There are times when I feel the need to throw my Dad a bone and give him credit for all the stuff he has done for me over the years. More and more, as I help my own children out with various emergencies, I understand what it has been like for him to help me. Not once did he balk when my car acted up or broke down. When I needed his experience to replace the flooring in my house, he was there. If my water heater sprung a leak or an appliance acted up, Dad had faced the same challenge at some time. He was and has always been there, always found a way to fix or replace whatever ailment or home improvement challenge I have had.
There was the time I called him one winter morning from a rest stop outside of Springfield, Missouri. I was on my way home from college. The timing chain on my 1972 Plymouth D(R)uster had failed. Dad tossed a tow chain in the back of his truck, drove five hours to find me, then towed the car home. He found a way to fix the car on his own, including replace the distributor and set the timing. What he couldn’t fix, he helped me to figure out on my own or he found a friend who could help. There were several similar incidents with my vehicles, including a blown engine that we replaced after finding a replacement engine at a junkyard.
I would like to think that I learned to deal with the same kind of challenges in a practical way from watching my father. Dad never showed frustration with me or anyone else when a problem occurred, at least not to my face. Whenever I asked him for help, he always responded with a calm “let’s see what we can do”. He still does. He is not a mechanic, not a tech, has learned from experience what he can’t or can not do, has found a good balance between an attempt to fix and knowing when to ask for help.
I like to show him when I am fixing something on my own. For instance, last night I had to replace the igniter on my gas clothes dryer. Replacing the part is fairly simple, something I have done a few times over the years. I had to pause, send Dad a picture of the failed part after I took it out. He had to chuckle, reminded me of the first time that I had to diagnose the issue when the gas clothes dryer failed to heat, shortly after my wife and I had moved into our first home. It was the first time I had to replace an igniter (and solenoid, as well). My wife was so afraid that I was going to blow the house up that she took the kids to her mother’s while I fixed the dryer. She had not grown up with a father who fixed things.
I didn’t have to check the igniter for continuity, by the way. It operates the same way the filament in a light bulb works. When the filament burns out, there is no path for the current. This igniter had completely burned out, with part of the igniter broken off. If it was intact and the igniter was not clearly burned, then a volt meter would be used to check resistance. No resistance means failed igniter.
I could tell it made Dad happy to see that I have learned to fix things on my own. He even commented on that with a smiley face emoji. Yes, Dad likes to text… almost too much. Mom was dangerous with messaging when we bought her an iPad for Christmas. Dad is just as treacherous with a smart phone.
The other night my son, Nate, called from the parking lot at a local shopping center. He was stranded and ready to give up. Somehow, he had pulled the shift lever out of the console on his Ford Focus. The boy is embarrassed to ask for help — just like his mother is. I told him I would be right there. When I got to his car, I had to chuckle. There he was, looking down at his phone while he sat in the driver’s seat, his mother doing the same thing next to him in the passenger seat. The fix was easy, simply finding the shaft that had dropped out of the shifter when he had pulled it out. I replaced the shaft, put the shifter back in, tested to make sure it worked. Two minutes and it was fixed, much to my son’s relief. His mother looked shocked that it was so easy. I wish they all were that easy.
I asked my son to never be afraid to ask for help. Since his mother and I divorced, he has needed help a few times. Each time it has been like pulling teeth to get him to come over and get my help. Maybe that will change.
I made sure Dad knew about the rescue I got to perform for my son. He needs to know that he raised me the right way.
As I have said before, I can only hope that I am my father’s son, that I am just like him. It sure looks like I have learned some things…..