Charles waved at his neighbor, Henry, as he walked across his porch and down the stairs. His mother was sitting in the passenger seat of her 1964 Ford Galaxie. She had already moved over so Charles could drive. They always had their best conversations while riding around in her car. And now that Charles had been laid off from work, the drives had become a daily activity.
Charles opened the driver’s door and got in. “Good afternoon, Mom.” He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
“How are you holding up, Charles?”
“I’m fine.” He put the car in gear and backed out of the driveway.
“Are you sure? Because I’ll be happy to loan you some money if you need it.”
He desperately needed money, but there was no way he would take any of hers. She was on a fixed income, so giving him money would force her to go without essentials—like food.
He smiled. “Remember when I first got my license and you started letting me drive us to church every Sunday?”
“Yeah, that first Sunday I was a nervous wreck. You nearly hit the preacher on the way out of the parking lot.”
Charles laughed. “It wasn’t funny at the time, but now it cracks me up. And what I couldn’t believe was that you let me drive again the very next week.”
“Pastor John thought I was nuts. He threatened to call the police.”
“Really? You never told me that.”
“Oh, he was just kidding.”
“I understand now why you risked your life letting me drive to church. You just wanted to make sure I went. As I recall, I was sort of losing interest at the time.”
She smiled. “And it worked…for a while.”
“It sure did.” Charles turned the corner. “This baby always drove so smooth.”
“It’s still a great car. That’s why I’ve kept it all these years.”
“Remember that time you told me to just get in the car and start driving? You wouldn’t tell me where we were going. But I finally figured out that we were headed for the lake.”
“That day was a disaster.” She laughed.
“You thought I would enjoy sitting out there fishing with you all day.”
“I completely miscalculated that one.”
“I did want to go to the lake, but I didn’t want to spend all day fishing with my mother.”
“You wanted to be with your friends.”
“Yeah. But I didn’t want to disappoint you, so I tried to play along.”
“And after all that fishing, we went home with nothing.”
“Except a sunburn.”
“I was sorry I ruined your whole Saturday.”
“You didn’t ruin it.”
“No. I mean, I might have thought so back then, but…it turned out to be a day I’d always remember.”
“Yeah, it was kinda special. I just wasn’t smart enough to realize it at the time.”
“You were smart enough—you just weren’t mature enough.” She smiled.
“Well, I’m mature now. A little too mature for my liking.”
“We all get there eventually, Son.”
His cell phone rang.
“Excuse me, Mom. I’d better take this.”
“Well, then pull over to the side of the road. It’s not safe to—”
“—I know, Mom.” He pulled over and stopped.
“Hello?…Yes, this is he…I know my payment’s late, but I lost my job and…fine, I’ll see what I can do. Goodbye.”
“You do need help.”
“No, Mom, I’ll be okay. I’ll have another job soon. You don’t need to worry about me.”
“Yes, I do. A mother always worries about her children—no matter how old they are.”
Charles drove back onto the road.
“Oh, Charles, why didn’t you tell me you were in trouble?”
“I have a solution.”
“No, Mom, I will not take your money.”
“I’m going to give you my car. They tell me it’s worth at least ten-thousand dollars.”
“Easily—but I’m not taking it.”
“Look—I don’t need a car anymore. When I need to go somewhere, which isn’t that often these days, you can take me in your car. Deal?”
“No. Thank you for being willing to do it, Mom. I really do appreciate it, but I cannot take your car.”
Charles pulled the car into his driveway. “I enjoyed our drive, Mom. I always do.”
“Me too, Son.”
He kissed her goodbye and went into the house.
Five minutes later, he came back out. The car was still sitting there in the back yard. He could probably get twenty-thousand for it. But he’d never sell—no matter how long it took him to find a job.
He opened the driver’s door and got in. “I’m back.”
“It’s about time,” she said, smiling. “Where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise.”
“Aw, come on, give me a hint.”
“Okay.” He thought for a moment. “I’ve got some things in the trunk that we’ll be using when we get to our destination.”
“How many things?”
“Are they the same kind of things?”
“You’re asking too many questions.”
“Are they fishing poles?”
“Are we going to the lake?”
“Now you’ve spoiled the surprise. I’ll have to come up with something else.”
“Don’t you dare.”
His neighbor, Henry, was watching out of the corner of his eye while he worked in his garden. He had complained when Charles had first parked the old car in his back yard a year earlier. And he thought his neighbor had lost his mind when he first saw him sitting in the car talking to himself.
Charles had been unemployed for over two months, and Henry figured his neighbor would eventually sell his mom’s car to help pay his overdue bills. But as he watched Charles laughing and pretending to drive the old car, he finally understood why that would never happen.