My grandmother outlives her siblings. Outlives the two men she married. Outlives the first car to drive her around.
My grandmother has no idea how to drive. Has never been thrown keys when her friends were too drunk. Never been told to drive to the store. Never sat on the lap of her dad as the two steered a tractor down the street.
When my grandmother’s son was in high school, he bought a red sports car and didn’t let her know. Parked it down the street, outside of her reach. Held it like a secret until a snowstorm arrived and he had to park it in the garage. He didn’t hide it from her because he thought she would be angry, which she was. He hid it from her, because, he explains, “I would have had to haul her all over town.”
My grandmother is in her final days / weeks / years in a nursing home. She’s 109 and as sharp as a pin cushion. She takes the elevator downstairs for breakfast and spends the rest of her time in her room. She watches old racing films, hot rod specials, starts collecting roadster magazines and highlighting individual pages.
When we visit her, she is no where to be found. We look in both of the mess halls. We look in the movie theater where a volunteer is constantly popping popcorn. We find my grandmother underneath her bed on a mechanic creeper. She’s adding wheels to her bed frame. Adds a stick shift, adds a door. We think it’s adorable.
The next time we visit my grandmother, her car has a built-in radio. The money from her two dead husbands is plenty to last her another few decades. Her bed now has a trunk full of Nascar catalogs. She paints flames along the edges and begs for us to bring her more miniature sports cars.
The next time we visit my grandmother, she’s gone and so is her car bed. Her third floor window is left wide open. The nurses on call didn’t hear a thing. We put out an alert in search of a 109-year-old woman lacking identification.
We never find her or the car bed. Not off the road dead in a ditch. Not driving on the highway going slower than a horse. Not anywhere at all. I like to think she’s out there on the open road, testing her skills in the desert. Wearing goggles like a pro. Making vroom noises with her dentures. I like to think my grandmother is the fastest mechanic at her age. She’ll outlive us all, all of us fools worrying about her, all of us with our driver’s licenses deep within our tattered wallets.
Benjamin Niespodziany works in a library and runs the multimedia art blog [neonpajamas]. He has had work published in The Fairy Tale Review (forthcoming), Jellyfish Review (forthcoming), Cheap Pop, Paper Darts, and various others.