My mother loved her Buick. It was her magic carpet and although she couldn’t read a map, and never understood the directions North, South, East, or West, she would fearlessly jump into her car and drive from her home in Indiana to visit friends in Connecticut or off to her condo in Florida. There must truly have been some magic in that carpet of hers because she always somehow seemed to reach her destination.
One time her Senior Center was going to take a 90-mile bus trip to visit Corydon, Indiana’s first state capitol. Mom was late arriving at the Senior Center and missed the bus. She really didn’t know where Corydon was but decided she would just drive there. Much to everyone’s astonishment, mom was standing on the front steps of the old Corydon capitol building when the bus arrived.
We had a gala birthday party on mom’s 90th birthday. I had invited all her children, grandchildren, cousins, in-laws, and their spouses—40 or so people. Everyone had an assignment to tell a 3-minute Marian Stark story, which I recorded by hiring a video photographer.
After everyone shared their wonderful, humorous, loving, amazing stories, my mother asked, “Can I say something?”
“Of course, Mom.”
“I have been so blessed with such a wonderful family. Each night I say a prayer thanking God for putting such beautiful people in my life. But then I add, ‘God, If you take my car away one day before you take me, you’re in big trouble!”’
We played that video clip at mom’s funeral several years later.
Mom had an automobile accident a couple years after the 90th birthday. She wasn’t injured but it nearly totaled the Buick. But it wasn’t her fault, she insisted. Yes, she had pulled out onto the highway into the path of an oncoming car. But, she explained, he came out of nowhere. So how can you see someone who comes out of nowhere?
The repaired car continued to have problems so was replaced by another new Buick. And mom continued to drive.
It was during her 94th year that I made one of my weekly visits to see her. When I walked in, I could tell something was wrong. “Well, I guess I have to tell you,” she said. “I bumped the side of the garage with the car. But I saved all the pieces and put them in the trunk. I’m sure you can just stick them back on again.”
My inspection revealed that when she pulled into the garage, she caught the left front fender and just kept going, wiping off chrome trim, rearview mirror and door handles. It would be a major repair.
Driving back from the body shop after getting an estimate that day, I realized, this was the day I would take the car keys. Pondering how to do that, I came up with an idea.
Back at her apartment, I said, “Mom, I think it’s time you gave up driving, but it’s not because I think you’re a bad driver. The fact is, you’re the driver that every attorney in town wants their clients to run into. Because no matter the circumstances, you’re 94-years-old and it’s going to be your fault. And you know what else?”
“Those attorneys are going to find out how much money you have, and that’s what they are going to sue you for.”
“Those damn attorneys!” mom said.
Later that day, I drove mom to her doctor’s appointment. She was still brooding about the car. The nurse asked, “Marian, why so sad?”
“My son took my car away.”
“Well, Marian, I sure he was just concerned about your safety.”
“No, it’s not him. It’s those damn attorneys!”
Later that week, my oldest son said he was going to drive down to visit his grandmother. I told him to expect to hear her sad tale about losing her car. But I said, “Here’s the explanation she buys,” and told him the damn attorney story.
My son replied, “That’s a great, Dad. I’ll use that one when I have to take your motorcycle away.”