This is the first in a series of posts about a family and the truck that they keep and maintain in memory of their beloved husband and father.
On a hot summer day, I am driving down to Evan’s house, not just to hear him talk about a four-wheeled friend, but to also hear him tell me everything about what is essentially a beloved family heirloom. The vehicle is a bright red 1994 Chevrolet Silverado flareside pickup, and it belonged to Evan’s late father. Since he passed away in 1998, Evan, his mother Julie, and his sister Meredith have been keeping the truck maintained mostly as it was the last time he drove it. In fact, the truck is almost completely original with the exception of the modern stereo unit and the spray-in bed liner that were both added later. The truck has also been repainted a couple of times, so no all-original paint here either. That isn’t the entire point of why the the family has kept their father and husband’s truck, though. It goes much deeper than that.
One of Evan’s earliest memories of the truck is from going on walks with his mom in his neighborhood when he was three. His mom would time the walks so that Evan could see his Dad driving into the neighborhood entryway on his way home from work. She would ask three-year-old Evan, “Where is it?” and he would respond, “Yazit,” a silly contraction of “There it is.” Soon enough, this phrase, “Yazit,” became a nickname for the truck that has stuck to this very day. There are other nicknames, but we will cover those in another post. The point of mentioning this nickname is to demonstrate an early example of how the truck has always been in Evan’s life.
This constant presence is what has made the truck so important to Evan and his family. They view the truck as being like a family heirloom. When Evan’s father passed away, they organized all of his belongings, threw out the junk, and kept what was and continues to be of sentimental value. However, the truck is different from most heirlooms, protecting it and keeping it the same as it was decades ago is much more difficult than keeping a photograph or an old chair. Unlike collecting a car for status or as a hobby, they aren’t trying to protect the truck’s original state so much as the truck itself. Instead, the family prefers to do as much as they can to keep the truck simply existing in a drivable state. One of the most important reasons for doing this was so that Evan and his sister could experience driving the truck for themselves.
As he grew up, the truck remained in the driveway, occasionally being used for odd jobs until Evan was in high school. The old Chevy was used to teach Evan to drive and then became his daily driver. Every day, Evan was driving the very truck that his father had bought not long after he was born, and watched his mother use it to pick up supplies for concession stands at high school football games that supported the school’s Band Boosters organization. It has never been the main character, but Evan always feels that the truck is making cameo appearances through every one of these experiences in his life. An exception to this might be when he was learning to drive in the truck. The huge differences in refinement between Yazit and his mother’s Honda Odyssey minivan have really helped Evan come to respect and take notice of the differences between the driving experiences in various cars in his life.
One thing that he remembers most clearly is the size of the steering wheel in the truck. It is a few inches larger in diameter than steering wheels in most modern cars, particularly Evan’s current car, a 2012 Honda Civic. Combined with the massive amount of play in the wheel, this made for some scary, but exciting moments when learning to drive where he had to really crank the steering wheel around just to make a simple 90 degree turn. Nonetheless, Evan enjoyed learning how to drive in the old truck and continues to enjoy driving it around because it always feels like his Dad is right there with him. Even after he left for college, the truck was still waiting at home when it came time to visit, and recently he and his mother used it to move Evan into his current apartment. It truly is like a recurring character in his life, and the simple appreciation that his dad had for being able to drive his dream vehicle, a fire engine red pickup truck, has been passed on to the entire household and continues to live on in them even when they are apart.