Father’s Day

We had two driveways, separated by a long row of hedges that flowered in late May. In the fall, brown leaves slid across the shiny blacktop that sloped down and left near the basketball. We had a two car garage. That was once the standard. Now I suppose it designates the property as a fixer-upper. Nevertheless, with all of that black top we always kept one car outside. My dad used most of his side for tools. He had a tool box with wheels, Snap-On Tools calenders. Bosch and Castrol — Sebring 94! The works.

Dad had a wooden board with wheels that he used to slide underneath our cars with when he fixed things. I’d stand there. Mainly, I did nothing useful. It looked like the scene in the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy lands on the Wicked Witch of the East. Just a pair of feet. Except there were no ruby slippers. More likely, it was a pair of Bass Weejuns and some paint stained khakis. No socks, so that you could really see his skinny pale legs.

Dad’s hand would jut out. Get the 3/18ths Lassiter!!! Don’t just stand there! Its next to the ratchets, by the Hanover Set.”

Then his figures would snap. And snap. And then his wrist would rotate while his finger jutted out to the back of the garage.

“Uh,” I’d say, “where do you mean, specifically?” Because basically there were hundreds of tools in that garage. Each one was soddered with his code number. They all looked like they were in the Hanover Set.

The feet would pull a body out from under the car about now.

My father would emerge, his fingers dripping with oil, his white t-shirt so worn as to resemble gauze, and look puzzled. I think he wondered how someone could be smart in school, and never bother to find out how an engine works.

He would hold an oil filter gently, considering its manufacture more as an effort at art than as an example of blind reproduction. Did it have a good seal? Would that gasket last? He’d pour a few drops of oil on the seal. Those fingers, already oiled, spread the viscous clear liquid evenly across the circumference.

Pretty much I was quiet at this time. I could hear his breath. Always heavy. And the fresh scent of Speed Stick.

He would set that filter down in the crook of the hood. He’d take his glasses off, blow his nose like a fog horn, wipe his forehead with a cloth diaper, and expound.

It could pretty much be anything from the canon of Awesome Pieces of Fatherly Knowledge. They rotated. The effect was something akin to classic records in a juke box. Few new ones were ever invented.

Here are ten all time Faves:

1) Shift down, stay off the brakes, accelerate through the curve.
2) Get with the program
3) Order the adult donut
4) Don’t smoke those damn cigarettes
5) Just make sure its from my store. And, get your gig line straight.
6) One Day at a Time
7) The job expands to fill the available time.
8) Adoption would be a good thing for you to think about. It is nothing to be afraid of.
9) We have more than some, less than others.
10) Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.


One Response to “Father’s Day”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Adam,

    I enjoyed reading your memoir of dad, however as another one of his children, I must suggest a clarification.

    I don’t recall any sliding board on wheels, but instead, Dad inching under the car right on the pavement and coming out with his threadbare Hanes t-shirt covered in those little twirly seeds that fall from the trees.

    I also noticed you changed the brand of shoes he wore on those weekend afternoons. I don’t remember the brand either, but I can definitely picture them. They were older than me, a beige suede style with a thick rubber sole and a whole lot of paint. I want to say he got them in Colorado. The sockless weejuns were FBC attire.

    And do you remember the waterless handcleaner? He’d always use it at the side sink after coming in the kitchen saying to Mom, “Hey Lady! I fixed your…” and threatening to give her a big sweaty, greasy hug and kiss. She loved that.

    Well, I hope you have a happy father’s day. Just think, you too are leaving these quirky little impressions on John and Rosie.

    Love, Gretchen

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