Oliver: When is a car more than a mode of transportation?

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

Those of us who took English literature classes in high school or college probably remember the concept of symbolism. Or at least our teachers hoped that we would.

It involves things not only being things, but also meaning something entirely different. They represent ideas greater than the object. For instance, an American flag isn’t just a piece of cloth, but it represents or symbolizes the nation and patriotism, etc.

In class, we were forever trying to see the deeper meaning and symbolism in the stories we discussed.

In everyday life, I aim to keep “stuff” as stuff, trying not to put too much meaning into the objects that fill my house and life. That helps when I have to dispose of said “stuff.” Get too attached to one’s things, and it becomes that much harder to part with them.

Yet, I had no idea how difficult it was going to be to sell my car.

I’m not a car gal. I’m not one to obsess over the make, model and year of any particular vehicle. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. One of my female friends comes from a family of Dodge fanatics, and she’s into the whole car scene. Although I tease her, I respect that interest, even if I don’t share it.

No, I’m more of a practical user of my vehicle, caring for it so that it consistently can get me from Point A to Point B. Somewhere over the 11 years I owned it, however, I became attached to my Honda Accord sedan. That became apparent when I went to sell it.

This all came about quickly. After a long talk and a careful assessment of the situation, my husband and I decided that Tony would stop driving. It wasn’t because of any collisions or instances where he had gotten lost. He just had started to feel that he wasn’t up to getting behind the wheel. This, coupled with a recent trip to his doctor, made it apparent that we probably weren’t going to make it past the winter with him driving.

Unlike my mother, Tony didn’t require much convincing to relinquish the keys.

Once again, I have to say that I am in awe of my husband and the way he is dealing with his Alzheimer’s disease. The grace he shows through it all is amazing. In many ways, he’s doing a lot better than I am.

This decision meant that one of our two cars now was not needed. Sadly, my Honda Accord drew the short straw. Our other vehicle – an SUV – is newer and more practical for the road ahead, which might require a walker or wheelchair as Tony’s condition worsens. Although, happily, we aren’t even close to that yet.

Still, I surprised myself as I shed a few tears as I vacuumed out the interior of the Accord to prepare it for sale. I remembered all the times it had gotten me through our winters and how dependable it had been.

However, selling the Accord was even more than that. It was another step in our journey with Alzheimer’s, another milestone for both Tony and me. He was losing more of his independence, and I was taking on even more family responsibility.

For so many years, he had been the primary driver. Now it is my turn.

So maybe those tears had more to do with mourning a significant loss in our lives than bidding farewell to a heap of metal. A powerful symbol indeed.

Then again, that Accord also had been my trusty steed for many years. Time to stop thinking about it and keep on rolling with the changes.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

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