Dawn Kessinger: Why my car's a keeper: I break down; it doesn't

·4 min read

Sep. 3—I've had some memory mishaps since I had my brain surgery last year, and one of the things that has suffered from that memory loss is my 16-year-old Scion xA.

Forgetting to release the brake is bad enough, but although I've only owned standard cars since I've had my driver's license, I somehow occasionally forget I need to shift my car — preferably after pressing the clutch in. The Scion is quick in its complaint and I'm jolted into quick action, but still ... my poor car. After 16 years of enduring my lead foot and helping me find a familiar road when I get lost, it deserves better.

When my car's "Maintenance" light started glaring at me one night on my way home from work, I reflected on all my car has been through with me. I worried just a little that maybe I had somehow damaged it during a forgetful or tired moment — who knew what else I had accidentally done to stress my car while driving it?

Or maybe the car was just getting worn out. Sweet 16 applies to humans, not cars, right? Maybe my car's best years were behind it.

My Scion, which may be fading but can still get up and go, remains among the many good memories my brain can still access.

I remember how I saved my money, and how proud I was in 2005 to be able to buy the car of my choice outright — no payments, no interest — and drive off the car lot with my new, black cherry, stick-shift Scion xA.

For many years, my Scion and I frequently ferried my grandma to play bingo, to buy groceries, to various doctor's appointments, and out to Fat Jack's for pizza and a beer. Grandma liked my car, too, because as she grew older and more ill with Alzheimer's, getting into the xA was both familiar and easier for her to maneuver into.

When Grandma moved into the nursing home, I used to keep in my car a little black and white stool that I folded up and rested behind my driver's seat. I'd get the stool out, unfold it and plop down next to Grandma wherever she happened to be in the nursing home.

She always smiled to see that stool: It meant I was staying awhile. Up until she died, Grandma watched me unfold and fall onto that little chair until I was sure she recognized that stool more than she might recognize me.

My Scion also accompanied me when I had to drive myself to the Emergency Room. Once, my car practically drove itself to the hospital when I had asthmatic bronchitis and couldn't breathe.

When I had such a bad headache it made me cry, the car seemed to quiet its engine in sympathy as we moved smoothly toward the ER parking lot. I actually thought of my Scion sitting in that parking lot when paramedics whisked me to Columbus in an ambulance. I remember feeling a tinge of regret at having left my car behind; I would rather it had been the vehicle that journeyed with me on that unknown road to the hospital where I had brain surgery.

After my surgery, despite struggling with a brain that was achingly slow to recover, there is no other car I would have wanted to drive as I made my first independent forays out of the house. I rely on my xA and trust it more than I do some humans.

In the 16 years I've driven it, my Scion has never once failed to get me where I needed to go. In fact, I've broken down more than it has: I've driven down unfamiliar streets with tears blurring my view. I've been broken in heart, brain, and confidence. And yet my Scion and I keep driving down one road after another, pausing for a fill-up, but refusing to quit the journey.

I took my car to White's Toyota of Lima, hoping the "Maintenance" light wasn't indicating damage beyond repair. The friendly service staff took care of my car and called me with the news I'd been anxiously awaiting: Maintenance and repairs for my Scion would cost me less than $100, and it was fairly healthy and ready to get back on the road with me.

Knowing it's not the best time in the world to try to buy a new car, I was overjoyed to get the good news. But even if new cars were plentiful and affordable, I'm not sure I'm ready to give up my Scion. If I'd had to pay more for repairs, I suspect I was ready and willing to do that. I'm quite content to drive my Scion xA for another 16 years.

Dawn Kessinger is the night editor at The Lima News. Email her at dkessinger@limanews.com

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