Today the Mercedes dealership called to congratulate Maggie on three years ownership of her car. Apparently, I bought the car back on September 28, 2006. While I didn’t realized it had been three years, I clearly remember the event but it seems like so long ago. The car was an early graduation gift from me to her. She was so, so happy about it but she was also studying for her finals or something else important that my show of kindness was interrupting so celebrations were brief. Nonetheless, she posed for a few photos and then shooed me off so she could continue her colligate grind. It was a fun day and one of my favorite memories.
Maggie and I had a master plan. She was going to graduate law school and then I was going to head off to business school. It was a grand plan and one we were both quite excited about. The end of that plan, at least where the specifics started getting fuzzy, was when I graduated from school in May 2008. The finale, we decided, was for her to be pregnant with our first child as I marched across the Acton finish line, diploma in hand. From there, we weren’t really sure where we’d go but hey, we made the plan back in 2002-ish. And having a first child set in motion a whole new plan of in and of itself.
When Maggie started law school, we had two cars: a Corvette (2000, white, awesome) and a Jeep (Wrangler, 2000, bright yellow, bad ass.) Both were amazing vehicles in their own right. But the Corvette was mine and I certainly didn’t trust my crazy, phone-talking wife to drive it. That left the jeep as Maggie’s daily driver, yup, even to and from Waco on I35. Now, in case you’ve never driven a stick-shift, jacked up jeep with massive 32” tires on I35 at Texas highway speeds, trust me to say that it’s unpleasant. Big tires on short wheel-based vehicles tend to wander. And big tires don’t stop rolling very quickly, making for some hair-raising moments each trip. Making matters worse, this particular jeep didn’t have cruise control (you don’t need cruise control for rock crawling!) But she drove that jeep every day and never complained once. She was a trooper, a real champ.
Maggie had never had a go-fast, sexy, wind-in-yer-hair car. And with children soon coming, there was a short window for her to live that dream. So, in keeping with the plan, we decided to buy her a fun car she could sport around in while I’d get a family car that would hold baby seats. She could drive passionately until the day came when we needed to trade cars. Then I’d drive the sports car and she’d take over the family-mobile. It was a great plan. Have I mentioned lately how happy I was to be married to my sweetie? We were perfect together. But I digress…..
After a fun bit of looking around, she decided that the Mercedes SLK 350 was the car for her. It’s a fun convertible and, really, just an impractical car but it wasn’t for practical; it was for her smiles. So I went a-searchin’. I had to special order the car with the options we/she wanted and (apparently) it showed up on September 28, 2006 at the dealership. Eagerly, I showed up a few hours later with Niko riding shotgun. A long hour or so afterward, me and puppy were headed to Waco in a brand new SLK registered in Maggie’s name.
Maggie was still in class when we arrived, which was all part of my master plan. She didn’t know we were coming, see. <insert evil laughter here> I headed over to the flower shop that, by now, knew me (or my credit card, rather) by name, Baylor Balloons. There, after introducing myself after nearly three years of constant business, I left with a single red rose in hand.
In the parking lot of the school I found the jeep, which weren’t too hard cuz it’s big. REALLY big. 🙂 And yeller. Did I mention cool? Leaving Niko safely in the car I started up the jeep and, whoops….. where the heck was I going to put the jeep? Did I mention it’s big? And very, very yeller? Finally, after some mental debate, I figured I was going to have to break the rules and, thus, parked it around the side of the law school in staff parking. I figured if the rent-a-campus-cop showed up then I’d explain the gag, take my licks and move on. (For the record, they never did.) Good, jeep was gone.
Back where the jeep used to be parked, I placed the very shiny, very brand new Mercedes SLK 350. Under the windshield wiper blade I placed my single red rose. Now the waiting game began.
Over to the side of the law school building parking lot is a quaint little park with some benches and grass. Niko and I took up temporary residency there and I started my light reading while waiting for my soon-to-be-quite-surprised sweetheart to break out of the building. And wait we did. Fortunately, I was somewhat engrossed in my light reading, a McMasters and Carr catalog* and the time kind of flew by.
* Yes, I really am that geeky. And if you know what this is, you’re pretty geeky, too. For those that don’t, a McMasters and Carr catalog is the catalog of everything: ball bearings, motors, fans, pulleys, wiring assemblies, power supplies, raw metal, welding supplies, tweezers (the GOOD ones), electrician kits…. And on and on. You either get it or you don’t.
Finally, after a decent sunburn on both me and Niko had developed, I spotted my sweetie walking out of the building. I can recognize that walk from miles away. Immediately, my heart spun up to full on rumba.
Oh how slowly she walked from the law school doors to the place where she thought she left the jeep. Her saunter was making me sweat with anticipation. Finally, as if she was in another universe on the way there, she stopped and looked a little puzzled. She looked around (like she was going to find the jeep!), probably wondering “Where the heck did I park?” No, she wasn’t fooled for long, my smart girl. She knew she parked it right where this….. this…. really pretty, really shiny car is. Then, one gigantic smile appeared blinding out everything and making my heart burst through my chest with joy. She walked over, picked the now-wilted rose from the windshield and began looking around, but this time not for the jeep but for the perpetrator of the crime. Of course, I wasn’t very shy and bounced over, all grins myself. I figured she would have figured out it was me eventually.
The next few minutes were all about hugs and kisses, Niko kisses included. She was just thrilled.
Maggie loved that car. She drove it around proud like it was a Ferrari. She beamed when she talked about it. Top down, top up, in the rain, in the sun – she loved, loved, loved that car. 780 days. That’s how long she got to drive it. November 14, 2008, the day they hooked up that damned pain pump, I did something I still have a very difficult time coping with to this day – I took her car away. You can’t possibly imagine how bad that hurt, or rather, still hurts.
I’ve never been a controlling person. Gosh, couldn’t be with Maggie. She had her own way and she was quite good at convincing you she was right. Ms. Independent and I loved her for it. Very much. But, with this, I put my foot down and did not budge. It was heartbreaking. It made me sick. I was fighting for something I didn’t want, fighting for something that represented something I hated and for something I didn’t believe in. Oh, gosh, it was tough. She argued. We fought. She cried. I cried. Repeat weekly. Heck, repeat daily. She pushed. I held fast. Then one day, she quit fighting.
Something came up months later about the car and we touched the subject again, but not in our fighting stance. She said that she was still angry with me but she could tell that it was something I felt strongly about so, while she still didn’t agree, she agreed to go along with what I wanted, for me, for us. We never spoke of it again.
I’ve driven her car nearly everywhere I’ve gone since, well, since she’s not with me anymore. I try to always put the top down and pump loud music through the speakers. I don’t always feel like singing but I do anyway. And I drive fast, like Maggie did. There, flying down the highway, music blaring and me singing, I feel a little bit closer to her.