I sold my car this week. His name was frank
I know you may be thinking, “So what you sold an old car. What’s the big deal?”
Let me tell you about Frank. He was a burgundy Oldsmobile built in 1995. My Grandpa bought him brand new and was quite thrilled with the fact it had power seats. Back in those days people kept cars for years and sometimes decades. Frank whose name was not Frank then was one of the first cars I ever drove when I was learning to drive back in 1994/95. My grandfather would pick me up after school and let me drive his car when he brought me to work as a bagger at a grocery store during my Freshmen year of high school. It was from him that I learned the best curse words to use while driving since he was more than happy to use them toward other drivers.
On weekends during the summer, my sister and I would ride in the back seat of Frank on our way out to Gun Lake where we would spend the day swimming. These weekends were the tail end of a tradition that dated back to my even younger days. Eventually, work, sports, friends, and girlfriends took up my time on the weekends and those weekends faded away. I remember those trips, though; the silent hot drives where grandpa was always sparing with A/C and would only let us roll the windows down a few inches. By the time we got to the lake, we were sweaty messes and ready for the cool water.
Fast forward a decade or so after the death of my grandmother where Frank began getting used less. Grandpa was not one to go away often or very far being the sturdy and reliable creature of habit that he was. He would drive the short distance to the grocery store, to his favorite restaurant in Wyoming Michigan called to Russ’s for lunch and sometimes to my aunts or my moms and then home. I think he may have only drove 12 miles a week for years. Eventually, health problems grew more severe as normally happens with someone in their 80’s and Frank would sit for weeks or months un-driven.
My Grandpa, was always meticulous about taking care of Frank, keeping every receipt, washing Frank regularly and writing down everything he did with the care one might expect from someone who spent decades as a machine maintenance person at a General Motors plant. As the years and health took its toll on grandpa, Frank suffered as well. Oil changes became less frequent, tires were not rotated as often, and he was not cleaned as often as he used to be. One could argue that with the little amount grandpa drove that these basic maintenance needs were not necessary. However, while Frank sat parked in the garage for extended periods when my grandpa was in and out of the hospital the salt from the Michigan winters slowly began eating away at him. Franks burgundy skin became bubbled and rust spots began appearing. Over time, the rust increased and scarred his once perfect body, in large patches that added to the dents from grandpa’s occasional oopsys.
In 2011, after grandpa lost the ability to drive, I was given the opportunity to buy Frank who only had 62,000 miles on him. He wasn’t even broken in yet. Yes, you read that mileage right. That is just under 4,000 miles a year and the tires on it were bought in 2002 at 48,000 miles.
Selling the car wasn’t something my grandpa was thrilled with (his loss of independence, not me buying his car). I got Frank who needed some love, the years of neglect and weather took its toll on him. Grandpa gave me every single repair receipt he ever had…even the ones for oil changes done at 3,000 miles without fail. He put a duffle bag in the trunk with jumper cables, extra light bulbs, fuses, a screwdriver, and even a sweater. This sweater, a mustard orange one was one I remember seeing my grandpa wear when I was a little kid. It was his emergency sweater. Now it was mine even though it was two sizes too small.
After several repairs right off the bat because of the rust and with the help of my dad Frank became a fairly well running old man. I chose not to repair the rust on the body since I saw it as a sign of age, experience and better days gone by and an ode to my Grandfather. At this point, the car was 16 years old and some dings and rust is par for the course. It was then that I named the car Frank after my favorite singer, Frank Sinatra, who found a rebirth in his own career.
My dad working on Frank
With a little love, my Frank also found a rebirth. My dog Harley and I drove Frank everywhere, to the beach, to the woods, out for coffee, to the park and up to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan. Frank was our car, our ride, and our escape when times got tough. She would sit in the passenger seat with her nose against the windshield or out the passenger window with her face in the breeze while I drove. I cannot even count how many great memories we had driving around in Frank.
Even after my life-sucking ex took her from me, Harley was still a part of the car and a part of my life. Her nose prints were still on the windshield, a little bit of her hair remained in the brown fabric by the rear window and a picture of her was tucked away on the dashboard near the gauge panel. Wherever I went, however far I drove and whatever I did all I had to do was look down and see her there.
I suppose I needed her there.
I suppose I needed those memories
After I lost Harley life spun out of control, dangerously so, but Frank was there. A series of smaller solo trips in and out of Michigan and one massive solo 2-week excursion to the Carolinas, Florida and back through the Smokey mountain states culminated the road trips that I took in him. Franks existence helped me get through one of the hardest parts of my life and led me into the next part of it.
Frank saw the start of a new life. The seats that once carried my grandparents now carried my eventual fiancé and me before our son joined us. Some of Jax’s first post-birth excursions happened in Frank. At some point, I toyed with the idea of storing Frank and keeping him running for Jax when he reached driving age but decided that was insane.
Awesome little motel in Munising Michigan
Eventually, the years and miles became too much for old Frank and he started breaking faster than I could fix him. Frank coughed and smoked. He had trouble running, staying started, and for one winter, I drove him with little or no heat. That was the winter Jax was not allowed to drive with dad. In the end, it became too much to handle and afford. Therefore, I sadly put Frank up for sale. A nice kid offered to buy him, one who had the money and time to devote to fixing Frank up properly.
Before the kid and his dad picked Frank up, I drove him to the gas station, put a little fuel in him one last time, and reveled in the memories and all that we had done over our 72,750 or so miles and almost 5 years.
Frank was not just any car I sold, not just a car that I leave behind without a thought. It was one of the last vestiges of my now deceased grandfather and of my dog Harley — two things I cannot get back. I said goodbye to one of the cars I learned to drive in, went back to college with, survived snowpocalypse in, and learned to live life again in and started my family with. Frank was a huge part of my life that I now leave behind. 134,756 miles later Frank is starting a new life once again and so am I.
Books By Michael Melville
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