Most of the summers in Ohio were warm, not hot. We lived in a ranch style house with no air conditioning. Summer meant open windows which allowed the air to float a cool breeze – just enough to move the sheer kitchen curtains aside.
My siblings, already moved out, left me the only remaining child at home. Saturdays mom often worked and I cleaned the house while dad puttered in the garage. He loved to work on the car of the moment, always fixing or tuning something to make the car run better.
“Hey, Maggie, bring me a glass of iced tea, will ya?” The request floated through the kitchen window from the garage and I knew what that meant. Dad was thirsty – and lonely.
My Dad was a social creature and he never relished working alone. I knew once I set foot in the garage, I wouldn’t be coming out anytime soon. This was not my first rodeo. I had to creep out there with stealth-like movements so as to set the iced-tea down and get back to the house before dad saw me. It was our ritual.
I almost made it this time. I set the glass down, turned and took one step.
“Where you goin’?” His head popped out of the hood of the car. “Sit with me while I drink my tea.”
I think back and grin. I loved that man so much. From the time I was a little girl and I would nap with him, my arm around his waist ‘keeping his back warm’. I knew we had a special connection. Even with all that, I was a teenager who wanted to talk on the phone and watch Bandstand, but I could never tell him no. I understood what he was feeling.
The other part of the ritual was that I rarely made it back to the house unless it was to do some required chore. Instead I hung out and kept my dad company.
“Hand me that 3/16th, will ya.”
“See if it will turn over now.” Click, click. “Hmm. Could be the alternator.”
Eventually, I would go back to the house tasked with calling the junk yard. My dad rarely went to a parts store unless it was absolutely necessary for the more consumable parts. Oh, how I hated calling the junk yard. They would invariably ask me questions I did not know the answer to. No cell phones then so each question was a trip back to the garage, then back to the house calling the junkyard back.
Points, plugs, starter, brushes, distributor cap, socket wrenches, timing belt – all part of our dialogue. Don’t ask me how an engine works. I would need to look it up. But the part names, I am familiar with.
My dad and I were pals. Buddies to the end. As an adult woman, he was easily my best friend, up until the day he passed away. Now, looking back, I would enjoy hanging out in the garage, handing him a wrench, and listening to the Cleveland Indians game on the radio in the background.
I would not mind one bit.