You know your dad isn’t forever, right? I remember the first time I realized he wouldn’t always be there - a sudden drop in weight thanks to a hyperactive thyroid thinned Dad out, made him seem less substantial. He bounced back of course, but it shook me up for a while. He was always just there, the rock, the oak, the sounding board and the guy who could fix anything. But not forever.
Earlier this year, we took a trip together in his 1967 MGB, a car we’ve owned since I was about eight months old. We went the distance together, dealing with the odd mechanical issue (it’s a British car: they don’t like Irishmen having too much fun), talking about the past, looking to the future.
They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Mostly, thank goodness for that, as I wouldn’t want to load my own young kids into a ‘B and expose them to surging modern behemoths and their smartphone-distracted mahouts.
But as we traveled together, little previously-unheard stories percolating up from my father’s youth, I felt pretty damn lucky. Many people don’t get this chance to reconnect, some miss it, some never had it, some don’t want it.
Father’s day is just on the horizon now, and it has a deeper meaning for me now that I have kids of my own. You understand better the sacrifice of time and sanity it took to keep things going. It’s all a fragile moving craft requiring constant vigilance and occasional tinkering to keep on the right track - not unlike a British Leyland product, come to think of it.
Some weeks after our journey, my second daughter arrived, a whole new world of sleepless nights and work. Fatherhood, at least of the very young, is exactly like a game of whack-a-mole. Crisis! Whack! Tantrums! Whack! Diapers! Whack! It’d be pretty good training if you wanted to be a professional juggler or an air traffic controller.
But back to the MGB, a vessel of steel, glass, and rubber, carefully restored and held together over the distance by the work of skilled hands. It won’t last forever. Dad won’t last forever. I won’t be here forever either. But at the end of our trip, I took a photo of my eldest daughter in front of the car, proudly beaming and waving, and taught her to say MGB. Maybe someday in the future, she and I will ride in this machine together, and I’ll say remember when?
She might not remember the moment, the instant, but I know she’ll remember the man. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. You showed me how to hold things together.