When my brother and I visit, maybe two or three times a year given the many miles between us, we catch up on our lives and families. However, you can bet we’ll go back to memories, most funny and some not-so-funny. This is one of the best:
Back in the late ’50s, Jack was in the U.S. Navy stationed in California. When he’d come home on leave, I’d let him use my car so he could go out with his friends and have some fun. You do remember that car, don’t you? Yep, that sweet, cashmere blue and white 1956 Chevy Bel Air convertible.
On the first night during one leave, he came home very upset. He had pulled into a parking spot too close to another car and had creased the right rear quarter panel on the Chevy. The damage wasn’t bad; our father (the mechanic) knew the best body shops and the car would soon look like new.
A few days later, Jack asked if he could borrow the car to do some errands. He dropped me off at my office in White Plains and would pick me up at 5 pm. A few hours later, the receptionist called and said that my brother was waiting for me. Whaat?? Puzzled, I took the elevator down to the first floor. As I walked toward the glass doors, I saw him: he was sitting hunched over, his head in his hands. Papers were spread over the table in front of him.
Uh oh, not good!
“Sis, I wrecked your car. I’m so sorry.”
My first concern was if he was hurt; he wasn’t, but he was shaken and devastated over the damage to my car. He had been making a left turn on to our parents’ street when another car came from the opposite direction, passed the car in front of it on the right and hit the right front fender of the Chevy, spun it around and hit it again on the right rear fender—in other words, the entire right side was heavily damaged. Adding more drama to an already stressful situation, Jack was riding in the tow truck—heading to Dad’s garage—when it passed in front of our folks’ house. There was Mom standing on the porch roof washing windows! Jack scrunched down in the seat and prayed she wouldn’t see him in the truck towing her daughter’s car. She didn’t. At least one thing went in his favor!
At the garage one of the guys was standing by the window: “Hey, Joe, isn’t that Ruthie’s car coming in on a tow truck?” Dad quickly ran out, fears and worries running through his mind. Jack explained to him what had happened, that he was okay. Dad was relieved and told him to take his car and go let me know about the accident. Yes, my car was a mess, but my brother was okay. I felt so badly for what he was going through.
When the insurance agent came to prepare the estimate, he asked: “Didn’t I see this car just a few days ago?” Now the quarter panel would be taken care of along with the other damage all in one visit to the body shop! Some months later, I contacted the agent to add more coverage to my policy.
There was a moment of silence. Then he asked: “Has your brother gone back to California?”
These events are all part of Jack’s legacy. We both remember what occurred when we told George (we were engaged and getting married in a few months). He tossed the keys to his car to Jack: “Take my car and go out and have some fun,” he said.
“I can’t get behind the wheel, ever,” Jack hesitantly replied.
“You have to, otherwise you’ll never want to drive again; you’ll be okay, just go!”
After Jack’s honorable discharge from the Navy, he joined the White Plains Police Department where he served for 20 years, retiring as sergeant. A fine man and skilled driver are also part of his legacy: I would go coast to coast with my brother at the wheel anytime.