My car battery died today. I was trying to head back to the office after lunch today when I tried starting the engine. Click, click, click. The terminal sound of a battery on its last legs.
My co-worker was able to roll by with some jumper cables to help start the car. After I drove the car home, which was only a block away, she was kind enough to give me a ride back to the office (as opposed to making me walk that grueling mile down the street). Being a relative lightweight with cars and mechanics, I checked in with my dad to see what to do about the situation. We both agreed a new battery was needed. After work, my dad and I headed to Walmart.
Usually I have a hard time working on things with my dad. Whether it’s helping him out with computers or paperwork or what have you, I would always somehow end up frustrated. Part of me feels like he should know these things, that I shouldn’t have to teach him. Perhaps it’s a subconscious disappointment from the fact that he’s never really passed down any skill or bonded with me through a particular activity in my early childhood. Maybe I don’t respect him enough or have enough faith in him to carry out a task. (I imagine this is what it’s like to be lying down on a couch speaking to my shrink…)
So you can imagine my surprise when it came to my car. My father went the extra mile to do some research about the battery while I was still at work. Then when I got home, my father popped open the hood and diagnosed the car with me. He knew exactly where to go, what to change, and how to do it right. He showed me what parts to loosen and how to work around the tight spaces underneath the hood. After a dropped wrench and several minutes later, we were able to install the battery and fire up the car. What I had thought would be another test of patience ended up being something worth remembering–it was a good time of bonding with the old man.
I realized something as we finished up that night. I don’t think I give my dad enough credit. I hate how I put so much expectation on how he should be as a man, as my father, as my supposed role model. I hate how I’ve amplified all his past wrongs and how I would imagine him having done things differently. Sure, he’d be the first to admit he wasn’t perfect.
But at the end of the day, my father helped to raise our family with nothing more than a basic education and the American Dream, having to risk his personal safety in South Central and working six days for several years. And he loves me and my sister and my mom the best he can. I know he’s got my back.
It felt good to fix that car. It feels even better to fix a part of me. There’s still a lot of me that needs repair, but I’m thankful for a night like this.