Saturday, June 18, 2016


 Yowie, how would you like to drive around town in the new 2016 Cadillac?
Auto experts rave: "Refreshingly American."  "Delivers opulence and a plush ride in a smart, innovative, high tech way." Auto Week says, "Long, wide luxury cruiser, delivering understated elegance at a price point where Germans offer only bare-bones mid size sedans." Auto said, "The most important car GM has made in years, and it's a winner at $53.496."

My Father had a full-sized, long, wide Cadillac Fleetwood with white sidewall tires which my kid brother wanted to drive.

Our Fleetwood Cadillac, represented the pinnacle of my Father's financial success as a business man, head and co- owner of a children's dress manufacturing company. We were "in the money" -- one of my sisters had just graduated from Antioch College, married, and had a baby. The other was about to marry into a local, well-known, large family -- my 17-year-old brother, six years my junior -- handsome, tall, blond curly hair -- was one of the most popular guys in high school, while I was studying dance, trying to establish myself in New York, as a modern dancer.

Dad, who loved music, literature, and art, did not approve of  my brother -- his slang, his pals, the music he played, or his flashy clothes -- especially the white buckskin  shoes he wore every day, and polished every night. (They looked like this photo.)

They argued a lot and it worried Mom.  Dad was taking medication for high blood pressure. Even so, we were a loving, close-knit family. Before my brother went off to college, he saved up his allowance and bought himself a second-hand convertible -- more than 10 years old, but still a snazzy car -- if you pressed the buttons and shoved a little, the top magically lifted off.

At Antioch College, in early April just before the spring break, my brother and a friend went canoeing. A woman saw the two boys, the upside-down canoe in the water, and called the police. The water was killing cold. They didn't find my brother's body till a week later.  It tore our family apart.

That summer my father had a series of small strokes. My newlywed sister didn't see much of my parents -- she and her husband did a lot of socializing with his family and ritzy neighbors. My older sister got involved with a young lover, separated from her husband, moved to NYC with her baby daughter, and worked for a publisher.

Daddy died that September. The Fleetwood sat in our garage till the Susquehanna river flooded about a year later, and Mom sold everything and moved to a much smaller house. I never saw the house. In New York City, I connected with a dance partner. We choreographed solos and duets and I started booking a tour of college campuses. We used money Mom gave us. With money she got from  Daddy's life insurance, Mom bought us a Chevrolet station wagon for our tour. While we were touring, Mom moved to a nursing home.

Life moves on. My older sister's daughter, who lives on the west coast is like my daughter now -- she  reads my blog and comments on it. One of my middle sister's seven children -- a daughter -- is on Facebook, but I have no contact with her or my sister's other offspring, though I'd like to know more about them. Also my husband's huge southern family -- I've never really fitted in with them. Even so, every August 22nd, I am aware that it's my brother's birthday. He never got to drive his convertible with the top down. I remember there were only three cars in his funeral chain, but a long, long line of cars that escorted Mom and me in a stretch Cadillac limo to Daddy's funeral.

That 2016 Cadillac -- the evolution of it -- that it's now more attainable inspired me to drive around in my past wishing -- wishing that my brother hadn't died, wishing the family hadn't been torn apart. 

Hey, why am I sharing this story? Why have I been thinking about the price of cars, studying photos of Cadillacs and convertibles -- like this old 1963 Beetle which belonged to Paul Newman -- it looks like the one my brother bought except his was yellow.
I'm not a car nut, but I have to say that Cadillacs have punctuated phases of my life. My Father's Cadillac continues to affect -- infect -- what I feel about family things in my life.


Carola said...

What a lovely transition between the story of the various cars and the story of your brother and your family.

AI Decisions said...

Automobiles have been a part of our generation, like computer games are part of the next generation. My first car was a 66 Mustang, my friend a 69 Corvette. My folks drove a Impala. Through the years in the military contact was poor, my family mom and dad, brother, and two sisters have never come and visited. I have had more visits from my ex-wife's family. My dad passed, a sister in law passed I have always been there. People change though EM, my mother would not let me date a Catholic when I was young, now my niece is a practicing one, and my mom approves. Hope you don't mind the rambling today.

Audrey's Fabric And Trim said...

Thank you for sharing Emily. I lost my younger brother when he had just turned 16. He had not gotten his driver's license yet. So, it is not a car that reminds me of when my family dynamic changed, but the electric guitar he played. I can still picture the posters on his bedroom wall of Jimi Hendrix, and KISS (Lead guitarist Ace Frehley, to be exact). I passed on his guitar to my son. Needless to say, every time I hear Jimi or Ace playing guitar on the radio or see his old guitar, it brings back memories. As you said, "infects - what I feel about family things". -Audrey

Unknown said...

Dear Emily,
What a touching and beautiful memory-filled story. thank you for sharing.