My new car is awesome. I never drive it or think about it without a wistful wish that Mike were here sharing it with me, but it is still awesome. He would have loved it too. A brand spanking new car with bells and whistles like I’ve never had before. My Subaru was a 2003 and Mike’s truck is a 1996 so I feel like I’ve been dropped headfirst into a technological future I had yet to experience. A touchscreen in a car? Cool. USB ports? Certainly. Keyless entry and ignition and voice activation? Really??
What’s really nagging at me though for some reason is the odometer. When I got it, shipped on the barge from Oahu on November 9, it had 54 miles on it. As I am writing this, there are now 470 miles. I have been obsessively watching the odometer diligently counting the distance. It does not lie; it does not cheat. There is some kind of sadness, or regret somehow, in seeing each mile tick by. Each block I drive the engine works, its organs pumping and clicking and igniting, is another day closer to its end, and I can’t help but think of the analogy to my own life.
Sure there are like hundreds of thousands of miles left on my car – hopefully. It’s still an infant, in car terms. But I can’t stop the odometer from clicking forward. Just like I can’t stop the moments, days, weeks…and years ticking forward in my own life. And in car terms, I am used. I am nicked and dented and a little rusty and have a headlight out and have way over 100,000 miles on my own odometer.
As I drive and see each mile pass by I think, well, there’s another number I will never see again on that dial. Just like I will never see Tuesday, December 1 at 12:30 PM ever again. Now is such an erroneous term. It’s only now for the briefest moment – or is it actually that now is the only constant? It is only ever now… but at the same time, once that moment is gone, it’s gone forever.
How much mileage do I have left? I wonder about the mileage Mike really had under his hood. If I’d looked a little closer, or knew more about the workings of his engine, could I have done something to lengthen his life? But those are useless thoughts. What would be more reasonable is to think about the wear and tear on my own parts. How do I keep my own engine clean and running smoothly? And how do I make good use of the mileage I have left?
How do I process the understanding of the impermanence of life and remain sane enough with that thought to do anything good with the time I have?
I wonder whether Mike was as aware of all these things as I find myself to be these days because he never talked about it like this with me that I can remember. Given the health issues he did have we suspect he was probably more aware of his imminent demise than he ever let on. But he lived every moment with gusto – he was just one of those people who squeezed every drop from life while he was here. He left behind a hole in many hearts, I know. His memorial was truly amazing with the number of people who came to pay respects and share memories, as the car that was Mike was laid to rest in the big junkyard in the sky.
When I die who will come to my funeral, and why? Can I find enough peace of mind to learn about life from my dead husband? Can I find enough wisdom to enjoy my now without obsessing about each mile marker?
I hope so. But the damage that was done to my psyche since losing Mike makes me wonder. I am forever changed as a result, and find I am having to rethink my entire philosophy of being.
If only I had a touchscreen on my forehead and could change channels as easily as my car, or plug in a wisdom iPod into my temple and be good to go.