So… this lady can drive Grandpa Truck’s stick shift

by Denise Dykstra

Inside Grandpa Truck, shifting gears.

When I was young, my grandpa would take my brother and me to school.  He had this odd colored green pick up.  It seemed giant to me and I would slide in next to the shifter.  My feet wouldn’t even touch the ground and I would be very careful not to accidentally kick the shifter on the floor.

I would watch in amazement as Grandpa seamlessly shifted the gears.  My brother and I knew that if we could beg him enough (and it didn’t take much), Grandpa would drive over one little knoll on the way to school fast enough that our little bottoms would lift in the air as we crested the hill.  We would giggle at Grandpa’s speedy truck and we would promise we would never tell he drove us so fast over the little hill.

Years later, my grandpa passed away and the little green truck would get a bit of a work out now and again to haul firewood around but pretty much it sat around and rested.

That was until years later when our oldest son headed off to college and my grandma gave the keys to him to drive back and forth to Ohio.

I name my vehicles. I can’t help it, because they seem to be such a part of the family.  Currently, I am driving “ShipsiBurban,” the suburban we purchased from a family of girls in Shipshewana a few years back.

And our oldest has my odd knack of naming vehicles and has deemed the little green truck lovingly “Grandpa Truck.” He is still working on finding a decal to put on the back window so all can know the name of this faithful pick up.

When it was time for the boys to head to Fish Camp, we decided to send our oldest with our suburban so that he could more easily pull the boat.  So I handed him my keys.

“Ma,” he grimaced, “your suburban smells like girl!”  He grinned mischievously, “No problem, I’ll have it smelling like boys by the time we get back.”

Thank you, dear son.

And I was handed the keys to Grandpa Truck.

 I really didn’t need much of anything while the boys were gone for the week so I didn’t expect to need to drive the truck. Until I did need to drive it.

One of my best friends suddenly had a free morning and asked if I could meet her for coffee. She has been insanely busy and this free time was a straight up gift and I knew it well.  YES was an easy answer.  Then I got to thinking about shifting as I merged onto the highway.  I thought of a plan to drive on the back roads but the thought of stopping and going so often worried me and I considered canceling.

My triumphant arrival in Dorr with Grandpa Truck.

I had to have a serious talk with myself.  There are few people in this world who love Grandpa Truck as much as I do.  My first truck was a stick shift and while that may have been more years ago than I wish to mention, I realized I needed to face my fears head on and drive that truck.  No one was going to care for Grandpa Truck and baby it as much as I — or my son.

Images from the cartoon movie “Onward” played in my head as I started up the truck and did not stall (yay, me!) out the driveway.   I smoothly shifted through all four gears and overdrive as I merged onto the highway.  And when I pulled into the parking lot to meet my friend, I was straight up giddy with myself.

I called our oldest.  “I drove the Grandpa Truck all the way to Christine’s and never stalled once!” I squealed into the phone to my son.  He knew well the distance I had traveled.

“Great job, Mama!” he congratulated me.  I beamed as I hung up the phone.

As I shut the door to Grandpa Truck, I swear I saw myself as a little girl beaming back at me and smiling at my Grandpa who loved this truck so.

What is it about a vehicle that brings such heartfelt emotions to us?

I realized had I not faced my fears I would have missed this moment.  I’ll never forget this trip to meet my friend for coffee. Facing that fear head on and merging into the traffic brought such joy. I am so glad I did.

Tell me, do you remember your grandparents’ vehicle?  I know full well what a gift it is to be able to drive my grandfather’s truck still. Do you still have a vehicle you drive that you once rode in as a young child as well?


  • Denise, as usual, you evoke in me wonderful stories and memories of my own. (I sure do enjoy reading you each week.)
    My Ma and Pop both would treat us girls with those nifty, fast rides over known and anticipated bumps in the road. (That was back in the 50s and 60s.) They each drove a Plymouth stick shift. Pop’s was an old, black sedan (looked like a gangster car to us) that he called Old Joe. Ma’s was a snazzy, two-tone green sedan (with stylish, minimalist fins) that she called Josephine. When they would crest those little knolls in the road, and our bottoms would rise off the seat, we’d all cry “Thank You, Ma’am!” And to this day my sisters and I will cry “thank you, ma’am” when we drive too quickly over a bump in the road!

    • I can’t tell you enough how much fun it was to read this!

      Vehicles and these memories are magical, are they not?

      Josephine for your mom’s car sounds absolutely wonderful. My dad had an older black car we called the gangster car!

      I love when people name their vehicles.

      Thank you so much for sharing this. It brought a big smile to my face.

      (And thanks for the compliment and for reading!)

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