Jedah Mayberry found, with his grandfather, a way to relate: a shared affinity for mechanized things.
We bid farewell to a dear friend this summer. My 2001 VW GTI served us well over the years. Popular among the boy racer set, my wife grew to love it too. As I signed over the title, I realized this was the first car I owned that my grandfather never got to see.
My grandfather and I had gotten in the habit of calling one another anytime either of us changed cars. It’s a way for men to relate, a boy and his granddad expressing affection for one another through a shared affinity for mechanized things. My grandfather was confined to a nursing home by the time I made the purchase, bought second hand but still shiny-new, with a kick in the seat of your pants to put a grin on this boy racer’s face.
My grandfather was far from boy racer. He was a Cadillac man, the kind of man who dressed in a sport coat and tie, even on the weekends. Still, he shared my passion for all things automotive. He would have loved this car too mainly because I loved it, drew on it as an extension of my persona, the same as he had done with the cars he owned over the years.
My first clear recollection is of a bronze colored Chrysler two-door, an early concession for the Cadillac man in training. He eventually got his hands on a two-tone black and silver Coupe de Ville, with a narrow red accent stripe the length of the car’s beltline separating doors and fenders in black from the silver on the roof and hood and trunk lid. Midway through my high school years, I had my sights set on a VW Bus that I was planning to paint in the same black and silver color scheme, but couldn’t manage to find an example that wasn’t either all peace and loved up or too rusted out to make the project accessible.
Fast forward a dozen years or so as my grandfather relinquished the keys to the last Cadillac he would ever own: a brown Eldorado that a determined car theft ring had attempted to appropriate from in front of my grandparents’ NYC apartment five or six times in the span of a single year. The police assured him the thieves would eventually drag the car away, squaring the tires off on one side if that’s what it took. Having grown weary standing guard each night by the window in their front room, my grandfather traded in his Eldorado for a Mazda marking the ending of one of the last true Cadillac men.
My grandfather has been gone approaching eight years now. I miss him like I miss my GTI. I think of the good times we had, taking unsuspecting sports and muscle cars off the light, unaware of the potent VR6 (VW speak for Heck Yeah!) tucked beneath the hood of this compact hatch. I witnessed the slow decline, bits of him losing their shine. I stood by, the dutiful sidekick, as he abandoned the coat and tie in favor of tight fitting Ocean Pacific shorts like an episode of Magnum, P.I. gone horribly wrong. He would be happy to learn that his grandson is again driving a Volkswagen, a current generation Beetle, a lower, sleeker version replacing the outgoing New Beetle. Still not my grandfather’s cup of tea. But he would be happy to learn that I haven’t given up my passion, that I’m still driving what moves me. The Cadillac man in him would be proud.