Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Every Father's Day I have the most difficult time selecting a card for Dad. My dad isn't and wasn't into fishing. He's not a golfer. He pretends to care about football or baseball games simply to keep up with current events. He's never been a TV remote control monopolizer, which rules out those cards with a funny-faced balding man gripping a beer and remote Al Bundy style. The cards with a cartoon dad wearing a funny hat and apron, manning the grill just wasn't him either. Nope, my dad was a German car fixer-upper.
Dad was all about his cars. He ran the auto shop and driver ed classes at his school before becoming a department chairman years later. Most weekends, Dad would be laying under a random foreign car while Mom cleaned the house and prepared dinner. My job as dinner informant required me to head out to the garage to let him know it was time to wash his hands and come in.
"Macaroni's ready, Daddy. Did you know that I'm really sick of macaroni?" I'd say to two coverall-clad legs stuck out from under the latest old Porsche or VW he was restoring. Dad's hands would get so greasy from working on cars that he always used this special wax stuff to clean his hands before coming into the house. Mom would point out the fact he always managed to use the "good" towels in the process.
Unless he was working on a friend's car, Dad never seemed to be a fan of American cars. Sure, my mom always drove an American car (before Honda and Nissan were popular) but not Dad. Every few months, he had a different VW, Mercedes or Porsche.There were always different cars in our garage or driveway and I loved investigating them.
I'd open the glove compartment and go through the backseat and trunk checking to see if the original owners left anything behind. I might pretend to drive them or just sit in them for a few minutes. Once we had a VW camper. I don't think we had it very long. I invited a friend over and we were going to spend the night sleeping in it. We enjoyed our dinner on the foldout table and played a few rounds of Chutes and Ladders. Then after about an hour we were afraid a bear would attack us, so we slipped back into the house as soon as it got dark. I didn't believe my parents when they said there weren't any bear sightings in our Western Nassau neighborhood which had more concrete than trees, but hey, ya never know.
It was great going for rides around town with my family in the summer because many of the cars were convertibles. Dad proudly showed off the results of his latest fixer-upper while taking us to a free summer concert or to get ice cream. There are so many photos of me standing in front of his latest car of the month. Typically after a few weeks, we'd have to say goodbye to the vehicles. That was the hardest part for me.
One little red VW Bug was my favorite. I remember my dad showing it to a woman and telling her how great it ran, etc. I decided to step in and stop the sale from going down. I think I told her, "Lady, you don't want this car. It's just not good for you." They both laughed and my dad shooed me away and told her I was really attached to that car and not to pay me any mind. The car was soon sold.
Going through my mom's photo albums today, there are dozens of pictures of German cars from the '70s and '80s setting the backdrop of our first days of school or a BBQ in the yard. There are pictures of my mom and brother helping wash a car in the driveway and others of my dad happily leaning against his machine of the moment. There's a green bug, an orange bug, a silver Porsche, a yellow Porsche, the list goes on... Today my dad only owns about three cars now and he's promised to let us drive his 1992 convertible Mercedes when we visit him next month in Florida.
My little brother in my fave red convertible Bug.