It’s finally over…We put our 1989 Honda Accord to rest yesterday. After 15 glorious years of service, she has gone to the wholesaler in the sky. It wouldn’t be fitting to put her down without a tribute. She has, afterall been through the formidable years of 2 people that appreciate her dearly. And so the story begins…
The Honda was Tricia’s first car – taken to University of Buffalo in Fall 1994. At that time it had 40,000 miles and not a blemish. You see, the car had been bought new and babied by Tricia’s mom. Through one means of begging or another, Tricia pryed the car away from its reluctant birthmom and promised to wash it every day. With a hefty parental loan and a gleam in her eye Tricia proudly began her Junior year of college with a car that was the envy of all her friends. In comparison to my 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit, this car was showroom fresh.
Through the streets of Buffalo and Rochester it rode – to late night grocery runs and all night keg parties, from Niagara Falls to Buffalo Bills games. From a remedial job at K-Mart to servant’s pay at the local Tavern. It unpacked the bedroom and packed the dormroom. The Honda was a steady friend amongst the turmoil of Tricia’s transition into womanhood. No hotwiring, no jumpstarting, no swearing.
Little did she know that those early years of carefree fun would set the stage for its eventual demise. After 2 years of driving the salty winter roads, and frigid nights spent without a roof over its head, the Honda contracted car cancer. It started as only a small rustanoma over its right rear wheel. A little sandpaper and some touch up paint and we had it licked – so we thought. Over the years we would watch as other small areas of the paint bubbled. Yet, we didn’t hear a whimper as it slowly began to eat away at the very essence of the steel.
After college, I took to mocking Tricia’s gold and brown beast. I ridiculed it as ugly and practical. My brand new 1997 Ford Ranger was far higher on the cool-o-meter. When we got married, what was mine became hers, and what was hers became hers. So I swallowed every bit of my pride as we finished out her car loan and kept the Honda as one of our 2 family cars. While living in Rochester, we watched in awe as the odometer turned over 100,000 miles. Still strong, still dependable, but the rust began to ravage her body.
When we moved to Chicago in 2000 we crammed a house full of crap into a 2 bedroom apartment, and along with us came the Honda and my truck. As our marriage grew and we had our first child, the day of reckoning came. It was 2001 and we had just finished paying on my truck. For the first time we now had no car payments. What we did have was a 2-seat pickup truck that was useless, and a rusty old Honda with 115,000 miles to cart around our bouncing baby. Instead of doing the orthodox and trading in the rusty Honda for something new, we did the unthinkable. We traded the pickup for a 2001 Dodge Durango kid-mobile and kept the Honda as the wingman. Sure, it was getting up there in years, but we heard legends of Hondas lasting to 200,000 or more. All we had to do was last through the payment cycle on the Durango, and our bold move would pay off.
And so, it did. The Honda went on to sweet retirement duty as I used it primarily to drive 2 miles to the train station every day and left it for dead in the sun and cold. It was the first time that the Honda became MY primary car. Lo and behold I actually fell in love with it. For a car that was that old, it still was as solid as the day I first rode in it. No rattles, no clunks. Was it hard to start on a cold day? Yes. Did the wheel nearly fall off one day when I pulled into a parking spot? Yes. But, overall it was the perfect get-around car. Especially now that we have 2 kids.
On July 31, 2004 we made it to the last payment on the Durango. It was a happy day in our family. We smiled at our good fortune. We laughed as we cranked up the Honda’s 6 disc changer in delight. She had made it. 10 years after saying our first hellos it basked in having accomplished all that her Japanese makers had built her to do.
It was only 5 days later, almost as if it were a terminal patient waiting for the last family member to say its goodbyes, that the Honda gave up her fight. I drove her at 60 miles an hour on the highway and she started to “shimmy”. Not convulse, cough, or sputter, just shimmy annoyingly as I hit cruising speed. It concerned me enough for a visit to the auto doctor, and the prognosis wasn’t pretty. $1200 in repairs were needed for her gimpy front ball-joints. Her belts were severely cracked, her tires needed to be replaced, even the horn wasn’t working anymore.
I was in denial. I called up Tricia and told her the bad news. I said “Can I have the checkbook?” and explained the charges. I began spewing my usual list of repairs and discounts that I had negotiated. Tricia listened intently, then cleared her throat and said in an deep low voice, “Kris, I think it’s time.” In disbelief I went on justifying how this car was going to last 20 maybe even 25 years – that we could easily make it to 150,000. But, she had already made up her mind. “Start looking for a new car.” And that was it. Tricia had already come to peace with a major chapter of her life. The time had come to let the Honda go.
In the grueling search for a new vehicle, always in the back of my mind I was thinking that we would donate the car to a charity and let some other lucky person get some service out of her twilight years. In the end, it didn’t even come to that. We used her as a $500 discount on our new car. It was easier than trying to sell her outright or even do her the honor of donation. But, for us it was just better this way. We put her down, took our last pictures,then drove away in the new car. It seems a fitting tribute to show the Honda what her years of hard work allowed us to buy as her legacy. Our first convertible. Thank you 1989 Honda Accord LX. We’ll miss you. Goodbye.