The people I deal with at work – the customers, I mean – can be frustrating sometimes. Once in a while, though, a simple call for roadside assistance evolves into something like a short story or film. I got a call yesterday from Conroe Texas from a woman who needed a jump start for a truck. Simple enough request, but as I talked to her the details began to come out. As it turned out, the jump start was for her father’s truck. 2010 or ’11 Silverado, black, sitting in the driveway. She mentioned that her father had dementia. We discussed whether to set up a jump or to have it towed to a dealership to see whether something else might be wrong. She said that her father didn’t want that, and I got the impression that she and her father’s wife were toeing that fine line between acceding to his wishes and convincing him, through the fog wrapped around his brain, to do what is best. They both, she and her father’s wife (pretty sure it was not her mother), loved him enough to let him have some control over the decisions in his life and they know him well enough to know what is important to him. He is an older man, living in Texas, so one of the important things to him, something that gives him a sense of his identity, is his pickup. The reason the battery in the truck went dead is that one day he, groping for something familiar that reminded him of who he once was, went out to the truck in the driveway, sat there for a while, a few hours I guess, listening to the radio until the battery died. There is something extremely poignant in that image for me. I can see him there, sitting in the driveway since they won’t let him drive the dang thing anymore, listening to the radio, memories of past trips flitting through his tattered mind as he sits there. That truck is a space that was and is important to him, somewhere that he can have valuable alone time, sealed off from the world there, released for a bit from the demands and entreaties of others. Where he can be free, enclosed as he is, possibly imagining a different life for himself, one in which he could be shet of all these daggum nagging women. He gets to where he’s going though, and has a realization that for all their pestering, the women in his life want what is best for him and their love, which seems smothering at times, is something he can always come back to.
The woman and her stepmother (I ended up talking to the stepmother, after the daughter gave the phone to her so she could make the decision about whether to jump or tow) decided, after consulting with the father, that a jump start would be the best course of action. That’s the end of this little seven minute drama. The story sticks with me, I think, because I have a Dad, who has his own truck, and he’s getting older. He has let me drive it once or twice, and I considered it a privilege. Now I know why, at least to a degree, that little Toyota is important to him. I have told him I would like to have it, or buy it, when things get to the point where he can’t use it anymore. And if that happens, I’ll treasure that little green truck, because it was his.