My father was a mechanic, not by trade, but by necessity. Whatever broke, my dad fixed, including his cars. His wealth of automotive knowledge was as vast as the tool set and parts he maintained in our garage. Preventative maintenance meant inspection, detection and correction and that required assistance…a sidekick. For that, my dad had a plan. Him and me, side-by-side…wearing matching mechanic’s overalls, wrenches in hand! The grease monkey version of American Gothic. A father and son working together on the family sedan. It doesn’t get any more Americana than that! I had a different plan. I called it “run and hide!” because I knew little about cars and even less about holding a flashlight steady. “Son of a sea captain!” my father would say as the wrench came off of the nut located deep within the bowels of the engine compartment. “Yes, Captain?” I inquired.  “Just hold the flashlight steady!” For whatever reason, my father enjoyed that time with me. He would continue to seek out my help. It was no fault of mine that his need to conduct quarterly vehicular maintenance conflicted with my need to conduct a quarterly cleaning of my bedroom closet! I often responded to my dad’s calls to meet him in the garage with silence. “Dads calling you, he wants you to bring him a flashlight.” I turned on the flashlight and slid the closet door shut, watching as my younger sister disappeared from view. [“Tell him I’m busy cleaning the dust off of the clothes hangers!”] But that was then and this is now. On this day, there was no running and hiding. He had cornered me in the living room. “To get started, we’ll put the car up on the lifts…I’ll drive…you just need to tell me when the windshield hits the tennis ball hanging from the rafters!” “And remind me to put the blocks behind the rear tires.” I nodded in recognition. “We’ll need to change the oil as well, which includes draining the old oil and changing out the filter. I’ll need you to get the oil drip pan down; it’s hanging on the wall above the ladder. We’ll wrap the old filter in a newspaper after we drain it…and we’ll need some rags. Changing the oil is the dirtiest part of the job, so don’t wear your Sunday best!”  My dad laughed and I laughed back in response. “Next we’ll change out the spark plugs and check the gap settings. The gap tools are hanging on the garage wall, next to the shelf with the extra spark plugs.” I shrugged my shoulders and kicked my feet! “We’ll also need to check the ignition timing to make sure that the spark plugs are firing at the appropriate moment in the ignition cycle. We’ll use the timing gun on the belt, but I’ll need you to rev the engine.”  I maintained eye contact as he continued on. “While the car is up on the lifts, we’ll grease the ball joints. We’ll use the hand-pumped grease gun. I’ll help you get it situated on the fittings.” I laughed again, not knowing why…he just sounded funny, but it didn’t seem to bother him. “Once we’re done with that, we can take the car down off of the lifts. I’ll let you back the car off the ramps and out of the garage onto the driveway. We can finish the work there…change the air filter, check the tire pressures…then clean up the garage.”  My attention on my dad was broken momentarily by my older sister, who had run through the living room. I had found that funny too. “Now you need to pay attention. Cleaning up and putting everything back in its proper place is important. Remember, if you’re going to do a job, you need to do it well.”  I looked at him and smiled. My mom entered the living room and walked over to my dad and me. “OK” she said, “That’s enough car talk…it’s time for his nap.” She took me from my dad’s arms and placed me on her shoulder…rubbing and patting my back. “He’s going to be daddy’s little helper!” my dad proudly stated to my mom. “That may be” she said. “Lets see how that goes once he learns to walk and run!” She placed me in my bassinet and covered me with my blanket. My dad got up, dressed in his mechanic’s overalls, and went out to the garage to run through his quarterly maintenance checklist. A few minutes later, his voice reverberated throughout the house…“son of a sea captain!”  There was no reply from inside the garage; but from the living room, down in the bassinet, a baby giggled in response to hearing the sound of his father’s voice.

5 thoughts on “Car Talk!

  1. This may be your best one yet.The details of the oil change procedure are perfect. I haven’t heard the phrase “son of a sea captain” since your Dad was laid to rest.That was his and his alone.I started out laughing as I pictured the garage scene and as you wrapped up the story by telling the world that your Dad was a nurturer as well as a teacher,coach , friend and Dad to his children has me in tears .Thank you from me and Dad.

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  2. I still remember when Dad would do the oil changes in the garage, changing spark plugs, etc and him saying the phrase ‘son of a sea captain’ when things didn’t go his way!! LOL Dad was capable of doing almost anything he set his mind to do!! He was amazing!! He taught us kids so much about life and life skills that we would need in our future!! He was our Dad and “My Hero”!!!! Miss you Dad!! ❤
    Again Another Great Blog Steve 🙂

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  3. My Dad and I would sort various old items, in the two story barn, that were left behind by the previous owner. We would then move the items to the other side of the barn. After a month or so, we would do it all over again. The local Methodist minister asked my brother why he never comes to church? He replied, “cause I have to help my Dad sort and move stuff in the barn”.

    Liked by 1 person

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