When I was a kid my dad had a Camaro.
Before you get too excited, it was a beater. I hated this car. I was 10 and had already discovered the necessity of “cool”- this car wasn’t it. 1967 body with primer grey and rust accented exterior, ripped up black leather seats (the front passenger seat missing) completed the visual affront. A rowdy muffler announced my arrival or departure at school for all to witness.
My dad was so proud of his car. He’s a car guy. When I was 5 or 6 he started to show me under the hood so I would understand how things worked- and before gender specificity set in I wanted to be a mechanic like my dad. This was his fantasy car and “when he won the lottery” he was going to fix it up like it used to be. There is something emotional about owning a car, a freedom, an identity.
He normally kept it in the garage, but recent years were lean and we couldn’t afford a new car when the last one died. My 5th grade ego was tired of being teased and I was quite honest about my contempt and its perceived effect on my popularity regardless of our financial means.
One day I steeled myself to walk out to the pick-up line after school and meet my fate, but didn’t see the car. I looked around and saw my dad standing at the top of the hill up the block; his ripped jeans and black skull t-shirt stood out among the moms waiting for their kids.
I walked up to him, “Hey Dad, where’s the car?”
“It’s at home. It broke down so I had to walk here.”
Of course it did, I thought silently.
I was relieved for the reprieve. A large group of us began to walk home, my dad bringing up the back talking with different kids. Slowly the group dwindled as kids began to peel off toward their homes. About half a mile into the walk he suggested we stop and get ice cream. No Camaro AND ice cream on the same day!
We got our treat and continued to walk for a few more blocks when I saw the Camaro. My dad pulled the keys out of his pocket.
“I thought you said the car broke down at home,” I asked.
“I know you don’t like the car, so I decided to walk today.”
I have NEVER felt more like an asshole in my life.
I learned an enduring lesson about loving people and sacrifices we proudly bear because of love that day.
My father appears to be a rough man, but would help or protect anyone in need. He doesn’t often tell stories, but when he does his face lights up and you imagine you are right there in the thick of it. He taught me how to fight and have situational awareness as a little girl so I would be safe when he wasn’t there. He watched as I learned hard lessons about people and never said “I told you so,” he was just there, silently supportive. At 17 when I had my own beater, I was the only girl (school uniform and all) who knew how to change tires and my friends and I never got stuck anywhere, because he made sure I knew how.
He taught me many silent ways how to care for others: teaching without judgement, providing, lending a hand. He has probably taught me things I haven’t even discovered yet. His example helped me become who I am and to be able to approach EMS, my brothers and sisters, and patients with open hands looking to help. I hope I end up being half the person he is.