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Posted at 10:11 AM ET, 12/10/2009

Farewell to the open road

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Franklyn W. Reinhold
Fairfax

I stood under the portico at my retirement home and watched as my beloveds prepared to leave. It was an unusually mild Halloween afternoon. The fall colors, which would have been blazing under a sunny sky, lay subdued but still beautiful upon clouds that promised rain. The gray sky set the mood for the solemn occasion that had prompted Frances’s visit. Having passed 90 years a few months earlier, I had given up my driver’s license. Now I was turning my car over to my daughter.

She settled in behind the wheel with all her accouterments — purse, maps, water bottles — on the seat beside her. The motor purred to life, the wheels began to turn and slowly she made her way around the esplanade leading out to the highway. I mourned as she drove out of sight.

It was not my daughter’s departure that made me feel this way. We talk every day on the phone. She visits frequently and will be back with her husband, Mark, for Christmas. Rather, I mourned the departure of my car from my life and from my heart.

My 1997 Lincoln Town Car was elegant in the simple, straight lines that preceded the model change and rounded contours that turned this work of art into an enlarged Taurus. For all the years I owned it, my Lincoln owned me. It was muscular and solid, with a long wheelbase and weight enough to float over the roughest of roads, eight cylinders responding to a touch of the accelerator. On the interstates, it glided silently. Encased in luxurious leather, I would sit back and feel like the command pilot of a great air cruiser heading to some exotic locale.

Outside, it was not the stern black of a corporation president’s limousine, nor the stark white of a lease. Those clean lines were enhanced by a light green exterior that set it apart in any parking lot.

I loved to drive. I’ve always had a deep inner desire to see what’s around a new curve, over an unknown hill and beyond an unexplored horizon. In retirement, my wife and I would take off with the golf clubs in the trunk and an eagerness for new places in our hearts. South through the Carolinas and into Florida. North to lovely Upstate New York and those charming New England towns with their inevitable little white churches. West to the Great Lakes and through Colorado and up to Yellowstone Park. When I became a widower, the pattern continued. The clubs went into the trunk, and off I was to the small towns, local public courses and obscure motels of America.

Yes, this departure was a big one. It is the loss of a both companion and a part of my life: the freedom of the open road, the liberty to go when and where I wanted. I will indeed mourn the loss of these things.

But at the same time, my good friend has left me with a treasure trove of memories, and I have discovered newfound interests at the keyboard of a computer, which can also transport me to exotic places, beautiful views and interesting events. I shall not want.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | December 10, 2009; 10:11 AM ET
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