Tuesday, April 9, 2019


     Some years ago, my brother-in-law, Carroll, bought a 1960-something Austin Healey. He and my sister brought it by the house, and, of course, the first thing Carroll did was explain how it's not in the greatest surface shape, but the engine was sound. He got a good deal, buying it from a guy in ... and so on.  I don’t remember the rest.  The car was extraordinary in spite of the dull and scratched green paint, making the vintage car look old and tired inside and out.  I’d never seen an Austin Healy up close—only in some of the older English films, so I was impressed, nevertheless.

     A few months later I helped my sister, my brother-in-law's wife, with a garage sale. It rained that day, but we sold anyway. As we were winding down, packing things up for a yard sale my cousin would have in a month, a couple of guys walked up and asked if we were selling any guitars. No, we weren't. My sister offered that Carroll had a guitar, but he probably wouldn't part with it. Then the guy asked the oddest thing. He asked to see the guitar.

     My sister called Carroll from her basement and said to bring his guitar. Carroll is a wise husband and obeyed without arguing. In his defense it was an unusual request, and Carroll is one to accept adventure in its many forms, especially in relation to music.  He’s performed at the Tannehill Opry with other musicians, and often he and my nephew will jam together on holidays when the family is together.  He’s backed me up on his banjo when I’ve been coaxed to sing one of the two ridiculous songs I wrote back in the 80s.  And he’s also an accomplished watercolorist. 

     When Carroll brought the guitar down and saw the men in the basement, it was a grand reunion. Handshakes. Hugs. How-are-yous, and there was some talk about “the good old days.” One of the guys took Carroll's guitar from him. He started tuning it. Then he played and sung a sweet bluegrass hymn he'd written. Other songs followed. My sister told me he’d written tunes for some famous country singers. After a couple more requests and the offering of a composition he was working on, the other guy asked Carroll what kind of car was under the cover, nodding toward the Austin Healey and trying to guess before the reveal. The surprise was resting under a car cover, some mattress pads and foam along its sides to keep anything or anyone from touching the car during our rainy-day sale. (Tight quarters since everything had to stay inside.)

     Carroll started removing the layers of protection, and when he lifted the final cover, I could hardly believe my eyes. The car had been completely detailed from the front to the rear in a two-toned scheme of British racing green and cream with shiny chrome wheel covers. The top was down and the new two-toned leather interior was pristine. The car was absolutely stunning, simply gorgeous. I knew it was the same car, but the detailing brought out a whole new appreciation in me. 

     The three men stared at the car approvingly.  Life is in the details, as they say, and nothing seemed truer to me standing there, watching those men and that car—how breathtaking a vintage love can be and how stunningly enduring our relationships can be under all those years of wear and tear. 

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