In the early spring of 2001, I forged a long-lasting relationship with something I never expected - a car. The thought of feeling that way about a car might sound a bit trite to some, but to me, this car was special. This was the first car I picked out and paid for on my own. But I had no idea that over time, it would become much more to me than "my first car."
I'm not a spontaneous decision-maker, especially when it comes to large purchases. So when I decided it was time for me to buy a car, I began the tedious process of narrowing down my choices. I had some cars I liked, so I checked out those first, and over time, I narrowed down my options to two. One was the Honda Civic. The other - to be honest, I don't even remember now.
When my mom and I went to the dealership to look at the Civic, I seemed to know more about the car than the salesman, thanks to all that research. I wanted a red car, but in the middle of the showroom floor sat the shiniest blue Civic I'd ever seen. Red? Who cares about red? I wanted this blue one!
Oh, this car had everything a 20-something could want. Stealth design on a two-door coupe, a power sunroof, CD player, plenty of spots to put all my necessities - and I just felt great sitting behind the wheel. I had a sense of accomplishment knowing that I could pay for such a major purchase on my own.
I babied this car. I loyally kept up with all the required maintenance and washed it inside and out as often as I could. Admittedly, the car seemed a little "fragile" to me before I really broke it in - you know, until it got its first scratch or little door ding. But after that, it was smooth sailing.
I honestly don't remember having any major issues with the car. It seemed like I took such good care of it that I anticipated problems or saw them coming before they actually became an issue.
My Honda Civic - or "Civy" as I called it - took me everywhere. It's been to numerous concerts in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Columbus. It's taken me to visit friends in all of those cities plus Washington, D.C. and Charleston, W.Va. And it took me those places with no trouble. One thing I really loved about my car was how great it did on gas, even in its advanced age.
It seemed so long ago when it rolled over 100,000 miles. I don't even remember when that happened or where I was. And before I knew it, I was just a hair over 176,000 miles - and still climbing.
Probably some of the mileage that got me to those numbers came from many trips to Browns games in Cleveland. We don't go to as many games as we used to, but there was a time when I swore my car could drive itself to and from Cleveland. Civy has also been taking me every Friday morning to my weekly breakfast date with Uncle Bob at Panera. And there was actually a lot of room in Civy, so when my sister moved, I packed it full of many of her things. The car also carried my wedding dress when I picked it up the day before my wedding.
Of course there were a few incidents that weren't all fun. I'm not sure why or how I had so many cracked windshields, and it seemed like the deer hunted me down twice to dent my front and side bumper. And unfortunately a minor fender-bender sent Civy back to the body shop for repairs.
But there was more than that. I remember sitting in that car, numb with shock, after a doctor's visit in 2006 made me realize I might have cancer. During that period of my life, I drove to and from work many days in silence, thinking about what might come and saying some prayers to help strengthen me. Being in that car felt like the only bit of normalcy I had left in my life. I could still drive my car - just like I always could, regardless of if I had cancer.
I racked up quite a few miles in that car making many, many trips to and from Morgantown around the time of my transplant in 2008. My mom was the taxi driver and Civy was the taxi. The car was our connection to home when we had to stay in Morgantown for several weeks - for me, just sitting inside the car made some of the homesickness go away. Mom took the car shopping, back home on the weekends, and then back down to spend the week with me. Even after I was released, we made trips to Morgantown every other week for a while, and Civy took us each time.
After my second relapse, my car made a daily pit stop at the doctor for my morning radiation session, and then it would get me to work. And on my third relapse, Civy got me to my weekly chemo appointments and to the doctor's office - sometimes twice a week.
But just like people, cars get older and start showing their age too. The power lock door on the passenger side of Civy stopped working several years ago. I never got it fixed because who really cared - it was only a two-door car. I could easily lean over and unlock it for a passenger. Also, probably the most annoying, the brake light in the back window rattled - constantly. I remember driving home once in a snowstorm. It was bad enough that I had to "white-knuckle" it the whole way home, but I also had to listen to that brake light rattling the entire way. And not too long ago, I also noticed this unpleasant rattling coming from either inside the driver's door or the box that housed the seat belt - I couldn't exactly pinpoint what was making the noise.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to find out. Two Saturday nights ago, I was on my way home from the afternoon shift at the paper. The light turned green at my intersection off the exit, and as I started to go, an SUV coming from the right ran the red light. I braced myself as the SUV slammed into the front of my car. The momentum pushed my car into the car next to me, which crunched in the front bumper and side panel on my driver's side. The impact was so loud, I thought my entire front end had been sheared off.
When I realized everyone was OK, I sat in the car for a long time before finally getting out to see the damage. The entire front bumper was gone, and there were wires and metal pieces sticking out from the sides and bottom. I called Justin, and when he arrived to get me, after making sure I was fine, he looked at my car and said gently, "You know they're probably going to total Civy."
I had tears in my eyes. "I know." The end of this month would have marked 12 years that I had that car. I'd planned to go at least another few years and add to the 176,000 miles.
I went back to my car to retrieve a few of my belongings before it was towed away, and I noticed Civy's silver "H" Honda emblem lying in the middle of the debris on the road in front of my car. I saved it as a little memento of the best car I'll ever own. Having that "H", even though one side is cracked, is my way of keeping a little piece of Civy with me.
I realize that cars can be replaced, but people can't. I'm extremely fortunate - one or two more inches further into the intersection and things could have been much worse. If something was lost in that accident, I'm glad it was the car.
However, this car was much more to me than just a car. It took me to fun places, calmed me when I needed quiet, transported me to a place that saved my life, and then protected me in this accident - its last show of loyalty and devotion.
Thanks for everything, Civy. You might be gone, but you certainly won't be forgotten.