My Father used to buy cars. A lot of cars. Broken down, busted up, P.O.S. cars. Usually VW’s. Always on the door of the great rusting field in the sky. He’d park them on the side of the house in a long row. This area was technically off limits, but rest assured that many battles were fought against mythical beasts and imagined armies.
It was a fort, a hideout, a giant clubhouse, and where I saw the inside of my first dirty magazine.
But the landscape was always changing. Evolving. This timeline of rust and oxidized paint.
The cars would move forward one by one into the future like plate tectonics and more cars would be added to the past. And each one would make its way into the garage. The land of curse words and flying tools. It was in the gladiator arena, that smelled less like sand and more like grease, that I learned to be a man.
Busted knuckles and loud music. And these cars would raise up on stands, and my father, like a surgeon, would open their insides and make them whole again. Slowly. With the time that he had. And the cars would heal and eventually purr to life. And then, one day, they’d be gone.
Some would stay longer than others. Some would be displayed like show ponies. But eventually, they all left. And all the while, I would watch from my graveyard of cars on the side of the house.
It wasn’t until I was older that we talked about it. Those cars. I always thought that this was just my dad’s hobby. Fixing things. It made sense. Anytime I needed something fixed from a toy to an angry heart, I’d take it to my father. And, I suppose, in a way it was.
I asked him about those cars once. Why he did it? Did he miss it? Why didn’t he keep them?
He told me that he never intended to keep them. That in his eyes, they were not cars. They were insurance policies. Rent. Food. Emergency house repairs. Peace of mind for my mother.
And it all became clear. My family struggled in my youth. A young couple. A hairdresser and an Air Force airplane mechanic. With two kids. Trying to make ends meet.
It was this line of rusted cars that made those ends meet.
It was bloody knuckles, loud music, curse words, and air heavy with sweat and grease that made those ends meet.
And any time the ends would not … quite … touch …
One of the cars would go.
My father doesn’t work on cars anymore. He doesn’t have to. He and my mom are successful. Comfortable. They worked hard to become so.
And I am proud of them.
He has traded in his wrenches for other hobbies. Traveling. Collecting military memorabilia on eBay. Watching movies.
But that row of cars will always live in my heart as the example of what it means to be a good man.
My father loves his wife. He loves his family. His knuckles have healed. And the cars have gone.
And he is still my hero.
My dad is a husband, a fighter, a survivor, a mountain man, a war hero, a father and grandfather to dozens who didn’t have one of their own; a firefighter, a medic, a collector, a wicked good shot, a teacher, and a friend.
He is also a mechanic.
And he is a good man.
Photo (Flickr CC) by ClicPhoto Studio