On a plane headed out west to Phoenix, I sat beside a very nice man who was flying to a job interview. It was for a bank job, I remember.
Over the course of four hours, we became friendly enough for him to talk of the mother who, alone, raised him and how close they were.
He leaned over and confided in a low voice.
“As much as I loved her, I have to admit that the day she died was filled with both sadness and a sense of liberation,” he said. “Finally, I was free to make my own decision without worrying what she would think.”
Years later when Mama died, I remembered that conversation and discovered he was right. There is a certain liberation and independence in a parent’s death.
But it would not be the greatest liberation of my life. That distinction belonged to the day we bought a pickup truck.
Fifteen years ago when Daddy died, he left behind amid his worldly possessions, his truck.
I was thrilled. Since I was the only one in the family who didn’t have a truck but needed one, I was dancing with joy. That turned to dismay then anger then an argument when Mama gave the truck to my brother. I begged her, almost tearfully, to reconsider. After all, my brother had a truck.
“But we — you and me — need a truck,” I said. “We need it to haul trash and potting flowers and Christmas trees and boxes of whatever we want.”
She jutted out her chin and said, “It’s my truck and I’ll do with it what I want.”
So, for the rest of her life, someone who had a truck had to do all those things for her, including taking the trash off weekly.
I, too, was at the mercy of any friend who had a truck. I was always begging, asking or hiring while matching up schedules. It was stressful.
Mama, who rarely if ever admitted mistakes brought on by her stubbornness, accepted and voiced her folly in that decision.
“I should never have done that,” she said. “Dumbest thing I could have done. We need a truck.”
When my brother died, I inherited Daddy’s truck from him. But by then, it was in such disrepair because he left it setting in the yard so long it needed a transmission, a windshield, a battery, tires and a paint job.
I did everything but the paint job when I realized the truck, which drives like a dream, get six miles to the gallon.
Six miles to a gallon. I wonder what committee of engineers and executives in Detroit thought that was a good idea even back in the 1980s when the economy was good. It was only a decade past the oil crisis of the 1970s.
Luckily, Brandon worked for me for several years before heading off to physician’s assistant school at Emory in Atlanta. I was so proud of that fine young man, stubborn and disciplined, to take off for his lifelong dream. I just hated he had to take his truck with him. Now, it would be back to borrowing Rodney’s truck when necessary.
When Tink arrived on the Rondarosa, that’s what he did. He used Rodney’s truck for anything such as hauling hay from Rodney’s barn to ours.
Rodney was generous. He always is. But, finally, we decided to buy a truck.
“Now, listen, in the South, a man is known for his truck,” I said. “It’s an important decision. Pick a Ford or a Chevy because, in the end, it all comes down to those two brands.”
He was diligent. He searched and researched. Then, on a hot summer’s day, he married his identity to a Chevy.
Freedom and independence never felt so good. Rodney’s happy, too. We don’t have to borrow his truck to haul home the hay he gives us.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “There’s A Better Day A-Comin’.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com/ronda.