The final chapter: Every dream must end
Ruth and I were driving down the street in her Pontiac. She loved that car. She surprised me one day when she said, “Why can’t we get something that’s more sporty?” “You know something that looks like, you know, different!”
“Let’s buy a sports car,” she said.
In the back of my mind I was visioning my Toronado. I could see us driving down the street in this beautifully reconditioned vehicle. She interrupted my thoughts and said, “Why can’t we get a Firebird?” Again in the back of my mind I said, “Firebird!” “Firebird!” “We own a Toronado! What’s wrong with the Toronado?” I blurted out.
“Oh,” is all she could say. As we were driving down the street we drove past a Chevrolet dealership. They had a lot with many used cars. Sitting in the far back line by the fence was a Firebird. I slowed down and stopped. I said, “There’s a Firebird.” She said, “But it’s been in an accident.” I said, “I can fix that.” We parked her Pontiac and went into the car lot. I asked a man “How much money do you want for the Firebird?’ He said, “$2000.” I looked at Ruth and said “We don’t have $2000.” She said “trade the Pontiac.” So I asked the man, how much was the Pontiac worth. After a few minutes he said “$1100.” Ruth said, “Make the trade.” So we made the trade. We drove the car home. It needed a new bumper and the hood had a ding in it. So I put the firebird in the garage called the insurance company, I said “We no longer own the Pontiac. We bought a Firebird.” I explained there was some minor body work to do. “In the meantime,” I said, “Can you put the insurance on the Toronado?” Our insurance man said “Yes.”
The dream was real. I stood there and looked at the Toronado. I was going to drive the Toronado as our primary car. The Firebird would have to wait. It was almost Christmas and I had too much work to do in the church to work on the Firebird. I drove the Toronado with great joy.
I did not remember when I so enjoyed driving. It was a big car, it used a lot of gas, but it ran beautifully. Christmas Eve came and we were ready for the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. Ruth and I got into the Toronado and drove to church. By the time the Christmas Eve services were over it was late. We went outside got inside the Toronado and drove home. I parked it in front of the house, on the street, because I would have to be at church for the 5:30 AM service. We went sound asleep. Two hours later we heard someone knocking on the door. I got up and went to the door. It was two police officers. They asked, “Are you the owner of that car?” I said “Yes,.” They said they wanted me to go with me them. I stepped outside the door and saw the lights of a tow truck. I saw a police car sitting there with a man sitting in the backseat. I saw our neighbor from across the street standing by my Toronado. My neighbor said “The man in the police car was drunk, he came around the corner real fast, lost control of his truck, and smashed the front end of your Toronado.” It was damaged so bad that it could not be driven.
I stood there. The police officer talked to me but I did not hear a word. My dream had ended.
I don’t know how long it was before I even thought about working on the Toronado to see if I could fix it. I took it to a body shop, they told me the frame had been bent and the car was damaged beyond what it was worth. I went back to my office knowing that I had to let the dream stop. Again I don’t know how long it was before I decided to do anything else.
One day I was sitting at home reading the letter from the insurance company saying that the driver of the truck had no insurance. My Toronado had only liability insurance. The damage was not covered. My dream truly was over. I decided to put an ad in the newspaper and see if someone wanted to buy the Toronado for parts. It was a few weeks before someone contacted me and said he would like to buy the car. I asked him to come over, I did not give him a price. When he asked how much I wanted, I asked, “What do you want to use it for?” He said “Well I guess I may try to fix it.” I told him the frame had been bent. He said “Yeah, he had a friend with a frame straightener. If we can’t straighten it I guess I’ll look for another one and buy this one for parts.” He asked me if I would take $1000. I said “Yes.” He called the tow truck and my Toronado was gone. I will never forget the feeling of watching the Toronado disappear. The dream was over.
A few years had gone by and I’d forgotten all about the Toronado; perhaps it would be more true to say that it just didn’t occupy as much time as before.
The Calgary car show was in town. I thought about going and then said no. This happened a number of times to the point where I had gotten used to deciding not to go. During that time I met a young man who wanted to rebuild a GTO car. He wanted to rent my garage. I said “Yes” and watched him build his car and get it ready for the car show. His dream became real before my eyes! More time had gone by and a neighbor came to me, he said “My son is in trouble, can you meet with him?” I said “Yes.” As the young man talked with me we found that we had a common dream. He wanted to build a car. “I said he could build it in our garage.” Before my eyes his dream came true.
I had relived my dream through the hopes and aspirations of two young men. Their dream was mine. My Toronado was gone but the dream was not over.
I believe it was Yogi Berra who said, “It’s not over till it’s over.”
I sat at the table one day reading the newspaper and there on the back page was a picture of the Edmonton car show. Front and center, the highlight of the show was a 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado. It had been painted a wine color not plum. I saved that picture and put it in my files. Years later my daughter took the picture and had it mounted. She gave it back to me for my birthday. She said, “Happy Birthday. Here’s your Toronado.” The dream came back to life.