This morning my check-engine light came on. My little Camry is very reliable, but it is now fourteen years old (which seems impossible to me) and from time to time problems crop up. I wasn't terribly worried but called my mechanic, also very reliable, and arranged to bring the car in to be diagnosed.
The funny thing is that when I saw that check-engine light I immediately thought of my dad. "It's my Janny!" he would exclaim when I called him or when he'd call me. And then he'd say, "How's the car?" I suppose that phrase embodies the perpetual worry about their children that many fathers carry with them. It meant, how was I getting along in the world? Did I have what I needed to get by? Was I safe?
My parents divorced when I was small and I grew up without my dad under my roof. I saw him regularly but we didn't have a particularly close relationship. (Although many of my friends whose fathers did live with them report not being especially close to their dads, either.) I'm sure I was an adult before I gave any thought to what that was like for him. He was as much a product of the times as I was and I recall one of his oft-repeated mottoes was, "never cry unless there's blood" which seemed to reflect his dismay at having fussy children who bawled about everything. He also said, "eat what's near" because he grew up in a large, poor family and cleaned his own plate but spawned such thin and picky eaters it's a wonder we lived.
(Disclaimer: I apologize in advance to any of my siblings who might rightfully argue that they were not crybabies and that I, in fact, was the whiner. Whatever. Dad also told me that I got "the good feet and the good ears" and I'm not sure what special attributes he assigned to any of them but I have always been very vain about my fine flat ears and stunning feet.)
My old dad tried hard to teach me how to change my oil and a flat tire and put on chains. He could fix anything, build anything, and make anything grow. Understandably, he must have wondered how I would ever get by, especially when it became clear that there wouldn't be a man around to do any of those things for me. It may just have been a reflex to ask "How's the car?" but now I understand what it means to have a child wandering loose in the world without a dad to fix everything.
My dear mechanic just called to tell me that he's sorry but the Camry needs a lot of work. Of course I don't relish the idea of my meager, carefully guarded savings account sagging even more than it already is, but maintenance is as inevitable as heartache and my little car needs to last well into the foreseeable future.
|Dad would roll in his grave if he knew that Al Hart's Chevron was now a head shop. Sigh.|
So at least for now, Dad, the car's all right.