I got a phone call today at school during my second day of speech camp. It was my father. His car had broken down, he wasn’t sure where he was or what was wrong, but he needed help. Thankfully, some nice Samaritan had pushed his car of the busy main road and stayed with him. She was able to explain where he was, so I could go pick him up.
I apologized to my student and co-coach, and left to go see how I could help Vitauts out. All the way I was thinking, “Oh, no. I bought a lemon.” After his first Cadillac was stolen, I bought him another, much newer and fancier one thinking it was a good deal. But since then a power window has broken, and the transmission light comes on, so I was worried that it was something serious.
On a side note, my brother Paul has a theory that dad will never see himself as a “Cadillac Man,” so no matter how many Cadillacs I buy him, he will never think he is driving a “real” Cadillac. He keeps dogging on the ones I get for him. He doesn’t think they are up to snuff. I am thinking that he is probably right.
I drove to the New Cassel Retirement center near our home, and I saw the Cadillac parked nearby with a big pickup behind it. The good Samaritans were waiting. Even as I drove by slowly, dad was on his phone calling me again. He was looking right at my car, but it wasn’t registering at all that I was driving it. He didn’t realize it was me until I rolled down the window and waved.
I pulled up bumper to bumper in case I had to give him a jump start. The good Samaritan left without saying a word, and I waved goodbye. Then I tried to start the 2004 Cadillac DeVille. It turned over fine, started and then died. Out of gas. Completely empty. Dad admitted that he didn’t know where the gas gauge was, and he didn’t really know how to put gas in this particular car.
We drove home, got a gas can, and came back to give it another try. By this time, the battery was dead because I guess he had been trying to start it over and over.
This whole scenario is funny and fits into a running theme that Chris, my nephew, has about his grandpa in his later years. Chris thinks that lots of these things that dad does are actually revenge plays. He lets water run in the kitchen for hours while preparing food or washing dishes. When we were little, he would always yell at us for leaving the water running.
And now, here he was, running out of gas just like I used to do in my 1979 Oldsmobile 98 back in high school. My mom would always joke about how she knew that the white car on the side of the road on Friday nights as they drove home from our cousin’s house was mine. And usually it was. I would drive that thing until the tank was dry, and then leave it on the side of the road somewhere to walk home. Maybe this was dad’s little moment of revenge?
Either way, I coaxed him to open the door to the gas tank. The button is on the dashboard in plain sight, and there is a picture of a gas pump on it. Yet he could not for the life of him find the button. Eventually he did, but it took several tries to get the stupid door open. American quality shining through in this beast.
We got the gas in the tank, but as I suspected the battery was dead. I gave it a jump start, it cranked and started, and we were on our way. I had dad follow me to the gas station so he could fill up the gas. I swiped my card at the pump and started pumping while I went to use the bathroom. When I got out, dad was trying to pay for the gas. He has such a hard time understanding any sort of automated system.
I asked him where he was going before the car broke down, and he said, “To the bank,” so I told him he could follow me there. He said that he could find his way home once he got there, so I said, “Okay, I’ll get you there, and then I’ll head home.”
We drove and he followed. We got to the bank, I waved at him, and turned out of the parking lot. He followed. I pulled into another parking lot, he followed. I stopped, got out and asked what he was doing. He had completely forgotten that we were going to the bank, so I had him follow me back.
I parked and he parked, and I said I’d wait for him, and then he could just follow me home. I waited. And I waited. I waited some more, and then I figured something must be wrong. Sure enough, he was at the counter talking to a teller who I know pretty well. Dad had a checkbook from four years ago with an expired account. The last entry was November 8 from some bygone year and his balance in the checkbook wasn’t even close to accurate.
He wanted to take out an enormous sum of money, and I said, “What are you going to do with it?” “Pay bills.” “You have no bills!” We settled on a more modest amount, and he took the cash. I couldn’t believe how completely confused he was. I thought he would welcome the idea of following me home.
I got in my car and waited for him to back out and get behind me. Instead, he backed out the opposite way and took off. I had to zoom around the parking lot to see where he was going. Vrooom! He turned out of the lot going the wrong way. “Oh no!” I thought. I rushed to get behind him. But he was on autopilot making an illegal u-turn on Regency to get back to Dodge street and zippity doo da, he was heading back home without any help from me. I think he completely forgot that I was even there.
We got home, and he struggled to try to figure out how to roll the windows in the car back up, but that’s okay. At least he was home safe.
I really want him to have his independence and feel comfortable driving, but it’s getting harder and harder for him in so many ways. I was thinking, “Man it would be great for him to have a GPS to just tell him where to turn and how to get places.” But then I thought about the nightmare of trying to teach him how to use it.
So that was my adventure with Vitauts today. We found his new checkbook, threw the old one away, and hopefully, we won’t run out of gas again!