The End of Days

New Year’s Eve fills me with melancholy.

I don’t like throwing away things I’m not finished with, including notebooks with blank pages at the end, old clothes worn beyond acceptable decency, and of course, years. I’m not done with 2010 even if the year is done with me. I had more to accomplish: more writing, more publishing options explored, more friends visited, more time in the gym. Cheesy as it sounds, I wanted more laughter this past year.

Yikes, that really does sound cheesy. Next, I’ll reminisce on how I wish I had more time for quilting, scrapbooking, and gaining the trust of woodland creatures. Get over here, you deer.

Each year, I’m never ready. Nevertheless, the passing year strolls down the long hallway, frayed briefcase in hand, nods curtly to signify, “I’m done here,” and on his way out, passes the new guy.

Hey, it’s not just the passing year that inspires my gloomy new years’ metaphors.

On Christmas Eve morning last week, while I burrowed through snowy Wisconsin on the way to my family, tragedy struck my beloved Subie, my Babe the Blue Ox. I cruised at 73 mph (acceptable law breakage without getting pulled over) and during the eighth repetition accompanying P!nk in her party tune, Raise Your Glass, my 11-year-old mechanical companion belched out horrible engine sounds and began decelerating. Within a half-hour, I involuntarily coasted to the side of I-94 where my Subie shuddered and stopped.

Today, I listened to a voice mail message from the Lacrosse mechanic who explained in mortician tones the situation and his estimate. As I had expected, my Subaru cardiac’d through timing belt hell, which chewed up the entire engine, and in short, it’s not worth fixing.

I’m sure some people would be thrilled for the forced opportunity to buy a new car. New car! It’s new car time! But I’m in mourning.

That car was my buddy on hundreds of local adventures to grocery stores, friends’ homes, and every conceivable errand beyond a bike’s reach. That car drove with me to California and back, Oregon and back, three dozen trips to Chicago and back. Car enthusiasts (always young men under 24) would stop me to ask, “What have you done to her?” For one glorious second, I was cool, some older, mentory car genius, gifted in the underground world of road rallies and Frankenstein transformations.

As soon as I mumbled, “Nothing, just change the oil,” my cool evaporated. The young man would inevitably recoil, his face unconsciously betraying, ‘How did this dweeb get one of our cool cars?’

But for that split second before I opened my mouth, I was cool. Really cool.

Between the roadside break down and today’s doom, I called Ann a few times to mourn my Subaru’s upcoming prognosis, which I suspected would not be pleasant. She consoled me long distance as I whimpered, and we talked about how much I projected onto this inanimate object.

After all, it is just a car.

I bought it when I was 31. After a decade of sensible, used, Ford Escorts, I researched and fell in love with this luxurious, cobalt batmobile, all wheel drive, tuxedo black interior, and a sunroof. I’d never had a sunroof. I vividly remember the night I drove my Blue Ox home, sliding down the buttery highway, sunroof fully extended, windows down, cold November blackness slapping me hard. I blared my favorite CD as I flew through Minnetonka on cobalt wings. I had just purchased my first home. New job. Awesome boyfriend.

I was young.

I was wealthy (wealthy enough to buy a new freakin’ car).

I was free.

I think that’s what the Blue Ox means to me: my youth. A time when I had more days ahead of me than behind. Granted, I’m not yet ready for a walker, but I never envisioned becoming a man in my 40s. I never envisioned ongoing medical conditions, fiber supplements, a trick knee, and a mortgage obligation so irritatingly familiar that I sometimes forget to pay it at the beginning of the month, and I don’t really care if it’s late. Fuck ‘em. It’s just a mortgage payment.

To me, this attitude sounds like that asshole who lived next to Dennis the Menace. If that old prick couldn’t figure out how to smile at the world once in a while, well karmically, he deserved to have a kid nicknamed ‘The Menace’ living next door. I think we can all agree that Dennis is currently serving hard time for the adult versions of his wacky, mischievous pranks, but for those innocent years, Dennis, for all his irritations, lived. He was alive.

I’m still alive.

On these days when I’m grumbling about time’s unfair passage, I forget that I’m still here. I have today to choose: either bitch and complain, or sing with P!nk at the top of my lungs. Either way, it’s still gonna be today. I guess that’s what helps me crawl out of any New Year funk, the fact that I’m wasting today with unnecessary mourning. I believe in mourning. Though I never want to do it again, I will, because this horrible gift to mourn is part of our humanity. But to mourn over December 31st? A day arbitrarily chosen to mark time’s passage? Fuck that.

My tradition on New Year’s Eve is to walk Lake Harriett just before midnight. I reflect on what the year held for me, for my friends, my birth family, and family of choice. The year’s days of sorrow and those where I shined right back at the sun.

But this year, something different on New year’s Eve: Zombie Ron and I are attending Billy Elliott at the Orpheum Theater. We’re dining in a favorite, elegant Thai restaurant. Ron’s wearing a tux and I’m wearing a new suit purchased in 2010 for two significant days:   one cousin’s devastating funeral, and two weeks later, another cousin’s joyful wedding. A crazy girl in our extended clan grew up into this elegant, lovely woman, and we love who she married.

My mom and dad danced at that wedding, dad’s cancer far enough at bay for one glorious night on the town. On joyful days like those, it’s easier to embrace change.

Tonight is the end of days for 2010.

Goodbye, Blue Ox.


4 Responses to “The End of Days”

  1. Margie Cook Says:


    You have traveled far in so many ways. Peace, love and joy to you in this new year, and always.

    In admiration, your old friend,
    Margie Cook

  2. Edmond Says:

    Aw, what a lovely sentiment and message for the new year, Margie! thank you for saying hello, old friend.

  3. Dorothy Says:

    Beautiful missive my friend.

    I truly enjoyed that one fateful afternoon with you in Ashland and until we play in person again, I’ll continue getting to know your soul through your written word.

    Thanks for a savory read, and for a sweet memory of you-in-flannel-shirt-wielding-axe-just-off-main-street. :)

  4. Elizabeth Smith Says:


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