It wasn’t what I was looking for. I’d been eyeing a used Chrysler Pacifica, but when we stopped by the dealership the Pacifica wasn’t available. The salesman, an elderly gentleman with a slight lean on his right leg and a jaunty sort of walk, grunted that there was something similar on their back lot and it had only just been brought in a day or so before. We agreed to take a look at it and I was pleasantly surprised.
There it was: a 2004 Isuzu Ascender. This was the fall of 2009, so a five year old car didn’t seem too bad. And it had all the bells and whistles I didn’t even realize I wanted: entertainment system, power seats, 3rd row seating, moon roof/sun roof, and more. The Ascender LS was a higher end “luxury” SUV before Isuzu went defunct. When it was new it ran up to $30k. We paid just over $8k for it.
I was so proud of that car. It represented so much hope to me. As a new mom to an almost toddler, I envisioned a backseat full of car seats, strollers, groceries, and trips to grandma’s. I saw babies and memories and vacations in my future.
But, when I was diagnosed with PCOS and struggled to conceive again, the almost empty backseat began to haunt me. The massive size of it sat nearly empty for years. The only time we used the 3rd row was when we’d lay it down to move large furniture. It was good for that at least.
And there were plenty of other issues. The Isuzu Ascender was doomed from the day it left the manufacturer. Riddled with recalls and issues, it was no wonder we got a good deal on it. We should have Googled the damn thing before driving it off the lot, but my eyes were twinkling when I looked at it. There would be no reasoning with me.
Within two years the AC started acting up. Apparently this vehicle was prone to blowing the AC fan, so you could get heat and cool, BUT only if you had outside air flowing through the car, pushing the heat or cool through the vents. Then the wiper fluid kept running out and we couldn’t figure out why. Turns out the wiper fluid tank had rusted out the bottom and ruptured, leaking out any fluid placed into it. And the entertainment system? Never worked. It came with two wireless headphones, but they refused to pair with it and it was damn near impossible to make it play DVD’s anyways. So, it was used once or twice in the 8 years we owned it.
Basically, it was as my friend so eloquently put when I told her we’d sold it:
It was indeed a hunk of junk.
But, it was my junk. It was my vision of what our family could and would be. It represented the dream, even if the reality never came close to it.
In January 2016 I’d finally had enough. I’d been grumbling about it for the last few years, especially after we’d paid it off, and when I went out one morning to start it and it didn’t start, I marched inside to my partner and declared, “THAT’S IT. I’M GETTING A NEW CAR. NO DISCUSSION.”
This go round I would do my research. My mother was living with me at this time while she and her husband got back on their feet, so during the day while he job hunted, and my partner worked, she and I would explore my options. With her help I calculated what we could afford, what I absolutely wanted and needed, and what I could do without. We settled on a smaller SUV, maybe a crossover, something good on gas, and definitely under $20k. And when we found the perfect one, my mother cried for joy. She hugged me and said, “You deserve this. After all you’ve done for us. You deserve this.”
Unbeknownst to her, my partner and I had already decided that we would find a way to fix up the Isuzu and gift it to my mom. She and her husband only had one vehicle but we knew they’d be getting into their own house too and we hoped she’d be able to return to working soon. Her cancer was in remission, we’d been getting so much good news, so once again, that big hunk of junk represented hope for the future. She was so excited at the prospect of having her own car again. I was so glad to give it to her.
But, she never drove it. By June 2016 it was announced that her cancer was beyond the reach of modern medicine. It was over. They’d done all they could. And in August 2016, she passed away.
For the last year I’ve looked at that Isuzu sitting in my driveway, gathering dust and grime, not wanting to think about all the dreams it never fulfilled. It never carried multiple children to and from grandma’s. And it never became a vehicle to help my mother get her life and her freedom back. It never did the things I wanted it to do because it was just an object. And objects can’t make you happy. They can’t make infertility or cancer go away. They can’t make it easier to grieve those things.
So, today a nice older gentleman came by, dropped off $1200, and took it away. Though retired, he fixes cars up and resells them as a hobby. And he liked what he saw, for reasons I can’t imagine. As quickly as he came, he was gone, pulling the Isuzu out of my driveway and out of our lives, 8 years after it came into them. And while I am relieved to have it no longer clogging up our driveway, it’s a bittersweet goodbye. It’s saying goodbye to more than just a poorly manufactured car: it’s goodbye to what it represented…and what it would never be.
There will always be things we struggle to let go of. There will always be memories left unmade and dreams left unfulfilled. But, we can release those things. We don’t have to carry them with us. We don’t have to be haunted by them.
Today I said goodbye to a bad car. And hello to new dreams and new possibilities.