Of all the ways to qualify 2020, bittersweet is not the first term to come to mind.

If you were to break up the word into two parts and sling them onto a balance scale, “bitter” would be touching the ground. If you find yourself asking how, where, or when did the “sweet” ever come into the year which shall not be named, I would be right there with ya, at least at first. The loss of my father back in April. My aunt, a salt-of-the-Earth type if there ever was one, was taken up in January of this year.

My principal we lost most unexpectedly a few weeks ago. Events such as these load up the scale on just the one side. The sweet comes indirectly, if and when it decides to. It comes in the form of ears that listen, shoulders on which to lean, and in the thoughtfulness of a meal when even finding something to eat seems daunting.

My time home with all of this has been sweet to me. I have been able to be around my wife and boy, teach (even though e-Learning pushes even the best of us to the breaking point), and get some projects done around our little house. To confess,and if you were to ask my lady, most of the “projects” have something to do with the sorting of LEGO or binge-watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episodes from the 1980s. Any other TMNT cartoon or show is an obvious blasphemy. The cracked hands from LEGO and the foam nunchuck thwack marks on my shins prove it. My four-and-a-half-year-old Michelangelo shows no mercy. And, being Shredder in every play scenario is getting old and isn’t fair!

When cabin fever inevitably sets in and before gas prices started going up, my family of three would pack into my boat of a car and go for a ride. The big body of the car and steering are reason enough to call it a boat. However, my sister-in-law and her husband (wisecrackers that they are) once borrowed my car for a few days. When I got it back, I had a floating key chain on my key ring, a very well-colored, paper-constructed depth finder “mounted” to an AC vent, and a full tank of gas. I can actually remember laughing out loud when I got it back from them. And yes, no self-respecting man uses LOL. You have to write out “laugh out loud.” Don’t get me started on emojis and the overuse of exclamation points.

It is a 1999 Mercury Grand Marquis and the time has come to pass it on. I have had cars that I enjoyed for whatever reason, but nothing outranks that old Mercury when it comes to sentiment. Not only was it my grandfather’s car prior to me taking the wheel, but I jokingly, and-who am I kiddin’- with the utmost humility at times, refer to it as the Grandpa Car. A dark gray vinyl top for hair. Sturdy leather interior like a grandfather’s old hands. A classic tape deck because we all know that a USB port might as well be a piece of paneling on the International Space Station.

The wheels were not whitewalls, but by God they should have been. The engine, not perfect and with over two hundred thousand miles, was always well-maintained. Personifying a vehicle like this one is not a difficult task. I could have referenced the odometer or exhaust system, but this is a family-friendly online newspaper. I took good care of it, put an adequate amount of money into it, and learned a few things about cars in the process as family and friends would help me get it back on the road.

Of late, it’s been a bit squeakier than normal and needs a level of TLC that I can no longer justify putting into it. When a completely new front end is required, it’s time to call it quits. I sold it today to a very nice gentleman via the interwebs. Thanks to my wife Carrie for doing that part as I was initially reluctant to pass it on. It’s spirit shall endure!

Money could have been spent toward fixing it but I did not want to align myself with people who spend ungodly amounts of money into their French Teacup Yorkie Doodlehuahua or whatever the trendy breed is nowadays. Those are the same kind of people who believe you when you tell them that they started breeding bulldogs and Shih Tzus. If Fluffy needs a quadruple bypass or kidney, it’s going to be Shih Tzu outta luck. Better start scraping the sticker of the little furry family member off the back of the minivan. I apply the same philosophy to my automobiles. May he rest in parts or find new life in ball joints and shocks!

Besides cleaning out the glove box and trunk, the only thing I took off of the boat was the license plate that was on the front that read “Go Big Red.” I have tuned into Don Fisher many a time to catch the game in that ride, or as much of it as I could stand before punching the button to shut it off in rage. True IU fans know of what I speak. Missed free throws and turnovers often lead to such reactions.

A real IU fan knows that if we are not up 50 and there’s more than a minute left, we can’t rest easy. That license plate already has a spot on my man cave wall where it will hang. Until I decide to take it off that wall and put in on another vehicle, or just leave it there, I will continue to hold on to the memories I had in it- the good and the bad.

Afterall, it’s just a car, right?