I washed The Man’s car this afternoon. This was not a last-ditch effort to make it rain this bone-dry late spring , but a directive from one of my co-workers: a quiet but bold woman, who is both no-nonsense and humorous. She said, that for all he does for me, I should wash The Man’s car on a regular basis. I just sighed at her Friday afternoon and announced to The Man said-same Friday night that I would wash his car during the weekend.
Sunday, I pulled both his car and my truck from the garage to the drive. I started on his car, of course. I set Abbey Road by The Beatles on my iPod and began to spray his car with water. When “Come Together” ended and “Something” began, the past sweetly bubbled up. Suddenly I was a kid (mid-teens), washing my maternal grandmother’s early 1970s Ford Fairlane.
I didn’t have a job back in the late 70s, not because I was focusing on school instead of work. The reason was more that I was shy and a bit unsure of myself, a little too insecure to look for a job. I had friends and cousins who worked, so I wanted money too. And I had a girlfriend. She never demanded anything. But I wanted to be able to take her out and buy her gifts.
“Ma’am-Maw” was a quick and observant woman. “My car always needs washing.” she’d tell me. “You know how much of a roadrunner I am.” She and my “Pap-Paw” lived next to us. So almost every week, I would show up at her house and spend an hour or so washing her car.
I would bring my boom box so I could listen to music while I worked. The radio would be tuned to an AM station out of Shreveport. AM radio in the 70s played it all. And I guess that’s where "Something" by The Beatles got lodged in my head as car-washing music.
My grandma and I had a good routine. She knew that I was not one for detail. After I was done washing, I would let her know. She would come out for an inspection. Good naturedly, she would chuckle and show me all the places that I had missed. I would smile and go at it again. She’d give me a hug and hand over 10 bucks. 10 bucks went really far back in the day. Far enough to get me to the next Saturday.
When I married my girlfriend in my late teens, we moved into a mobile home on my parents' land. My wife and I would visit their house for game nights with my extended family. My mom and grandmother shared the same infectious laughter, and both of them would keep the rest of us entertained.
A rapid-fire succession of life changes occurred: my mom passed away, my marriage ended, I moved to another state. When I returned from my self-imposed exile, I may have seen my Ma'am-Maw once. Then she was gone. Forever.
Being a good Southern Baptist man, I carried the guilt for a long time. As I got older, I realized how lucky I was to have such a wonderful grandma. I knew that she wouldn’t beat me up for what I had been holding myself accountable. So I let it go. Today...I would have given anything to have been washing her old Fairlane.
I was enjoying the nostalgia, then “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” ended abruptly (as it always does) and the opening strains of “Here Comes the Sun” entered. I looked up. The sky was dark with clouds. And I was back to the present.
The Man walked up. “Do I hear thunder?” I smiled. I thought he was coming out to inspect my work and slide me 10 bucks.