My Body is like a Honda Civic

My body is like a Honda Civic:

Cute, but not too flashy,
Compact,
Reliable,
Zippy,
Practical.

In the first few decades of ownership, not much was asked of this Honda Civic of mine
and maintenance was done regularly and lovingly. 

The same cannot be said since my husband's diagnosis.

Since taking on the role of caregiver eight years ago,
I have taken my "Honda Civic" on proverbial road trip after road trip,
asking much more of it than was ever
imagined,
planned for,
or part of the design.

We've gone racing down gravel roads right after heavy rains, 
up tall mountains with hairpin turns and steep inclines,
off-roading through sand dunes -
all places where if you saw a Honda Civic you would realize it was out of its league.
You would say,
"Ohhhh...that's not good.
That car is not going to last long if it keeps that up."

Even though it is small,
the Civic is often the one everyone piles into,
squishing in at levels that are just barely legal, just barely safe,
everyone needing the support
and the strength
and the reliability
of the Civic
to get where they need to go.

In fact,
the car is rarely empty
and could often be mistaken for a carpool, 
being weighed down far beyond the limit noted
in the owner's manual
that goes unread,
ignored,
in the glove compartment.

There are very few days when this Civic of mine sits in the garage,
unused,
able to rest.
There are always trips to be taken,
the engine revving up at a moment's notice,
no time to warm up,
fighting through blizzards in some seasons,
dodging giant potholes in others.

Every once in a while,
work is done to maintain the old Civic:
An oil change, though far past the recommended 5,000 mile mark,
A refill of washer fluid, done only when the last drop has been used and a few dangerous trips have been taken with poor visibility.

But for the most part,
the Civic is driven with multiple indicator lights blazing on the dashboard,
each of which is ignored
or deemed unimportant,
since the car continues to run.

Even a Honda Civic,
known for being the most long-lasting, reliable car on the road,
can only take so much.

And so, this "car" of mine starts to break down.

Not at convenient times,
not on a schedule,
and not even at the times during which I ask the most of it,
somehow it knows that those moments are too critical,
and it must go on.

But later,
when a different kind of challenge arises.
Too many bags of mulch in the trunk or
a sudden change in temperature outside
and my Civic has had enough.

Sometimes it stalls and I urge it, push it to start,
ignoring the whine and the stuttering.
I shove it beyond its comfort,
prioritizing my trip to the office
over the needs about which it is shouting to me.

When that works I think,
"Great!
Problem solved!
Onward."

Eventually my car refuses to start at all,
says in no uncertain terms,
"I'm not going anywhere.
I'm done.
You have asked too much of me
without taking care of me
and
I can no longer continue."

Even then,
as the man from the towing company is connecting it to the back of his truck,
I say,
"We just have to make
one more stop
on the way to the mechanic, just
one more place
I need you to take me." 

If that car could talk, she would say,
"Can't you see I'm not well?
I am on the side of the road,
barely able to move,
completely run down because of all you ask of me
and you still want more?"  

Hearing that I would interpret,
"barely able to move," to mean,
"still an ounce to spare," and
push forward with that extra errand.

When the breakdown occurs,
as it always does,
and more and more frequently as the miles add up, 
I say to the mechanic,
leaning over the desk,
a desperate look on my face,
"Here's the deal. I know my car needs a whole lot of work,"
(he glares, looking down at the pages long list of needed repairs, knowing where this is going)
"But...I really need it back on the road as quickly as possible. Just being here is already messing things up for my day.
So...
(I switch to my sweet, unassuming mode)
how about this?
How about you just fix whatever you can fix the fastest to get me back on the road
and then,
I promise,
I'll bring it back soon to fix up the rest."

"You're the customer, so you get to decide,"
he says, but then, turning serious,
"but I need you to know that fixing just this one thing,
while it will technically get you back on the road,
will only be a temporary fix.
There are still many things that need to be repaired,
that need attention,
that have been effected over the years,
and by continuing to run your car before fixing them
you are causing long term damage.
Also,
you need to stop treating your car the way you have been on a daily basis.
It's never going to last if you keep this up."

But all I heard was
"technically get you back on the road"
and so I sign the paper,
impatiently tapping my fingers as I wait for the fix that doesn't feel so quick,
and then,
as soon as he's finished,
I hop back in and roar down the highway at breakneck speeds,
driving even faster and more erratically than usual,
to make up for the lost time.

There are those who boast about their Civics lasting for 400,000 even 500,000 miles, 
but what constitutes a mile?

Certainly a mile through the neighborhood to the grocery store
and a mile uphill,
on a winding icy road,
with a car full of passengers and
a trunk full of baggage
are not equivalent.
And it is the latter that this "car" of mine is found doing
day
after day
after day.

When will I realize that my Honda Civic isn't a lease?
That I don't get to turn this model in after three years for a brand spanking new one?

That this is my one and only mode of transportation,
that its capacity and structure are limited,
and that if I drive it into the ground,
there will be no trade-in option?

That if I want this Honda Civic of mine to make it to
the 400,000 mile club on the dealership bulletin board
instead of the scrapyard
that something has to change?

I'll ponder that...while I'm on the road today.

 

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