Memories of Washing Cars


My oldest son just turned 16 which is a big occasion in a teenager’s life. In Georgia, it means that they can get their drivers’ license. My car has been a Honda Accord which was paid off many years ago. My wife is the school bus during the year so having my son drive himself and his brother makes sense – which means I got to pick up my first new-to-me vehicle in a dozen years (OK, it’s pre-owned, but whatever). Yesterday I got it in my head that the two of us should wash our cars together – since mine was a little dirty.

Bonding with my son while washing our cars
My son working on a wheel the other day as we washed our cars together.

That immediately brought back memories of washing my first car in high school with my dad. We’d park our cars in the driveway and talk while we cleaned them off and waxed them. Very often, they weren’t even really dirty but we’d do it anyway. As long as I can remember, my dad has been a car nut. He loved watching racing and even drove off one day in the family station wagon then came back in a new 1980 Corvette. My dad went on to talk Mattel, where he worked in sales for over 30 years, into sponsoring multiple racing teams including Kyle Petty’s Hot Wheels NASCAR ride and a TransAm car which led us to attend many IndyCar races in the 90’s. He even appeared with one of his Corvettes in a Corvette Magazine article holding one of the replica Hot Wheels Camaros.

The cars were something which really interested him and the creative way he pulled his company into it with a win-win was impressive. I don’t remember it being an easy thing for a sales manager to get approved and it took him a long time. Finally he made a connection to a local race driver on a top TransAm team when getting his Vette serviced. That enabled him to push the sponsorship through and started a really good time for our family with some unique experiences. Over the years, he started leasing the Vettes instead of buying them and essentially got revolving colors between black and red. The sponsorship eventually ended, and we didn’t travel to more races. While my father’s had many projects over his life, this really stands out.

The memories which washing cars with my son brought back were a stark contrast to the day before. My mother, brother, and I were with a neurologist who was explaining to the patriarch that he has a form of dementia. Over the years, it’s destroyed the part of his brain which makes memories and erodes his ability to absorb information. The explanation, of course, didn’t sink in. The willpower which helped him persevere in the past is now working against him as his mind reenforces his belief that he’s perfectly fine. The macho part of him which led me to write this blog entry a couple years ago about him quoting Rocky all the time has become all that’s left.

Apparently about a decade ago, he made a conscious decision to be a more forceful personality. You can read about that a bit more here. That too has come back to haunt him as it has convinced him that he doesn’t need help. The situation has clearly had an impact on my opinions on what a legacy is, how I perceive my father, and how I wish to be thought of by my kids. I’m trying to pick what I want to bring forward from my parents as positive – and to guard myself against the dangers I’ve seen happen over the last several years as his condition has progressed. By the amount of writing I’ve done on the subject, it’s obviously been on my mind for a while.

I know that as the years go on, the older memories are going to be harder to retrieve than the newer ones. And as those years go by, the more recent happenings aren’t going to be as positive or nostalgic. I don’t know what’s going to trigger them to think about the good times like washing cars in the driveway did for me. I do know that I want that part of my legacy to be there though.
Washing Cars Toddler
He’s been helping for years.
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9 thoughts on “Memories of Washing Cars

    1. Maroon. It’s a Dodge Intrepid I had before the silver Accord in the top picture. The Dodge didn’t prove nearly as reliable as the Honda. I don’t think I’d even paid it off before I traded it in.

  1. Great post, Eric. No pearls of wisdom here. You’re a great father and a fantastic son and you’ll continue to cross each bridge along your path. I’m praying for good days…

    BTW, we did something similar with Olivia a few months back. She’s got our 11+ year old Accord (135K miles) and I got a 2 year old infiniti, which I’m loving.

    1. Thanks, Rob. That means a lot.

      Funny about you and Olivia. That’s exactly what I did. What a perfect first car. You must be doing things right as well.
      I hope things are going well for you at work. That the move you made is giving you more of what you want and less of what you don’t.

  2. I have known your mom since I was 12. So that makes 57 years that I have known what a wonderful family she is from and what a wonderful person she is. You continue that family legacy — what a lovely and touching tribute you have shared with all of us.

    Enjoy those precious moments like car washing they are over before you know it.

    Mer

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