I have been playing out a potential conversation that could, theoretically, occur in my life in the not too distant future. Let me set the stage: I currently am driving a 2002 Mazda Protégé5 with 214,652 miles on it. I love my car, but it has come to my attention that it may be time to replace it (this happens when your mechanic kindly tells you you’re welcome to continue giving him money to repair your car, but he doesn’t recommend it because it really isn’t worth it). I have never purchased a new-new car, so I am considering a trip to Carmax to check out new-to-me cars. Okay, stage is set. Here is the potential conversation (this does have to do with grief, I swear):
Scene opens, Litsa walks in to a Carmax dealership.
Me: Hi, I am here to buy a car. I am interested in buying a Mazda hatchback of some sort – maybe a Mazda2 or a Mazda3
Carmax Employee: Oh, sorry, we don’t have any Mazdas right now. But we do have a Honda Fit and Toyota Matrix that are similar to the Mazda hatchbacks that you may want to check out. Let me show you . . .
Me: Ah, no thanks I am only interested in a Mazda.
Carmax Employee: Well, let me just show you these two cars – I think you’ll be surprised how much you like them. Toyotas and Hondas are both great car makers – great mileage, reliable, good cars . . .
Me (leaving): Oh, no thanks. I really only want a Mazda.
Carmax Employee: Can I ask what it is about Mazda that makes you so attached to getting one? You may be suprised to learn what other brands offer that can compete.
Me: Oh sure, it’s because Mazdas remind me of my dead dad.
Now this conversation has not actually occurred, but it could. Not because I am a crazy-person, but because grief does make you think crazy things. Let me very quickly backtrack. When I was young, the first new car I remember my dad buying was a gray Mazda 323 that he drove for years. When he finally replaced the car he got another Mazda – a Protégé, that he drove til he died. At that point I was 18 and the car became my car. I drove it all through college and well beyond. When it hit 235,000 miles the AC didn’t work, it had chronic axle problems, and the driver’s seat somehow always bounced around. I finally and begrudgingly accepted it was time for a new car. It ended up being far more emotional that I expected. I suddenly and unexpectedly felt that getting rid of the car meant letting another connection to my dad go. So I prolonged the inevitable until I had pretty much no choice but to get a new car 3,000 miles later. The decision seemed obvious- I would buy another Mazda, because even if the car had to go at least I could keep the brand. It made moving on just a little bit easier.
That was 10 year ago and now here I am again. My dad never sat in my current car, he never saw it, he wasn’t even alive when it was made. But if I let it go and get a new car that isn’t a Mazda, somehow it will feel like letting a little more of him go. Now, don’t you worry, I realize this sounds utterly and completely irrational. There is absolutely no reason that driving a car that my dad never saw should make me feel any closer to him just because of the brand. But it does. So the decision has been made – I am buying another Mazda. Because, why not?!?
The ways we continue bonds with our loved ones are not always rational. Other people won’t always be able to relate to them. Sometimes they seem downright crazy. And yet there is no reason not to embrace these weird little things, as long as it isn’t hurting us or anyone else. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy, or you are ‘stuck’ or grieving wrong. It means that you are finding little ways to stay connected to your loved one and that is a good thing – seriously, the grief research tells us so.
I like practical articles and take-aways and concrete coping ideas, and I have none of those for you today. Just this confession about my slightly peculiar connection to Mazdas. Judge if you want. But my guess is that many of you may relate; you have your own idiosyncratic connections to your loved one that are a little odd – you like to drink their favorite drink or you picked up pinochle because they always played, whatever. We may keep it to ourselves because it seems a little odd, we think people won’t get it or won’t relate. My guess is if they have had a significant loss they probably will.
Eleanor shared recently how she bawled through The Sound of Music because Julie Andrews reminds her so much of her mom. I let you all know how the sock aisle has brought me to tears in Target, and now you know that I find some weird griefy-comfort in driving a Mazda. Sometimes our job here at WYG is being open about our brand of crazy, just to make sure we all feel a little less alone.
Have some weird, quirky thing that makes you feel close to your loved one? Leave a comment. Then subscribe to get our posts right to your inbox!