My father passed away in 2007 at the age of 82. He was a provider for our family, a mechanic, builder, and gardener. He was a hard worker, stubborn, and never a quitter. Those qualities would sustain him through some rough times in his life.
My father loved cars. While I was growing up, he worked for Vinton Motors (which is no longer in business) with a second job driving their tow truck. It was a 24-hour towing service so he was on call at night. Being of Scottish background, his nickname on the tow truck was The Flying Scotsman. I remember many winter nights when he was called to assist with accidents on icy roads. Sometimes the accidents included fatalities and those were very difficult. Then, depending on the hour, he would arrive back home and get a few hours of sleep or eat breakfast and go directly to work. That meant he didn’t get much sleep, but he never complained.
One of my favorite memories happened one night when he towed a car that had been involved in an accident. The driver was hurt and had to spend the night in the hospital, but she was concerned about her little white kitten that had been in the car. What would happen to him? So my father came home with this sweet, adorable kitten to spend the night with us and his three daughters were just overwhelmed with happiness.
I expect I get my love for cats from my father. Whenever my parents visited, our cats made a beeline for him. Some cats are good with people and some prefer to go in the other room until they leave. No matter what personality our cats had, my father was the first one they would go to, brush up against his leg, and start purring.
My father built a two-bay garage at our house for the family car and the tow truck. He also built a camper back in the early 1960s that had a dinner table that could be lowered to become a full-size bed where my parents slept. Above that was a loft bed where I slept. At the back of the trailer were bunk beds for my sisters. During the summer we would travel to Island Pond, Groton State Park, Elmore Lake, and other campgrounds. We would swim in the afternoon and after supper walk around the campground and meet people from other places. Everyone was friendly and we enjoyed late nights by the campfire roasting marshmallows.
In 1987, my father had a serious accident. On Saturdays, the garage was open to the mechanics who wanted to work on their own cars. My father was there alone and trying to seat a bead on a tire when the tire blew up in his face, and the heavy rim hit him in the head and then bounced onto an overhead light where it stayed. The impact was forceful and fast. He never lost consciousness but with blood pouring down his face, he realized he needed help. He called the State Police and asked for an ambulance. Then he unlocked the garage doors so that the emergency crews could get in, cleared off a space on his workbench, and laid down to wait. He was immediately transported to Dartmouth-Hitchcock. The surgeon said there was little chance of my father living, but my father was tough. He made it through surgery, spent a few weeks in the hospital, recovered at home, and went back to work three months later. It was truly a miracle. His face was disfigured from the accident and when asked if he wanted facial reconstruction, he said no. That was my father. It was later determined that the tire had been defective.
In 2004 my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After one appointment I was sitting in my car in the parking lot getting ready to return to work. I watched my parents in my rearview mirror walking over to the hospital for more blood tests. I said to myself, “This is a changing point not only in their lives, but in mine.” I wanted to remember that picture forever. It was a beautiful sunny day. My mother was wearing one of her favorite flowered skirts and my father was wearing suspenders with his pants. He always wore suspenders with a smiley pin attached to them. No matter how he felt in the following days and later as his cancer spread to his bones, that smiley face was always there.
Life is a journey. June 16 is Father’s Day. I hope the memories you have of your father are good ones.