Grandma's 1970 Chevy Impala
But this couple have a mentally handicapped son. Is that the right way to say it? One of them always has to be at home with him so I have to go there to see them both together. They are very nice and the home is emaculate and they turn off the tv.
We finished with the meeting about 7 and Mr. took me out to his garage to show me a car that his nephew is working on rebuilding - a 1970 Impala. It was torn apart, but I saw the slope of the rear window and - maybe because it's been a long month, maybe because I was tired, I don't know why - the sense memory was like a kick in the gut. That's right, I thought, that was Grandma's car. That's the one I broke. Every time I rode with Grandma, she would give the horn a tap and a low barely audible groan would sound. She'd look over at me in the front seat, unbuckled, head aimed right at that metal dash and ask, "When you going to fix this horn you broke?"
How'd I break my Grandma's car? Here's the story I was told.
In the fall of 1970, I was 6 months old and my father had just been released from his committments to the Navy. My parents were staying for a little bit with my maternal grandparents in Charleston. This was already a big household by the time we showed up so there was a lot going on. To keep this rabble fueled required alot of coffee. So me in my little scotter and a terry cloth jumper one day yanked on the cord of the 15 gallon coffee maker - it was one of those tall, silver restaurant jobs - and brought the entire batch down on top of me.
This is 2nd and 3rd degree burn time. The terry cloth sucked up the hot liquid against my skin like a sponge. Grandma, being the quickest to react, ripped the jumper off of me which brought much of my skin. That's when my mother ran into the kitchen. She blacked out. My father grabbed the car, the aforementioned 1970 Chevy Impala, Grandma jumped in the passenger side with me nakes and screaming and off they went to the hospital.
My father claims to have broken the sound barrier on that drive. I'm not sure if I believe him, but what I do know is that he laid on the horn the entire way. By the time he made it to the Naval Hospital in Charleston, it was blown out. Just that barely audible groan.
The coffee missed my head. As a kid I had scars on my chest but mostly my right arm took all the damage. It was pinkish when I was a kid and there were a few spots where the pattern of the terry cloth could be felt. The scars don't tan that well. But in the last 10+ years, they've started to fade quite a bit. I think the adult weight gain may have something to do with that. Daughter #2 sometimes runs her fingers across the more prominent ones not really knowing what they are.
So standing in the cold in Kentucky in my client's garage 34 years later, the thing that sticks with me the most about the whole experience - more than the scars - is that little tease that Grandma always gave me for the next few years every time she tapped that horn and asked when, "When you going to fix this horn you broke?"
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