The son and the father knew each other in that shadowy way that parents and children do until the son was an adult.
It must have been a great surprise to both of them to see how alike they were. The son and the father had good ideas of themselves –there is nothing wrong with that –so the father and the son liked what they saw.
And though their interests were different they went about them in a similar way. They delved, researched, they looked right inside a thing to discover how it ticked. The father had a practical sense, his handmade furniture was almost-ugly but functional, the son had a greater aesthetic, more beauty in his work.
The father got cancer and started to die.
The father’s various attentions began to lose shape. Emails went unread, walks weren’t taken, conversation couldn’t be had; the back-burner burned brightly.
As if it was a metaphor on wheels the father’s 4WD sat on the grass where he left it. Weather took to the car. The tires deflated, flat into the earth. Moss took over from rubber. Spiders, big and small, populated the interior. The earth itself shrank under the car and deep ruts formed. Fully-decked and adventure-proof the big, white car wouldn’t see another dirt road and cancer throughout the father’s body, so much that scans were no longer taken and treatment was discontinued, the father never take another drive.
The mother came home from her hospital visits and the first thing she’d see at the very end of her short road was the big white car.
A symbol of the dreams unmet. A four-wheel drive to nowhere.
When a family member is sick the rest of the family find other ways to be. The mother cared, visited, missed him, kissed him, the daughter stroked his arm, told him she loved him, advocated, though cancer isn’t one for compromise, and the son, in his love and his paralysis, looked after the car.
The son ploughed his muscle and effort and attention into his dad’s dream.
The car was hauled out of its ruts, like a patient up out of its bed.
While the big white car was at the mechanic the father died.
The car was forgotten and the funeral was prepared. The family poured all they knew how into the father’s last day on Earth.
A week after the father died the car coughed into life.
The son took the big white car home and the father’s body, now ash and dust contained in two plastic jars, made the trip tucked safely behind the drivers seat.
The son, just like the father had, poured all his skill and attention into the car. The 4WD shone in a way the family thought was impossible. No moss, no leaves, no heaving stains of black and grey. Signs of stillness disappeared under the son’s loving hands. The son sat behind the father’s steering wheel.
Grief doesn’t want to be sat on a shelf.