Via the magic of Facebook, I have learned that my dad has sold his 1994 Dodge Grand Caravan (forest green), ending a decade and a half of us Stirling boys rolling around in the kind of style one can only create with a vehicle that looks 30 feet long and drives like it’s even longer.
It’s hard to put into words the history this van has in my family. After my first stepmother left (yes, I have had more than one), it was the only ride we had between my dad, my brother, and me. A 16-year-old, an 18-year-old, and a guy in his mid-to-late 40’s (sorry, Dad, I have no idea how old you were then), all dating, all working or going to school, all relying on one gigantic minivan between the three of them in an already strained household: I actually don’t know how we all survived it. It didn’t help that we lived in what can only be described as the ass-end of nowhere, a town that offered nothing within a 20 minute drive, and certainly nothing within walking or biking distance.
When my dad finally got a second vehicle, I took over the big green beast as my own. Dad was good enough to let me drive it free of charge, provided I kept it in running condition and paid for gas.
Easier said than done.
Have you ever had one of those friendships that was just barely good enough to keep up? Maybe the person was really good looking, or had access to a car all the time, or had a big-screen TV with the latest videogame system and all the games, but that person was also really racist, slightly psychotic, or unusually attached to their cat. You put up with the high maintenance because you selfishly got something out of it.
The Grand Caravan was like that.
It would get me from point A most of the way to point B, but I’m pretty sure that the engine was stolen from a WWII era tank. It sucked gas like it was armour-plated and carrying a turret; I could watch the needle drop while it was idling (but not while I was driving, since the poor alignment cause it to veer violently to the left if you didn’t force the wheel over at all times). And you would think that a 300 liter gas tank would get you a decent distance, but a fill-up was good for three wrong turns and five stop lights, and only if they were short ones.
I think that there might have been a month where the van wasn’t in at the dealership for something, but that was only because it was February and there were only 28 days. I still don’t know what a universal joint is, but every season that damn thing seemed to be breaking or warping or deflexing or whatever it is that it isn’t supposed to be doing. With a name like “universal joint” you would think it could last longer than a fortnight, but I guess no one wants to design something called a “limited piece of crap joint.” Tanks cracked, shocks died, stuff rattled, and the AC started to smell like a few reasonably large animals had crawled into it to die. While farting.
But it did have a ton of space in it! If you could manage to lift out the “easily removed seat” with “a flick of a switch!” Have you ever had to move someone’s couch through a door that clearly isn’t big enough to admit it? Try doing that, but put a bunch of hooks and springs on the outside of the couch so that it gets caught on every available surface on the way through. Then make the couch out of stone.
There are no words to describe the feeling of freedom I had when I got my Corolla and handed the big green beast back to my dad. From then on, I would only drive it when I needed to haul things around. After one of these moving adventures, I received a call from my dad.
“Hey, how did the move go?”
“Oh, fine. She didn’t have that much stuff, so we did it in two trips.”
“Good, good…” (pause) “So, um, did anything happen while you guys were moving?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, did the van get hit or anything? Or did you back into anything?”
“It’s fine if it happened, but I just need to know if it did.”
“Dad, what the hell are you talking about?”
“There’s a big dent in the back door of the van. Any idea how it got there?”
“I think I would have noticed that happening. I brought it back to you the same way I got: rusted and ugly but undented.”
“Okay, that’s fine.”
(End of conversation.)
(Five minutes later, phone call. Dad sounds sheepish.)
“Hey, I just wanted to let you know that it was your stepmother that dented the van. She backed into it with her car, but she thought she only dented the snow that was on it. She waited until the end of our conversation earlier to tell me. So, sorry about that.”
Honestly, I don’t blame my stepmother. I think that bastard van planned the whole thing.