Tuesday, 24 September 2013 00:45

...And I Love Him For That

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family storytelling rainy road trip with father traditionAs I drove home from my cousin's house, my passengerand I had an odd tension between us.  Although you would think after 2 years of driving he would trust his daughter to keep him alive on the road.  But his posture said it all.  His eyes were glued to the road while his foot controlled an imaginary brake pedal.  Driving at night brought him anxiety at his old age because he eyes failed him when the sun went down.  He demanded that I switch to the right lane to avoid radical holiday drivers.  I reluctantly slowed down and moved over.

 

My dad didn't want to go all the way to Puyallup for Christmas Eve dinner.  He sat lethargically reclined in his ancient lazy boy, spending another weekend slothfully lounging around our house.  The recliner was situated in the living room of our modest rambler in front of the TV that quietly whispered golf scores in a way that hypnotized my Dad in and out of an afternoon nap.  I used this distraction to my advantage as I crept into his room and laid out his button up shirt and slacks saved only for rare occasions (it's not too often a mechanic gets dressed up).  I wanted so badly for him to give up just one night of his relaxation to go do something that was important to me.  I thought about the conversation that would take place between us.  I knew he wouldn't want to go, but that wouldn't stop me.  My brain churned with thousands of reasons why he should go, whether he liked it or not.  He had no good reason to just lie around; he had been doing that for the past two days.  He was being selfish.

"Come on, we only do this a couple times a year," I pleaded.

"I know, I just don't feel like it.  It's getting dark and I'm tired. I don't want to be out on the road on a night like tonight," he responded with irritation in his voice.

Deep crevices rested atop his worn cheekbones; the bags under his eyes told any onlooker of the many hours of overtime he put in that winter season.

"Dad, please, I will drive and you won't have to do anything but come and enjoy everyone's company, and your birthday isn't till tomorrow so you can't use that excuse!" I exclaimed, ignoring the weathered wrinkles and swollen ankles.  And with my assurance and offer to drive, he finally agreed to go.

Our bellies were full and the evening was a success.  We began our drive back to our house.  The winding freeway was bustling with cars carrying people home for the silent night ahead. Cars weaved in and out of traffic to expedite the potentially dangerous drive so they could find themselves safely in front of the fireplace with hot cocoa, awaiting the arrival of Christmas the next morning.

Rain spattered the glass with such force my windshield wipers were drowning in shallow waves of water.  The crisp blades slid across the surface with hasty intent, but failed to execute the task.  The gushing rainstorm was too much for even the newest wipers.  I strained my eyes to see through the wall of water only to fnd my depth perception falling short.  It seemed as though I was all too quickly approaching the car in front of me.  I laid into the brake with uncertainty.  My speedometer let out a sigh as our pace decreased, better safe than sorry, I thought.

As we rounded a bend in the road a vibrant orange warning was placed on the right shoulder containing one word: Bump.  A simple word to help prepare a driverfor what was to come.  Before I knew it, the cars in front were no longer letting up on the gas, but instead slamming on the brakes.  With very low visibility I could only see the aforementioned "bump" once we were too close.  I had no time to react to the gargantuan pothole that we would be flying over at 50 miles an hour.  It was a deep, yet rigid, hole that could only be blamed on constant erosion by fast moving vehicles tearing at the edges.

In a panic, I followed suit with the drivers ahead and shoved my fancy pink shoe into the pedal.  As we wailed into the pothole, it sounded as though our entire front bumper had been smashed into the ground.  I thought without a doubt our entire car fell off its hinges; the impact was so jolting.

We careened forward and as I struggled to gain control again, my dad yelled at me to move to the shoulder.  I parked and tried to gain composure.  I turned my head in my dad's direction wondering what the repercussions would be, only to find that he, too, was at a loss for what just happened.  I looked out my windshield and gathered that we were not the only ones with tragic fortune that night; amber lights flashed incessantly up and down the shoulder.  There were at least 30 other cars ahead of us parked, recovering from the same unexpected obstacle.

The rain continued strong as I turned the car off and prepared to assess the damage with my dad.  We stepped out into the night, vulnerable to the frigid rain and rapidly passing cars.  It was a dangerous scenario to be so close to the edge of the road with chaos around.  Yet I was comforted as my dad popped the trunk and got to work finding our spare tire.  All tension from before was released he knew it was not my fault we hit the pothole. In fact, he knew that we would not have been in that lane if it weren't for his advice.

family storytelling rainy road trip with father traditionHe grabbed the spare tire and the jack from the trunk and hobled to the front right wheel.  As I shakily held the flashlight, he worked on bended knee in the massive puddle to remove the destroyed tire. As his fancy slacks soaked up the water, he worked as quickly as his aging hands would allow.  There were complications with the installation of the spare that required him to lie on his side and reach to the underneath of the vehicle.  His once shiny shoes and nicely pressed shirt were becoming dingy and drenched and his slacks continued to drink up the rainwater.  He didn't notice the moisture seeping into his clothes as he worked on our car.  Nor did he worry about the rain flooding down his neck as he walked to the car parked ahead of us.

"Can I help you?" my dad asked the woman behind the wheel of the sedan.

"We're waiting for Triple A to come save us and fix our flat tire," said the woman, shrinking back at the cold sensation of rain intruding through her rolled down window.

He gladly informed them there would be no need for that and got to work changing their tire for them.

As I watched him work, I felt a lump swelling in my throat.  My heart felt heavy and tears filled my eyes to the brim, mixed with the rain and washed down my face.  His selflessness manifested itself through his swift service that night.  He should have been lying in his lazy chair, but instead he was there with me, lying on the cold, wet ground doing what he had been doing five days a week, day in and day out for 25 years; fixing things that needed fixing.

We quickly walked back to our car to begin our trip home on our spare tire, only to find that the spare we had put on was of no use in its present condition.  The car rolled unevenly on the apparently flat spare tire he had just attached.  He pulled the car over, and called a tow truck.

When the truck arrived, I climbed into the cab; it smelled of dirt and car oil.  The distinct odor reminded me of my Dad's shop where he spentso many long hard hours repairing broken things to support his family.  I scooted to the middle of the cab, uncomfortably close to the cigarette scented driver.  My Dad followed close behind and worked his way onto the seat, settling his creaky body into the dusty cushion and closed the passenger door.  I moved as close as I could to his cold, damp body, and rested my head comfortably on his shoulder. We rode in a mutual and peaceful silence.  I looked up at him to find that his eyes were heavy, but he was awake and alert.  My gaze did not catch his eye; he kept looking straight ahead to the road.  I took a mental picture of his face that would stay with me for years to come.  He was there beside me, happy to be inconvenienced if it meant I was content.

As the clock struck midnight that Christmas Eve, my Dad turned 60 in a tow truck, and I love him for that.

What was one of the greatest moments you had with your dad? (for more ideas, check out our Tribute to Mom or Dad story starter)

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 October 2013 11:39

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