BACK in July 2018, I wrote a little piece for the SM website about my wife Sarah, her MG, the subsequent, reliefridden sale of said MG, and the creation of our progeny that followed. I finished the column with: “We were never sure if the MG was going to get us there, and right now, we’re excited as to where we are going”. Well, I’ve got to admit, that was a bald-faced lie, because at the time my wife was critically ill. In October, she died.
I really liked my wife. I mean, I loved her. At least twice; there’s evidence of that. But I liked her because we shared so many interests. I get really upset when fellas tell me they’ve had to sell their pride and joy because their wife made them. Or because they were told to ‘grow up’. Our hobby is just that, and selling something cool without 100 per cent mutual consent just reeks of imbalance. I’m not saying the kids should starve because Pops needs a grille for his HK Monaro, but unless the bank is at the doorstep baying for blood, why can’t a fella (or fellette) have a hobby?
Breast cancer is a savage beast; it took my wife apart piece by piece. She fought it for four years with some wins and losses along the way, but seldom was there room for frivolity. We couldn’t plan a holiday, and aside from the dailies, all car expenditure went on hold. But we lived and laughed as much as possible. We hung out with mates. We threw the kids at each other and sat back to watch the carnage. We had a quiet drink at Christmas and reflected on, at 3.5 years since diagnosis, how lucky we were to still have her around. By July though, the writing was on the wall; we didnt get a win after that and the disease kept chipping away until she simply couldn’t take another breath. On that day, my heart broke.
Sarah, it seems, was a rare one. She never demanded or even requested that I sell my cars. When I volunteered to do so, she reasoned: “They’re not costing us much; just keep them.” The laid-up insurance is cheap, and they aren’t registered, so as usual, she was right. All they were costing us is real estate, which we have plenty of.
That’s the mark of a good partner; she understood my passion and embraced my hobby. Actually, she embraced our hobby. She drove my old cars in cruises and festivals. She once sorted my Weber installation because I threw my spanners across the yard after realising I’m all shifters and no Snap-ons. She drove a 1967 Isuzu Bellett every day for a year because it was handy, plus of course, she had her wonderful MG.
As our family grew, her daily drivers reflected her eclectic automotive tastes; we had a 4.0 V8 Lexus LS400 for a lot of years, only parting with it when the electrics became possessed by the ghost of Nikola Tesla. We upgraded to a Singaporean-delivered 2009 Caprice with the 6.0L L98. Sarah was pissed when a lifter shat itself, necessitating a full engine rebuild, but she committed to it because she loved her V8 Holden.
By the time the work was done, she was too sick and sore to drive it. Upgraded with a cam and a mild tune with her blessing, she winced in pain when I tromped it for her just once, her left arm holding her head in place as her neck, weakened by metastatic cancer in her nearby lymph nodes, struggled to brace against the g forces. A wry smile said it all; she already enjoyed wasting fools at the traffic-light grand prix and the tickled LS was next-level.
It wasn’t just cars; music, movies and friends all had about a 90 per cent compatibility rate. Going through 20 years of photos, I’m astounded at what we shared – Foo Fighters concerts, Big Days Out, Grinners, Regurgitator, The Living End. Solid Gen-X rock ’n’ roll. We had a couple of good holidays too, including a monster trip to the USA where we hit a few car museums, then got pissed on the Mississippi.
We drew the line at TV shows. She outgrew the immaturity of South Park and Archer, instead focussing on Border Patrol, because endless footage of Asians trying to bring rancid meat into the country was somehow entertaining. But you know what? That worked, because while she was tutting and rolling her eyes at some harebrained German backpacker with an incorrect immigration visa, I’d stick the headphones on and spend the time writing for you guys.
So, what I’m saying is, you might not find a woman (or man) who is as deep into the cars as you are, but try to find someone who respects and enjoys your hobby. Someone who will suggest you take the classic out on a nice day. Someone willing to twirl a large Bakelite steering wheel and do an Austin Powers-like 40-point turn. Someone who, assuming you’re not going to force your kids to eat discarded cassette tapes for food, doesn’t mind you spending a few bucks on your ride every now and then.
Non-car people have hobbies too; crochet is one. So is knitting. And baking cookies. I don’t stand there and scoff at those interests and I expect the same back from the cookie crowd. But I’m not sure the crochet community is quite so, if you’ll excuse the pun, close-knit, because as Sarah’s life drew to a close, people rallied around to support us.
A group of friends took shifts in coming around, organising dinner, helping with the kids or assisting Sarah to the loo. When you’re only going once every 24 hours, it’s suddenly a priority. Without the help of the ‘Shifties’, I’m not sure where we’d have been. A lot less sane, that’s a certainty.
A good mate of mine, Jeff Hughes at Shannons Insurance, pitched in the only way he knew how; he organised a cruise. With involvement from Bill Galka of Coffee N Chrome Inc, along with James Koutlakis and Horsepower Crew, the Cruise For Sarah went off on Remembrance Day, 11 November.
The event was a short cavalcade of chrome and carbonfibre from the Mile End Homemaker Centre to Bonython Park. But despite the name, it wasn’t about the cruise; it was about the community. People came along not only to throw a few bucks in the tin for breast cancer research, but to pay their respects to a young lady taken at 39 and therefore way too soon. Some wanted to say they were sorry for my loss while others were content to simply park their cars on the grass and listen to tunes provided by acoustic duo Rachel Vidoni and Ben Whittington.
There’s a saying, ‘happy wife, happy life’, but it’s bullshit. My theory is, find someone that is the yin to your yang, black to your white, Paula Abdul to your MC Skat Kat. Form a symbiotic relationship with them, nurture each other, praise, love and fulfil them as they would you, enjoy their company and share many interests while ensuring there are differences, then hold on for dear life regardless of what happens. Maybe it was too perfect; I’m not sure everyone happy gets the life? chance, How but about I’m happy glad did spouse, for the happy time that house. had. s Happy wife,