My Grandpa’s Truck
My neighborhood has many small used car lots. Though I don’t particularly miss having a car, I still look with interest on the shiny, newly washed hoods and fenders. Today an old truck caught my eye on the way to the grocery store. I’d seen it before, back amidst its younger brethren, but today it had been moved up front. It’s a dark red Chevy C40 with white trim, probably from the mid-1970’s. From the outside, it’s in remarkably good condition. A classic truck with a steel body and a bench seat and none of this extended cab nonsense. It’s beautiful. I have a fondness for old trucks, probably because of my grandfather.
My Grandpa was a good man. My mom once said he wasn’t very good at business, which is why they eventually sold the ranch she and her siblings grew up on, but he was good in many other, more important ways. As long as I can remember, he drove a truck. The one I remember best is his black Chevy Silverado with the silver stripe. The bench seat had been re-covered in some grey and brown fabric. The steering wheel was big, but thin, with little finger notches. It had a large silver toolbox behind the cab and a sturdy metal frame above the bed. This is because for most of my life he worked as a carpenter, first in their small town of Ainsworth, Nebraska. After they moved to Omaha, he worked for Habitat for Humanity as a job site foreman. He organized work, taught volunteers, and did finish carpentry from then until he reluctantly retired at the age of seventy-six.
Habitat for Humanity finds small parcels of vacant land, usually foreclosed upon by the local government for non-payment of property taxes and donated. They build small, simple homes for families in need with the help of the volunteers and the family who’ll live there. In Omaha, my Grandpa convinced them to accept not only land, but old homes as well. They still built from the ground up, but also renovated and repaired many houses in the poor, older neighborhoods of Omaha as well. The people in those neighborhoods got to know that truck and the man who drove it. This provided a small extra measure of safety in neighborhoods that were otherwise considered rather shady.
My brother and I would sometimes borrow that truck to move a piece of furniture or a bit of lumber now and then. It was an automatic, with the gear shift on the steering wheel, so even I could drive it. It wasn’t too big and drove very well. Grandpa was always there with it when my family moved or renovated anything of our own. The two of them where a reliable pair.
After Grandpa died, Granny sold the truck to a lady I worked with. My brother and I sighed with regret. Had we the money, we might have bought it ourselves, not that either of us needed a truck. That was almost a decade ago.
When we look on an object we immediately experience a sense of aversion, attachment, or, occasionally, neutrality. This feeling is predicated by all our past experiences and our habitual patterns. In a word, it’s our karma at work. My karma include an old Chevy truck my grandpa drove. Fond memories of Grandpa color over my memories of that truck. They even color over other habits of thought, such as my aversion to automobiles as smog-making, traffic-jamming, wallet-sucking, time-stealing, mechanistic monsters. Those pleasant memories are strong enough to color over my intellectual objections.
Now I look fondly on that red Chevy C40 in the lot near my house and think I’d like to have an old truck like that some day. I have no idea why I’d need it, but I’d like to think I’d put it to good use. This is karma at work. I perceive the truck, I remember my past, and I feel attachment. However, because I’m aware of the nature of karma, the nature of myself, and I’ve engaged in some forms of mindfulness and introspection, I know what is happening. So rather than having an unexamined desire for this truck and becoming frustrated or saddened when I can’t fulfill that desire, I can merely examine the pleasant memories it brings up and let it go. I keep going, just like Grandpa’s reliable old truck always did.