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Wheeling And Dealing With Grandma Mart

Updated on May 27, 2014

A Trip Of Purpose

It was a chilly December day in South Carolina with a hint of drizzle as we made the short drive from Clemson to my mother's nearby home.

We had made the trip north from Florida, first to see our new great nephew, Grayson. We spent two days spoiling him!

It was then our plan to visit my mother, Grandma Mart, to help her purchase a newer car. She lives in the family home alone since the death of my father in April of 1995.

Her 1994 Lincoln Marx VIII, though only acquiring 37,000 miles in its sixteen years, had been giving a great deal of trouble and would no longer crank properly. Mechanics were certain it was an electrical problem but had been unable to find the issue, though they had tried many times. At the age of eighty, with the loss of her car, my mother had also lost her independence. She had called me several weeks before upset about her car. At that time, I promised to drive up and help.


Letting Go Of Flash

A Difficult Decision

I knew it would be difficult for my mother to give up the Lincoln because my father had purchased it the year before he died. It was a beautiful car with iridescent white paint and a light gray interior, totally loaded with all equipment adherent to that time. He called the car "Flash" and I had ordered a red tag sporting its name which was still hanging on the front bumper, as it had for sixteen years.

Therefore, arriving the day before, we went over to talk to her about spending the day with the dealerships downtown. Is was our hope to find a car that could, not take the place of Flash, but give her the service she so needed.


Our Task At Hand

Accepting Change

When first confronted with the prospect of the search, true to her Southern upbringing, she ask, "Can't ya'll just fi-nd one fo-r me and then bring it he-re for me ta' lo-ok at it? I'll NEED one with e-quip-ment! But remember, I'm on a fi-xed in-come and can't spen-d a lo-t!"

Oh, my, this was not a good beginning! I carefully explained to her the reasons why she needed to accompany us, keeping to myself the need she had to get out of the house and get some exercise. I also stressed to her the fact that car prices had certainly risen in sixteen years and extra equipment increased this price.

She finally conceded that the trip would be acceptable.


Handling With Care


So, this morning we were picking her up to begin our search.

My husband went to the door to get her while I waited in the car. I watched as he rang the doorbell and then waited patiently for her to maneuver with her four pronged cane through the house to open the door for him. Once she was on the porch, it then took her several minutes to find the right key and lock the door.

As she crossed the driveway, I could see that she was more feeble than at my last visit and gripped tightly the handle of her cane. But I also saw the same determination on her face that had carried her through life.

Several minutes later, she was slowly working her way into the car, as my husband held the door for her. Finally, we were on our way.


The Task Of Leading The Teacher

Remembering Their Needs

The first stop was at the KIA dealership, as per my sister's suggestion, in consideration of price and size. Though Grandma Mart liked the looks of them okay, she found them difficult for her to get into. And she kept saying, "E-d and I al-ways bought Amer-I-can made ca-rs."

Therefore, I ask if they had anything on the pre-owned car lot that was American made for her to try out. They found a Chevrolet that caught her eye nicely.

Oh, my! I knew my father's opinion of Chevrolets and did not desire a midnight visit from the "Spirit of Grandpa Ed!" He was an old fashioned paint and body man who knew and loved cars like the backside of his own hand.

Rather than tell her this, I went with her to try it out. After she drove about a mile, I took over to drive back. I found it to be stiff and the gas peddle difficult to press, with minimal visibility. It just wasn't the right car for her and I knew it.

However, knowing my mother's determination to decide for herself, I suggested that we tell them to let us think about it. I wanted to go to the Honda dealership to see what they had while we did our thinking. Thankfully, she agreed.


Discovering The Perfect Mobile Companion

It Takes Time To Find A New Friend

When we arrived at the Honda dealership, she chose to stay in the car and have us just drive through so that she could look. A red Civic caught her eye but it was a brand new Civic, top of the line, and she lost interest quickly as soon as she heard the price.

After several minutes, she decided to drive a lesser priced Civic. She found the same problem with it as with the KIA. It was difficult for her to get in behind the steering wheel. Also, the seats, which were cloth, were manual rather than power.

At this point, I walked over to the young salesman, John, and ask him if he knew of an Accord on the lot with low mileage, preferably in red. He left immediately to take a look at his inventory while we took her inside out of the cold.

Twenty minutes later, John returned with a huge smile and excitement etched on his young face. "I think I have found the perfect car for your mother and it is red!" He had already pulled it around to the front for her to see. His find was a 2008, one owner, Honda Accord with 50,000 miles in Dark Cherry Red.

I went to get her and, as we walked across the showroom floor, she spotted the red car through the window. "Oh, THAT's a pur-ty little red car out the-re!" When I explained that was the car she was to try out, she began to smile and move a little faster with her four prong cane.

The Accord was roomier and had power seats, so she could easily slide into the driver's seat.

Grandma Mart and John drove around the perimeter of the dealership, returning several minutes later. As I approached, I asked how she liked the car. "Oh, it's pur'-ty alright! And it drives go-od! And it has po-wer sea-ts! But, it doesn't have lea-ther..."

John immediately informed her that, if she decided she did not like the cloth seats, he could put leather on them for a minimal charge. With this, she seemed satisfied.

But I wasn't. I had spotted a paint chipped area and a dent about the size of a dime on the hood. I asked if they would agree to repair the hood as part of the deal. John agreed that this would be possible.

Once her interest was peaked, it was time to get down to the dollars and cents.


Side-Tracked In The Home Stretch!!

Waylaid to Micky D's

However, at this point, Grandma Mart said, "What ti-me is it? Is any-body hun'-grey?" So John suggested she and I drive the Accord and get Grandma Mart something to eat. My husband stayed behind at the dealership while I took her to get dinner. I ask her where she wanted to go, expecting her answer to be a nice restaurant. Instead, she said, "Is the-re a Mac'Don-ald's right he-re. I haven't been to Mac'Don-ald's in a lo-ng ti-me. Ed and I use-d to like to sto-p at Mac'Don-ald's." So, we drove the short distance to McDonald's to give her a chance to reflect before signing on the dotted line.

As we drove back to the dealership, I commented on how nice the car drove and how much I liked it, but reminding her that she had to decide for herself if it was the car for her. She promptly told me, "Jea-nie, slow do-wn! You're not us-ed to this car ye-t!" Isn't is amazing how they can take you right back to your childhood with only a few words!


And Now The Fun Begins

He's Wheelin' But We Aren't Dealin'!

When we entered the showroom once again, I turned to John and ask the price of the Accord. He quickly told me that the sticker price was $19,000 and I quickly told him that was too much! He asked me to wait while he went to talk it over with his manager.

As we sat at the table awaiting John's return, I watched as my mother placed her purse in her lap, folded her hands over her purse, and then began to stare out the window in thought.

When John returned to the table, he first asked about the Lincoln back home in her driveway. My husband then brought out the camera to show him photos of the car both inside and out. However, we stressed the point that the automobile would not crank at present time. John offered $1295 for the car. Of course, this was not acceptable either but we had just begun.

The price of the Accord had now been reduced to $17,900 with the trade in of Grandma Mart's Lincoln. I told him that I knew she would not pay that much for it.

At this point, I reminded him of the repairs needed on the hood of the Accord that must be worked into the deal.

So far, Grandma Mart hadn't uttered a word or taken her eyes off the window and the view beyond.

John went back to talk with his manager a second time. When he returned, we were offered $1900 for the Lincoln and the new price for the Accord was now $16,500. When I still said no, he ask if Grandma Mart understood the offer. I told him I would explain it all to her later. However, I knew, though she seemed to be looking out the window and paying no attention, he would soon be in for a surprise.

Again, John left to talk to his manager. We waited. His return offer for the Accord was 15,800 and we were told that was as low as he could go. When I ask for more on the Lincoln, he reminded me of the $200 it would cost them to repair the hood of the Accord. I said, "If you want to sell the car, the repair should be made at your expense."


Grandma Mart In Action!

The Oldster Verses The Youngster

At this point, Grandma Mart came to life. Though she may be slow of foot, there is absolutely nothing slow about her mind, especially where her check book is concerned!

She slowly placed her purse on the table in front of her. Then, she folded her hands on top of her purse and turned to look at John. "I will wri-te you a che-ck, ca-sh, for $14,000 and not a pen-ny more," she said calmly.

John turned to look at her with total surprise written all over his face. He stuttered a bit as he tried to tell her he couldn't go any lower. She said, "If you wa-nt to sell me the ca-r, you wi-ll."

Again, John went to talk with his manager. He returned with an offer of $2,500 for the Lincoln and a counter offer of $15,000 for the Accord. She turned him down flat and reminded him that she was paying cash.

At this point, he dropped to $14,800 as his bottom offer. She thought for a minute and then told him, "Okay, I'll meet you ha-lf way. I'll give you $14,500." John just looked at me, threw his hands in the air, and said, "Sure! Why not!!"

Okay? John came down $4,500 and Grandma Mart went up $500! Yeah, she met him half way?!!!

When John left the table, I turned to Mama, elbowing her and said, "That was good, Mama!" She just giggled and said, "I learn-ed from the Mas-ter!"


Closing The Deal

Will John's Manager Survive?

When John returned, he accompanied us to the Sales Manager's office.

My husband stayed behind in the showroom with another cup of hot coffee.

When we were seated, the sales manager first began to explain an extended warranty to my mother. The Accord already had a year left on the full warranty and three years on the power train, etc. The extended warranty was $995. I reminded him that her sixteen year old Lincoln only had 37,000 miles on it. He conceded that she didn't need the extended warranty and put the paperwork away.

He then ask if we would get the Lincoln cranked and bring it in to them the next day. Before I could answer, Grandma Mart spoke up, "We-ll, can't ya'll just come up and ge-t it?"

After what they had been through with her, they just said yes and left it at that.

Grandma Mart took out her pen and checkbook and began happily writing out her check for $14,994, inclusive of sales tax.

Once the payment was done and the paperwork signed, the manager told her to bring the Accord in on the following Monday and they would repair the hood. Grandma Mart again replied, "We-ll, can't ya'll just come up and ge-t it, fi-x it, and then br-ing it ba-ck to me? How am I goin' to get it do-wn to yo-u? That's what they al-ways u-sed to do for me and E-d. "

Again, they did not argue but agreed to do as she asked.

At this point, the General Manager entered the office to meet my mother himself, this determined little woman of eighty who wouldn't take no for an answer.

As we left the office, he looked at me and said, "You can go on back to Florida without worry. We WILL take care of your mother for you," and smiled.

I thought to myself, "Little do you know..."


The Perfect Ending

Elvis Soothes The Soul

Once outside, John talked to Grandma Mart, explaining he did an Elvis impersonation for nursing homes in the area and ask her what her favorite Elvis song was. Of course, she said, "Lo-ve Me Ten-der." John sang Love Me Tender to her right there in the parking lot. She was thrilled! The perfect ending to the perfect car shopping day.

I climbed into my own car as my husband took over the driver's seat of the Accord with Grandma Mart riding shotgun. He told me later that, as they were driving home, she turned to him and said, "Now I remem'-ber why I don't li-ke to ri-de with yo-u." He asked her why. "Be'cau-se, you tail-ga-te!!"


Carrying The Past Into The Future

Grandma Mart's Silver Lining

When we returned to Grandma Mart's house, my husband went out to Flash to remove any personal items from the car. He found a pair of my father's reading glasses still in the glove compartment. I recognized them immediately!

He handed them to my mother and she gazed at them with a big smile on her face. So, I suggested she have him put the glasses in the new car's glove compartment.

Grandma Mart said, with happiness, "Yes, that's a go-od idea!! I can ta-ke E-d 'rite on do-wn the ro-ad with me!"

I can hear my father now, as she places her foot on the accelerator, heavily applying the gas, as she always has, "Grandma Mart can't see and she can't hear! My life is passing before my eyes!"

Ya Gotta Love her!!!


Who Is Mom To The Zoo?

My Bio

Born in the small town of Pendleton, South Carolina, in 1950, I was the oldest of two, five years my sister's senior. It was a wonderful place to grow up where the entire town raised its children. I was always surrounded by people who loved and looked out for me. I graduated from High School with the same people who were in my kindergarten class. At 59, my childhood friends are still my friends. I feel so fortunate to have known such a childhood.

After college, I worked at Clemson University until May 1972. At that time, I married and lived in Glyfada, 22 miles from Athens, Greece for two years...via USAF. We then moved to North Dakota for another two years before returning to South Carolina.

We divorced after 16 years and two children. I married my best friend two years later and moved to Florida in 1988 and together we have raised my husband's son and daughter and my son and federal officer, one "stay at home" mother and wife, one sixth grade school teacher, and the other, after working for Florida Power and Light since age 19, is now with AT&T. In 1996, I adopted my step daughter. We are blessed with four grandsons and one granddaughter.

In 1999, we became foster parents with the Children's Home Society and had a number of children under our roof in the next 5 years. In 2001, we adopted a 13 year old girl, whom we first met at the age of 11, and is now 22. I also have spent more time in a courtroom than I care to think about, fighting for the rights of the children in our care. In 2004, I turned in my license so that I could be a full time Mom to our special needs daughter and keep our infant granddaughter five days a week while her mother was teaching.

Bill, my husband, is a retired USAF Air Traffic Controller. He is now working out of the country, on Ascension Island, with Computer Science Raytheon, as their chief controller, contracted out of Patrick AFB, Florida. This enables him to continue to do the job he loves, air traffic, and aid the military. He flies in and out on furlough and I handle things here at home. I jokingly call myself a Single Married Woman.

Actually, I am a retired Accountant/Credit Manager, now a housewife, where I enjoy writing, singing, piano, and sewing. I have had numerous poems and short stories published and have sung in churches and for church organizations for years, as well as weddings, a couple of variety shows, and even at my daughter's, and later my son's, weddings, one of the hardest things I have EVER done. We are members of Riverside Baptist church where I am a soloist and a member of the Women's Bible Study Group.

And, last but not least, we have two singing dogs. Joey, who is a two and a half year old German Shepherd who thinks himself a lap dog and Whisper, our nine pound, twelve and a half year old poodle, who thinks himself a Doberman.

I have been Mom To The Zoo since the morning after our wedding. My friend, Lee, who was staying with our four children and two dogs answered the phone from a sound sleep, "Hunt Zoo, Zookeeper Speaking."

My life has involved many changes and avenues that I would never have dreamed of and has given me challenges that I never thought I was equal to. But, I have found that God has a plan and, if you follow His lead, you can handle anything he puts in your hands. However, you have to first learn to listen to Him. No matter what we want from life, it must come in His time. He has given my husband and me more than we could have began to imagine back in high school and we have found that what we thought was so important for our futures back then was nothing to what we have done so far. I have learned from our foster children, to look forward to the future and the next challenge with enthusiasm and excitement. If they can trust and love us after what the world has dealt them, we can surely tackle whatever lies ahead with ease. Life is a series of learning experiences and I continue to find life to be both a challenge and a joy which grows with each passing year. I learn more and more about myself with each passing day!



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