Several years ago, my client Denise & her husband Greg were at home one Sunday morning when the phone rang. It was Greg’s elderly father. The man was in a panic because he couldn’t get the garage door opener to work & he was going to be late for church. He asked Denise if she could send his son over to open it for him, so Greg drove right over to help him out.
Upon arriving in the driveway Greg pulled up to the closed garage door, walked up to the front door of the house & entered it calling out for his Dad. Upon not finding him inside, Greg opened the interior door leading into the garage & saw his Dad. His father was sitting inside his car anxiously awaiting the garage door to open. As Greg manually released the garage door, his father started the motor, quickly put it into reverse & hit the gas pedal hard. He never looked into the rear view mirror.
Unfortunately for Greg’s brand new SUV, that meant a severely smashed bumper, plus a jolting shock for his father. As Denise put it, Greg said his father was “visibly distressed”, which cracked me up because it sounded like she was recounting a newspaper article or police report. The good news is that her father-in-law made it to church on time because as she said “he leaves 40 minutes early & it’s a 10 minute ride”.
A day or so later her father-in-law called again & said he’d like to bring over a check for
Greg to cover the expense of getting his SUV fixed. Now, since her relationship with her father-in-law was a strained one at best, she said that was between him & his son and that she’d just stay out of it. Within a few hours the doorbell rang & Denise got up to answer it. Upon opening the door to see her elderly father-in-law standing on the porch, she jokingly said with a smile “Well, hello there Crash!”
A stricken look came across his face & he sort of staggered back a step. Not knowing why this was, she invited him into the house & told him Greg was in the shower, but he’d be right out. The elderly man started to say something, but just stammered a few disjointed words & basically got all flustered. Finally when he got it together to form a cohesive sentence, he sputtered indignantly “I’ve NEVER in all my life been called “TRASH”!
Denise explained that she said “Crash”, but I don’t think he was having any of it. So she went to get Greg out of the shower & told him the story, ending it with “and your father thought I called him “trash”. She figured she’d better tell on herself first before her father-in-law did. Greg tried to smooth it over with his dad, but I’m not sure how well that went.
Anyway, his father presented him with a check for $100 to cover the damage to his SUV (bless his heart, he still thought it was 1945). Greg said something to the effect of “Well Dad, this isn’t even going to begin to cover it. It’ll be more like $1000.” I don’t think his father truly believed it & he left probably thinking they were trying to rip him off. After a few days they got the estimate for over $800 & subsequently had the vehicle fixed.
A weekend or two after that Denise & Greg went out of town to a B&B. The next morning the owner of the Bed and Breakfast backed out of her garage & sideswiped their newly repaired SUV! Denise said that she too, like the father-in-law, was “visibly distressed”. Once again, Greg was in the shower when Denise had to break the unfortunate news.
We joked that if there’s a third time then the vehicle must be cursed & they should promptly get rid of it. But as time went on, there were no further accidents with this SUV. However the same could not be said for the father-in-law. He went on to total several cars as he aged (like spoiled milk, most would say). Being extremely cantankerous, he refused to give up driving no matter how many lives he put at risk.
After totaling another car, his insurance company dropped him. Denise & Greg created an account with a local taxi service that would take the old coot anywhere he wanted to go, but the bill would be paid by them so it wouldn’t cost him a dime. They nearly flipped out one day when they discovered he had strangers he’d just met up at the Mall drive him home (he’d told them his family was being mean to him by not letting him drive, so they felt sorry for hime). It was very apparent that he resented not being in control of his transportation.
Then it got worse. One day Greg got a call from the neighborhood meter reader (it’s a small town where many people know each other) who said “I remembered you telling me about your Dad’s car accidents & how you had a taxi service for him, but I think you should know that I just saw a car in his garage“. Greg nearly stroked out & immediately squealed tires over to his Dad’s house!
I’ll be darned if the old guy hadn’t called around to all the car dealers until he found one who would deliver him a car, whereupon he wrote a $9k check to pay for it. He refused to give it up despite his son pleading with him, but the fickle finger of fate stepped in. Within a few days he crashed into a ditch, totaling the car that he’d been driving for a week without any insurance. I can’t recall if the police cited him for that offense or if he just ran out of money, but he never drove again.
How did it all end? He got meaner & more ornery until the day that he died several years later, well into his 80’s.