I make no secret about my how much I miss my father. He has been dead for almost 6 years. In the time he has been gone, I have made it my mission to do all that I can to remember as many of the moments of his life that I can. Sometimes all I need to do is close my eyes to see his face and hear his voice. Sometimes it has been something to trigger a spark of memory. His tools, or a movie, or finding something hidden in the attic of his have all served as catalysts for churning back up old memories. In one particular case, my memories were kicked back to life while driving in the car.
I was driving with my family the other day. We were on our way to an arcade to celebrate my youngest daughter’s birthday. I was cruising down a main avenue through the city (trying to keep my sanity between the kids bickering in the backseat and listening to their music on the radio). The avenue is one I have driven on hundreds, maybe thousands of times. There is a short side street off of this main avenue that would take us directly to the arcade. It is a short side street I have also driven on a hundreds maybe thousands of times.
It was on the side street, 8 years ago, I had a breakdown. I was working, headed to an appointment, when I turned on to the side street. Immediately as I turned there was a cold metallic snap that echoed from the front end of my car. My bumper was now almost scraping the asphalt and the car was wobbling up and down like a Fisher Price vacuum cleaner. I got out to assess the damage and pray it was only a flat tire (I’m no mechanic. If it isn’t a dead battery or flat tire I’m useless). As best that I could tell, I was not only broken down but I wasn’t going to be going anywhere in my car any time soon.
I grabbed my cell phone. I called a towing company to pick up the car then I immediately called the first person who came to my mind. My dad.
“Dad, I need your help.”
“Ok. I’ll be right there. Where are you?”
He was there in minutes and I remembered feeling totally relieved when he pulled up. Not because he could fix my car, although he had brought his duct tape and was sure we could tape it up to at least get the car to a garage until I told him about the tow truck coming. I was relieved simply because he was there. When I needed him, he came and it always made me feel better when he did.
Eight years later and almost 6 years after he has died, I took the turn off of Penn Avenue and I heard that cold metallic snap in the front end of my car again. Only this time the snap went off in my mind. My memory began playing back the breakdown of 8 years ago. My kids’ voices (actually their arguing) and the radio vanished, replaced by the sound of my dad’s voice.
It takes seconds to get to the arcade from the side street and no sooner did I flip my turn signal on did my dad’s voice fade out, replaced by my the normal chaos associated with driving my family for any extended period of time (extended period of time being about 3 minutes).
As my wife turned to break up the brouhaha in the backseat, I quietly wished for my dad’s voice to come back but it didn’t. As I turned in to the arcade’s parking lot thinking, all I could think is ‘Why?’. Why did this memory come back to me after hundreds, maybe thousands of times driving on this street since my first breakdown? Surely there were plenty of times to have the memory stirred again? Maybe I’ll never know? Maybe the ‘Why’ isn’t important? Whatever the reason was, I found myself fighting back a tear. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. The thought of my newly rediscovered memory of my dad also put a smile on my face. It seemed he helped to keep me from having another breakdown on this short side street.