A Subaru Valentine’s Day

by Doris Smith

It was a sunny though cool day. A perfect Valentine’s afternoon, thought Eileen, while considering her upcoming task. This would be perfect. She would get a new car as a Valentine’s Day present. Searching on consumer reports for new car information, she had decided on Subaru’s Impreza and now, looking through the telephone book, she found that there was a dealership as close as Maynard. Since it was a great day for a ride and buying a car, she maneuvered her wheel chair down the ramp into the garage where she managed to get herself situated in the driver’s seat.

As she drove, she admired how the sunshine made her spirits lift and made her glad she was alive. The sunlight through the trees made her think of the glass ball from New Year’s Eve as it spun the light around.

She almost passed the dealership as it was on her left and did not have good signage. Turning around in a nearby mini-mall, Eileen made it back to the parking lot of the Subaru place.

Slowly and carefully, she managed to get herself into the wheelchair before a gray haired man who looked more like a professor than a salesman, made it to her.

“May I be of help?” he asked her. She looked up into his blue eyes and thought she recognized perhaps a kindred soul. He certainly looked to be about her age. Perhaps this was his retirement job.

She turned her chair towards the showroom. He immediately offered to push her. “Oh no,” she responded, “I can manage quite well, thank you.”

His concession was to hold the door open for her. As she went in, she saw a car that looked like it might serve her purposes. When she asked if it was an Impreza, the man responded that it was the model called the Forester. Well, that had gotten good reviews online, but was it too high for her to easily slide into? The man was looking a little uncomfortable; perhaps he was unsure what her needs were in a car. She decided to put him out of his misery and make the experience more palatable for her by outlining her transportation needs. He nodded as she spoke and then suggested that they go out onto the lot where there were more selections.

As they looked at different models that he suggested, she was aware of feeling comfortable with him. Many people, when they were around people with handicaps, spoke more loudly, helped without asking, or did not know what to say. This man, who had introduced himself to Eileen, said his name was Thomas.

When he suggested she might want to look at a sedan, she agreed, but told him she needed room for her art materials as she was a painter and trunk space was needed. “An artist,” he had said, with interest. “I used to dabble around in acrylics, but I have not even picked up a brush since my wife died three years ago.”

By closing time, she and Thomas had made a deal. She would buy the sporty Impreza. A grand Valentine’s present, she said. Thomas hesitated and then asked if she would like to go for a coffee with him. The small coffee shop/bakery in the mall might still be open.

As Eileen and Thomas sat down, she made a comment about her small town in Illinois. It never had a place to just sit and talk and have coffee. “I do not believe it,” he said. “Illinois! I grew up there in a small town near Springfield.”

“No!” she said. “It’s a small world.”

As they drank their coffee, they shared their small town experiences and said how glad they were to be in New England. They then moved to talking about living alone and the little things like taking your pills on time, getting them organized into daily doses and how bewildering it was when you thought you might have missed a dose. What to do? Their chatting made Eileen realize how lonely she had become, so she welcomed Tom’s offer to join her for a “Plein Air” painting session someday in the spring.

Perhaps her Valentine’s present was going to be more than a new car.