Monday, June 22, 2015

The Day After Father's Day

Above is a picture of my father’s ‘72 Chevy pick-up. That’s me at the wheel. I like that truck, like driving it, like the smell of it, like the feel of it, like everything about it. The only thing not to like is that Dad isn’t around anymore. He died suddenly this past February and I don’t suppose there’s anything or any amount of time that’s going to get me over that.

This weekend was Father’s Day and many good people wrote or called to say that they were thinking of me and how difficult this first one without him would be. The word most often used was “bittersweet.” It is good to have such friends and I am humbled by their love for me. If I have neglected to thank any of them for their kindness, I hope they will read this and know how much it meant to me.

Saturday, knowing that it would be a challenging weekend, I drove down to my brother’s garage where all of his and my father’s old cars are kept. Truth be told, those cars are all my brother’s now, but I know he’d be okay with me calling some of them Dad’s because that’s what they will always be. That garage is filled with my father. His tools, the ancient cabinets, the accumulated stuff of his seventy-six years. My brother would no more change from thinking of the cars as my father than he would clean the garage of all his stuff. I traded my car for the blue truck and drove away happy.

I don’t drive the the truck fast. Probably drives people crazy. It’s not that I’m worried about it or feel that I have to baby it. Dad and my brother both believe that cars, any cars, are meant for driving. No, it’s just that I slow down in every way when I’m in the truck. I’m in no hurry to arrive anywhere because I’m already there.

The plan was to deposit the truck back in the garage Sunday evening and retrieve my car for the work week, but no, I kept it and feel good driving something I like so much.

This morning I wrote the following to my wife in our morning email:
Something about an old blue truck
Rumbling through the morning
Slowly travelling the elevated highway
A ghostly passenger at my side.
Yesterday I posted this to Twitter:
Father’s Day I remember Dad. Fondly. No tears or sadness.
I drive my girls in his old truck. Just like he’s there.
But it’s me. #25wordstory
When I get in the truck by myself I say quietly, “hey, Dad,” and sometimes ask, “how’s it going?” because I really want to know. He hasn’t answered, but when I put the key in and turn, the engine roars to life in a way that would have made him satisfied. Hell, I can see him smile every time.

On the way home from work today I thought of him some more and realized again that I have no doubt of the love he had for me. It got me thinking about my daughters and making sure that they have no doubt about my love for them. Then I remembered driving them around this weekend in the truck, how it makes them both a little silly. I remembered the happy smile on my oldest when I said that I was going to get the truck. I remember my youngest saying, “we should drive this more often, like all summer.” There’s a subtext to all those comments and, if I’m reading correctly, they it says, “we know your love for sure, Dad.”

My brother is awfully happy that I have stolen the truck from his garage. He’s going to put a new muffler on it soon mostly because he knows that I don’t like how loud the truck is — Dad was a fan of such things — and because he wants me to drive it more. Maybe he knows what peace it brings to me. Maybe it brings him peace to know that I’m driving it. We both know it always made Dad feel good to have me behind that wheel. Driving his truck was a symbol of love in both directions.

I have to carry on both sides of the conversation with Dad now. He wouldn’t mind. He was glad to have others talk, especially me. He would be happy to be along for the ride. Here’s the keys, he’d say, and climb up in the passenger side knowing that he had trained me to drive, that it was time for me to take his place at the wheel, and that no matter where we were headed it was just good to be together.