I waited for that phone call every day…I’d pick up the phone, and he’d ask, “Do you need anything from town?” I had already asked my mom this question, because I knew he’d call, and I wanted to be prepared. “Ice,” I’d say, or “a couple of tomatoes.” That phone call meant he was only ten or fifteen minutes away, on his way to our house, and dinner, and us.
Sometimes he’d bring work home, and he’d let me help out, counting things or initialing things or putting tiny checkmarks by this column or that. Sometimes I’d go out to his office with him, and I remember the smell of the paper and the ink, and the oil. Once he let me drive his company truck through a wide, wide gate, that at the time seemed impossibly narrow. He laughed at my stops and starts.
When it was time for me to learn how to drive, he took me out in Rollover Beethoven, our old green pickup truck. He was constantly flustered because I’d forget to check my rear-view mirrors, or because I was so intent on staying on my side of those yellow lines that I’d get dangerously close to parked cars, our side mirrors just missing each other.
He took me out in Betty next, my old Volkswagon Rabbit Cabriolet, a convertible, which he had meticulously restored and re-painted a glorious teenage-red. He laughed when I popped the clutch, and calmed me down when I was near tears because I was afraid I’d roll backward into the car behind me at a stop sign.
He took me fishing once, just the two of us. It was cold and windy, and all I caught were a few tiny perch, but he let me keep them, and when we got home my mom fried them in cornmeal and put them on a plate, just for me.
He let me tag along to his classic car shows, where I proudly stood in front of his pickup truck, letting everyone know that it was a 1955 Cameo, and that my dad had done all the work, thank you very much. I buffed and polished the paint, and learned every word to his favorite songs from the fifties.
I was always amazed at how much he knew…he could make a car out of nothing, he could build anything out of wood, he could draw, he had perfect penmanship, he could bait a hook and grill a burger. He came to my school once, to talk to my class about his job, about oil, about drilling. I was so proud, but all I could do was giggle.
When we’d drive to Mexico to visit my great-grandparents, he’d tap his fingers on the wheel and belt out old tunes. He’d point out an old tree, and we’d discuss how old it might be, and what history it might have seen. He translated for me as we sat with my great-grandpa, who would tell stories of the revolution and Pancho Villa.
He’d entertain me at church when I’d get bored with the homily…he’d take off his watch and show me all its inner workings, or we’d play with his pocketknife.
When I was a teenager, he offered advice and listened when I told him I didn’t need it. He came to my award ceremonies, even the the silly ones in which I got a thin slip of paper acknowledging my perfect attendance.
He drove me to college, he watched me graduate, he walked me down the aisle. He didn’t complain when I made him dinner in my new grown-up house…I fed him salmon and field greens, and he only joked once about the “weeds” on his plate.
He still lets me sit on his lap.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I miss you.