“The Satellite is still in my garage,” she said when he allowed her to speak.
“Yes, silly. You said you wanted to store it at my house. I’ve been going out and starting it up every couple of days so the battery doesn’t die.” To be honest, she went out to sit in the car to remind herself that she wasn’t crazy. He did exist and she hadn’t made him up. For some reason, the telephone conversations weren’t as reassuring as sitting in his car, parked in her garage, listening to the engine purr.
When I was five months old my father had a heart attack while shoveling snow two days before Christmas. As my brother tells it, he (my brother) was watching the Peanuts Christmas Special in the living room when the sound of the shovel stopped so he looked outside. Dad was in a heap on the sidewalk.
This was the 70’s so Dad was in the hospital for weeks. My mom was stuck at house with two small children and an infant wondering if her husband was coming home. It’s kind of a family joke that she started the car every day to keep the battery from dying and it died anyway because she didn’t realize she had to drive it around. (And really, would you leave your 5-month-old alone with your 9-year-old and your 7-year-old to even drive around the block when your husband was in the hospital?)
Until I wrote this scene I hadn’t thought too deeply about how my mom must have felt sitting in that car listening to the engine run. My parents were both going to college around jobs and family at a university about half an hour away. Mom has always said that she only went to college because it was the only way she ever got to see my father between his full time job at the steel mill and school so most of their conversations early in their marriage took place to the soundtrack of the car engine and the radio. During those very dark days, the sound of the engine must have been a great comfort to her. I can only hope it comforted her as much as the purr of the Satellite comforted Maureen.