Friday, January 20, 2012

Ride of a Lifetime

My son and I went over to my parents for our weekly dinner together day before yesterday. As we were stepping out of my truck in the driveway of the home I grew up in, my parents’ neighbor, George, roared around the corner in a sparkling blue convertible.

Now I’d heard about this convertible. George, a wildly successful eye surgeon, had a long-standing relationship with a local luxury car dealer. In the past few years we’d seen a parade of fine automobiles roll into his house next door; Maserati, Rolls Royce, Bentley. Cars that stood out even in my parents’ already wealthy neighborhood, where Benzes, Bimmers, and Lexii were the norm. But I had turned my nose up at all of them, until today.

I had heard that George’s Bentley GT Continental was in the shoppe and they’d given him a Ferrari as a loaner. This was it, gaudily rolling up my parents’ hill.

He had obviously spotted my son and me right away. Without hesitation, he skipped the turn into his house and pulled into our driveway, the engine from Maranello howling despite its idle. Equally without hesitation I blurted “I want a ride”, not caring how forward I sounded. I had never ever been in one of these before.

“Of course, Benjie. That’s why I pulled in here!”

And so it happened that I found myself in the passenger seat of the Ferrari California, a 450 hp, retractable hardtop, V8 beauty, with my son sitting in the small backseat behind me. George was resplendent in a loden sport coat, driving mocs, black-framed Ray Ban Aviators, and a Breitling for Bentley watch. The interior was also well appointed in leather, creamy in both color and touch.

The center stack boasted an LCD monitor and no gear lever, given the shift paddles on the steering column. There were cool gauges and switches everywhere, including those on the steering wheel, which reminded one of those found on F1 cars. We roared around the neighborhood, experiencing the motivation of 8 angry cylinders as we charged up to 60 in 6 seconds. He took us to the Waialae Country Club, the site of the recent Sony Open, less than a mile away, just to drive through the porte cochere, so the smart set could catch a glimpse of us.

Not taking his Ray Ban’s off the road, he exclaimed to me over the engine bellow, “You know, Benjie, they tell me I can buy this very car for $ XXX,000.00. What do you think?” He knew me as a serious car enthusiast. I thought, “Well played Mr. Luxury Car Salesman.” Nevertheless, I strongly encouraged him to make the purchase, especially with “I’d let you drive it but I can’t; it’s a loaner” still ringing in my ears. He considered my response and visibly inched perceptibly closer to Ferrari ownership.

Clearly, George was enjoying his time with this car.

Now George is more family than neighbor and I was thrilled to see him in the context of this little episode. Thrilled. He and his family moved in next door to us 25 years ago, and their son, about 10 years younger than me, went to my prep school and then on to Notre Dame, as I had, and later enrolled in law school. Like their son was to me, George and his wife were better than a decade younger than my parents, and had clearly invested all of their best wishes for their son. Augusto was their pride and joy.

So in 2006 when Augusto passed away unexpectedly, the lives of George and his wife completely fell apart. They’ve spent the past five years trying to put it back together. Given their character, faith, and beliefs, they have most certainly succeeded in the reconstruction. But from the perception that comes from daily next-door interaction, we know that it will always be incomplete.

It was nice to see George play with this car and realistically imagine what it would be like to own what for many is the pinnacle of sports motoring. Whether he follows through with the transaction or not, I liked the idea of George considering the possibility. It was not a mood I had seen him in for years.

At one point during the short drive, George turned to my son in back. He was more engrossed in his Harry Potter book than this ride of a lifetime. “Timmy, is this car wild or tame?” George floored the pedal to punctuate the question. My son, 7 y.o. and not yet past such invidious comparisons, smartly answered “WILD!”

And there we were, two forever OnceWereBachelors, wordlessly appreciating life and what we have and what we have lost.


M.Lane said...

Just amazing! What a car! I cannot even imagine how awful it would be to lose a child. I'm glad that he has a good wife and beliefs and GREAT neighbors!!


One Last Year said...

Incredible post. Well worth the read.