My parents were high school sweethearts. In fact, my sister wore my mom’s prom dress as a Halloween outfit one year – she was a clown. It was a hideous dress. My parents went to prom in my dad’s ’67 Mustang. They were married in 1971, had my sister when they were 20. I came along 3 years later.
My dad worked as a mechanic for many years. For pay, he worked with heavy machinery. In his free time, he worked on cars. He rebuilt many a car in our garage. He rebuilt the engines, painted them and put them on display in our front yard. Much to my mother’s chagrin. He had his girls right under the hood with him.
He bought another ’67 Mustang when my sister was in high school. It was her car until it went kaput shortly after we moved to Texas. She bought another car. And me…I was 15 that summer. I spent that summer cleaning car parts and working alongside my dad rebuilding the engine. I had to earn that car. And my first car was a cherry apple red Mustang. Sweet.
My dad did not receive his high school diploma, he was a bit of a brat, got mad and left school some time during his senior year. My dad was always embarrassed that he hadn’t finished high school, that he worked his ass off at lower paying blue collar jobs. The one recurring theme of my childhood was the expectation, the demand, that I go to college. And do better than he did. This was a mantra. I heard it probably once a week while I was under his roof. One of my few regrets is that I have not received my Bachelor’s. However, my dad is still proud of what I have accomplished in my career. I hope he realizes it is all his doing.
My dad was the youngest of 5. 2 girls, 3 boys. He was about 6 years younger than the next older sibling. Throughout my life, my dad has always been the one the others look to. He was the executor of my grandmother’s estate. Any family scandal or tragedy, my dad was called in to referee. When my cousin died a few years ago, there was a knock-down fight at her house among various family members. My dad was called in to break it up and calm everyone down. I was always fascinated that he was delegated the role of peacemaker, being the baby.
When I was 15, after living in the same town in Kansas all my life, we moved to a suburb of Houston. My sister has alluded to a few of the reasons behind this and some marital problems surrounding it, but I was completely unaware of this. I know my dad always loved Texas. Our only big family vacation was a drive down to Galveston where we stayed for a week. In retrospect, it was the best thing that could have happened to our family. My parents made a lot more money, we had a nice house in a nice neighborhood. My sister attended a great college. And well, my high school is probably the only negative thing to come of it….ha! That move, reviled as my dad was at the time, was the best thing that my dad could have done for our family.
Watching my dad now, as a grandfather, is fascinating. He gets teary watching my niece sleep on his Buddha belly. He tells me of his conversations with the cutie, repeating all the things she says. (This week, she won’t talk to Grandpa cuz he is smelly.) He hopes that I will settle back in Houston, so my parents can live in Corpus Christi, and be close to both his girls and his grandkids…and close to the water.
When I was growing up my dad was very hands off. I didn’t really know him. He stayed in his world, didn’t attend our school events, didn’t involve himself much. As we got older, I think he realized that it shouldn’t be this way. Now, once a week, I get a call from him when he is at lunch or driving home from work.
My parents are the example of what I want. The respect and deep love they demonstrate for each other is amazing. While I know it wasn’t always so, what they have now, after 36 years together, is what I aspire to.
I wish I could see him today. I am going to call him now.