Shifting gears to let memories ride



“Monty pushed down on the gas, the engine whined and then he popped the clutch. I held on as we went from zero to 60 in three seconds.” 

“You had fun?”

“That was the thrill of a lifetime. I feel like I just rode on a rocket.”

It was a short conversation, one that was over 50 years in the making. A line in time that would have been a total blur to someone in the outside lane. 

Each of us had their own thrills while on our recent family vacation. Mine, rewatching “The Chosen” series with my grandchildren, then listening to them express what part of each episode spoke to them. 

The only thing my Sweet Al wanted to hear was the open-throated roar of a Porsche as it screamed down the road. And, of course, he would get his chance. 

One of our nephews owns a Porsche service center in Issaquah, Wash. I asked if he would bring one of his cars out so that we could surprise Al by taking him for a ride. 

Everything was set up in advance. The day came when my nephew pulled his $100,000 silver Porsche out of the garage and let the precision engine hum. Meanwhile, my Sweet Al was being walked out to the driveway with his eyes closed. Then, someone yelled, “Open your eyes!”

The expression on his face was priceless. He probably had a hundred memories flash through his thoughts in that very moment. And, as he did, our children snapped a hundred pictures before helping him into the car. 

Years earlier, Al owned a Porsche, something he still talks about today. His biggest regret? Selling it for a Plymouth Fury. Yes, I said that right. I’m sure I’m not alone in gasping over the thought of selling a head-turning sports car for a family wagon, albeit necessary at the time. 

As the family grew and our budget grew tighter, there simply was no place for a car of that caliber (or expense). That wouldn’t deter my Sweet Al from turning his passion into a hobby. A second-best option known as a poor man’s Porsche would capture his attention. For the next several years, and without notice, the occasional Volkswagen Karmann Ghia would appear on the side of the house. 

You are never too old to learn a new trade. At least that was the green light for my Sweet Al. Once our young children were home from school and dinner was served, he would head out for night classes at an area vocational school. 

He eventually mastered the craft of Bondo body filling. In fact, he was so good that he could slather on any amount of the compound, then shape a car part back to its original design. 

His love of collecting all things car had begun, from the thrill of hitting the open road at the speed of light to finding dented doors and hoods that could be restored to a factory shine. All of this would feed my Sweet Al’s need for speed — something he could make a connection to, based on moments from his youth. 

Flash forward and there are still a few remnants of days gone by in one of the garages. Ask my Sweet Al and he will tell you, “I’m going to fix that one up one of these days.” 

I doubt it will happen. How do I know? A conversation came up when we saw a bright and shiny dune buggy at a local gas station. A young man, full of vitality and pride, jumped out of his rail car to fill the gas tank. 

Al said, “I have one of those in the garage. I need to get ours out and start driving it. It just needs a new battery ... or starter ... or ...”

I’m not about to let his dream fade, even if the role cage on his tinker toy fits more snug than last year’s girdle. Still, I let him poke around in the garage as he recalls days passed. A time when putting on a tam and dark sun glasses were the only prerequisite for starting an engine. Who wants to squelch the dreams of an 83-year-old man and his couple of hairs blowing in the wind as he drives the streets of Pagosa?

“I didn’t get many speeding tickets because I would pay off the police.”

“Sixty years of marriage and you are just now telling me this?”

“That was the way we did things back then. Except that one time when that police pulled me over after chasing me for 25 minutes. He was pretty upset and had everyone in the county on the lookout for a 1960 356 Porsche bathtub.” 

Final brushstroke: Memories are part of our lives. Even the one’s we find out about, later down the road. The most important thing is to never let the dream die. It may never have feet,or wheels, again, but that’s OK. When you can shift gears with your eyes closed, the rest is what you make of it. 

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