, he, too, would look out for me in my travels. I knew that I would do as he did, take it from car to car, and it has been in every car I have ever driven.
This evening, I am purchasing a pre-owned Highlander. This weekend, I took all of my personal items out of my lease. Of course, I made sure to grab the medallion from behind the visor. Before I turn on the engine, before I leave the parking lot of the dealership, I will pin it to my visor and I will say, “Okay, Grandpa, we’re in a new car. Help me stay safe in my travels. I love you.”