The car that starts his heart racing

Even though we have been married 22 years, last spring I learned something new about my husband. It was on the day that Duane was bringing our daughter home from college, and he was nearly two hours late when he called.

"Where are you? Did the car break down?" I asked.

"Nooo," he replied sheepishly, "but we're still an hour from home."

"What happened?"

"Well...." he stalled, and I heard him chuckle. "You see ... there's this used convertible for sale...."

According to Duane, he was just driving down a two-lane highway, minding his own business, when a 1987 Volkswagen Cabriolet winked at him from a used-car lot and enticed him off the road. Duane talked briefly to the salesman, put the top down on the convertible, and he and my daughter, who considered this quite a lark, took it for a spin on the rolling country roads.

As soon as he climbed behind the wheel, Duane was enamored. It was a beautiful spring day, after all, and in the spring a not-quite-so-young man's fancy turns to convertibles.

"How much?" I asked, gripping the phone and fearing the worst.

He named a figure.

Not bad, I thought. This could turn out to be a relatively inexpensive midlife crisis. "Is it in good shape?" I asked.

"Pretty good," he answered.

Well, well, well. Today was my day to play fairy godmother. "Go ahead and buy it," I said, generously granting his wish. "It's fine with me."

"But the dealer doesn't take charge cards, and I don't have the checkbook on me!" Was that really a quiver in my husband's voice, an echo of a little boy who must leave a toy car on the store shelf for one more day?

But I promised we'd return tomorrow with the checkbook and proof of insurance as well. Duane headed home, sans convertible.

Frankly, I was surprised the next morning when I saw this bewitching car. There was a crack in the windshield, and rips and tears in the upholstery. Could it really be that my husband, who takes perfect care of his cars, wanted this unkempt vehicle? Maybe he had lowered his standards, I told myself. Maybe he was heading into a more relaxed, carefree time of his life. This could be a good thing for my hard-working husband!

We bought the car.

I followed Duane home in our family car, although I didn't zip joyously through traffic the way he did. We had no sooner pulled into the driveway when Duane whipped out the water bucket, sponge, glass cleaner, car wax, and chamois. All weekend he shined and polished. He endured teasing from the neighbors over his newfound love. Saturday night they walked by and asked, "Is he still at it?"

I never knew that my husband yearned for a convertible, but I was right about the tiptop shape he expected his vehicles to be in. He soon transformed that dusty ragamuffin into a gleaming beauty. He lovingly tuned the engine, repaired the pop-down top, purchased new floor mats, and reupholstered the seats.

And Duane has seemed more carefree since last spring, buzzing about town with the wind blowing through his hair. At a family gathering, he proudly gave each of our 13 nieces and nephews five-minute joy rides around the block. We drove to the beach more this summer and stopped often for ice cream. When we traveled out of town, we skipped the highway and sought the scenic back roads instead.

The cooler weather of autumn limited these excursions, although I did notice my husband driving home one day bundled in a winter coat and headband - but with the top down on his convertible! Duane was clinging to his last few days of play, for he had made the heart-wrenching decision to put this car into winter storage. Ice and snow were on their way, and that meant salt on the roads, bringing rust to vehicles. And it just wouldn't do to have rust on his 12-year-old dream car.

So now, when my husband tosses and turns in his sleep, I'll know what he's dreaming of. Autumn used to be his favorite season, but now it's spring.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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