Senior mothballs his driver’s license: Dad’s last exit

Last but not least, Jürgen wants to do everything that has accompanied him throughout his life. Go on a small, leisurely farewell tour. Twelve kilometers, never faster than 70. A short stop at the 1000-year-old church in Kirchwahlingen, where he was baptized and confirmed. At the old village school in Groß Häuslingen, which he left at the age of 14.


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Saying goodbye to Werner, his older brother. And finally, have the air pressure checked again by Michael Leibner, his master mechanic. With Jürgen’s cars, everything always had to be accurate. He never went to the doctor, he drove regularly to the workshop. The main thing is that the engine ran smoothly.

But stop with a dirty car? No way. And so, on July 1, 2022, he grabs my old children’s hand brush for the last time, which with its narrow shape is well suited for the storage compartments of the aging Opel Meriva.

Papa never had the “grey rag” issued on August 19, 1959 renewed.

Sweeps the center console where the batteries for Mom’s hearing aids are. And wipes dust out of the engine compartment, where a modest 90 hp have been working reliably for almost 20 years.

Senior leaves the car forever – the end came slowly

At some point in the past year, dad realized he was feeling insecure. Although he knew the province of Lower Saxony, where the streets are called “Im Tiefen Horn” or L 159, inside out.

Over the decades he had seen how the Federal Republic blossomed and cobblestone paths became solid country roads. How small birches to the left and right of it developed into mighty trees. And how our cars first wore FAL for Fallingbostel, then after the regional reform SFA (Soltau-Fallingbostel or from the point of view of the neighboring VER-dener “pigs drive cars”).

My father never repaired anything himself. And we always went to the authorized workshop for inspections.

Dad didn’t go along with the move to HK (Heidekreis) any more, he had bought his last car before that. But with HK in the middle of the license plate, which stood for “Holger Karkheck”, i.e. me. Others chose their own initials, papa mine – probably out of pride, I never asked him that.

Throughout his life he had been concerned about my sister and I, especially when driving. When we drove, he warned more or less subtly at neuralgic points: “I saw a deer here the other day.”

Papa belongs to the generation of the children of the economic miracle. And like so many, Papa’s rise was evident in the comfort and performance of his vehicles.

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Extra tour: Dad’s last exit

It all started with Dad with a DKW, a used 175 for 400 marks, bought right after the driver’s license test (“I did classes one and three in one day. I rode the motorcycle maybe 50 meters. The traffic signs were the same .”)
Hardly anyone had cars at the time. There were just 3.5 million in Germany, today there are 48.5 million. The DKW had chrome rims and Mom sat on the pillion.

“With a headscarf and her wide skirt blowing in the wind, it looked really nice,” says Papa. And his old eyes shine for a brief moment. Dad himself wore a hat. A helmet came much later. And much later another hat, see above.

They traveled to Holland by motorbike to see the tulips in bloom. At their wedding in 1962, they drove up in a VW Beetle, chauffeured by dad’s brother Friedel. With him and Aunt Else we went on a honeymoon. Four of us camping at Lake Constance. Two slept in the tent, two in the Volkswagen.

Our cars often smelled of animals – because dad was a butcher, dinging in the Opel from house slaughter to house slaughter.

Dad’s first car was a DKW, a used one with a revolver gearshift. When he took out the floor mats to clean, he discovered that the floor was completely rusted through. “The salespeople simply laid boards across it.”

He went with him to the federal government, which had a certain advantage: “My friend Dieter was drafted at the same time as me. I was in the kitchen and provided him with good food. And he was in the repair company and got me spare parts for my DKW .” Because the Bundeswehr’s all-terrain vehicle at the time was the DKW Munga – a lot fitted.

Dad stayed true to the Opel Rekord for a long time

Dad got his truck driver’s license from the federal government, became a butcher and drove field kitchens to the flood disaster in Hamburg in February 1962. And shortly afterwards, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he practiced emergencies with his MAN 13-ton truck.

Later, back in civilian life, Papa switched to Opel. He remained loyal to the brand to the end. Bought record after record, always large machines with a good displacement. He secretly dreamed of a Mercedes. But he never fulfilled this dream, he was too frugal for that.

“We never bought anything on Abstottern,” says Papa. The money was always taken in cash from the district savings bank and placed on the table at Opel dealer Erwin Leibner. For his own cars, my sister’s, my own. My father never cared about clothes, but never the car.

We never had textile floor mats. The rubber mats were always traded out at the end of the car purchase.

He decorated the radiators with horseshoes and hung old number plates in the garage like trophies. Throughout his life, he never scored points in Flensburg, nor did he ever receive “penalty mandates”, as he puts it, although the record with the 2.2-liter engine ran at over 200 km/h without any problems.

Later, on the weekends, Dad drove me to the disco, the “Studio 78” or the “Allerlei”. He then stopped in front of it, pulled the hood of his Bundeswehr parka over his head, cranked down the seat – and slept until I came back from partying to bring myself home safely. There weren’t any buses. Not even during the day.

Hitchhiker turned out to be an escaped convict

Once he even took a criminal with him. Ignorantly and out of charity, if you will. “He was hitchhiking on the street,” says Papa. During the journey, the man kept asking if he might know him. Dad said no, maybe that saved his life. Anyway, the guy was an escaped convict, as it turned out later.

Stories of a car life. Many vehicles, many anecdotes. And the end? Is that difficult? Dad thinks for a moment, then says: “No, I can see that it wouldn’t make sense to continue driving the car. And the same applies to mom.”

In the end, dad only drove short distances – the 2.7 km from Groß to Klein Häuslingen, for example to his brother Werner (86). He still keeps his car.

Life is coming to an end, so neither a major inspection by the internist nor spare parts from the dentist will help in the long run. At the end of his farewell tour, dad takes out the rubber floor mats again. He has discovered some sand on it, picks up the children’s hand brush again and carefully shakes off the dirt.

And then it’s closing time. Engine off, key out, door closed. The last curtain falls with the loud “clack” of the central locking. It almost sounds as if the old Opel would give its old owner a gun salute.

Dad doesn’t turn around again. He just hands me the old-fashioned key with the fixed beard – and says: “But don’t sell it too cheaply. It still drives nicely.”

Then he walks to his new home with his back slightly bent. A retirement home far away from home. But only 200 meters away from his new chauffeur. His initials are HK.

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