I hop into my truck, turn on the CD player to disc one, song one and I hear “Moved on down to sweet home Alabama in 1974. Had to get out of Music City and I had to get off the road”, the opening lines to Hank Williams Jr’s, “Feeling Better” from his New South album released in 1977.
When people see me driving my dark gray 2005 GMC Sierra, crew cab, 4-door, 4×4 pickup truck I’m sure I look like any other guy driving any other truck.
What they don’t know and I, of course, wouldn’t expect them to is that this truck was my brother’s.
My brother, Jason, was my only sibling. Jason passed away February 16th, 2010 of a rare illness. I’ve written about my brother, his illness, being his caregiver and his passing several times over the past few years.
After he passed away the executrix of his estate, Julie, believed that Jason would have wanted me to have his truck. Julie was Jason’s first wife and the mother of his three beautiful children. Julie knew and appreciated the relationship between my brother and I. I think Julie was right; I think Jason would have liked for me to have his truck.
Jason and I were extremely close to one another. We could finish each other’s thoughts and make each other laugh till we wheezed and cried. We had our own shared sense of humor and inside jokes. We shared a love for America, politics, sports and country music. We were brothers. We were buddies.
To say that I love this truck is a understatement. It means the world to me. Its value to me has nothing to do with Kelley Blue Book. I really do understand that this GMC is just a truck. Someday it will rust or maybe have too many mechanical problems to repair and eventually I’ll have to get a new vehicle. I can tell you, though, I’m trying to care for, maintain and ‘baby’ this truck as much as possible and keep it operational for as long as I can.
Why do I work so hard to keep Jason’s truck mechanically sound and spotless inside and out? Because it’s a piece of him. I can sit in it and know he sat in this same driver’s seat. Sometimes I catch a scent that smells just like it did when I first rode in it with my brother in 2005 and how it must have smelled when he last drove it in 2008. I have many, many memories of being in this truck with Jason: Conversations. Laughter. Singing along with the music. Kids in the backseat. And many more.
Some standout moments:
Jason had a problem with Kenny Chesney. While riding along in his truck, he explained to me that Kenny needs either sing country music or what my brother called “boat music”; you just can’t combine the two styles. Kenny’s bare feet, tight jeans, tank tops and cowboy hat on the beach wasn’t something that sat well with my brother. Note: My brother was apparently wrong in this instance and would be disappointed to know Kenny Chesney has made a very good living blending country and beachy, boat music styles.
I can remember the drive when my brother introduced me to Shooter Jennings music. The song “4th of July” was cranked up loud and Jason’s young daughter, Madeline, was belting it out from the back seat.
I still smile when I think about times we listened to Tim Wilson’s comedy CD called “It’s a Sorry World”. And Roy D. Mercer CDs where he prank calls unsuspecting people. Jason and I laughed our wheezy, out-of-breath laughs until we had tears rolling down our faces.
I drove his truck to take him to doctor visits when he was sick but the memories that I cherish most are the ones that are still vividly clear in my mind from when he was healthy. The last time he and I were together when he was healthy we drove around contemplating getting matching tattoos but we couldn’t decide what tattoo we wanted to get and where to go to get it. All the while, disc one in the CD player is playing in the background. It’s Hank Williams Jr.s’ album, New South. We both sang along with Hank, Jr. when he sang, “Moved on down to sweet home Alabama in 1974. Had to get out of Music City and I had to get off the road.”