It’s my dad’s birthday today, though by the time he reads this, it will be the day after his birthday, but still, Happy Birthday, Dad.
But oddly, driving the boy to school and Jenni and I to work this morning, we got talking about old cars from our past. We got behind a white SUV which sprayed it’s back window to clean it, leaving streaks of black road grit running down the back of the car.
And I could almost immediately hear my dad moan.
You see, there is nothing in the world that puts you off owning a white car in Minnesota in the wintertime better than owning a white car in Minnesota in the wintertime. And for those car owners like my father who are fastidious about caring for their cars, it’s a fate worse than having your fingernails plucked out individually. In fact, I think I saw my dad practically cry every time it snowed when we owned our white car. Though perhaps that’s also because that white car was a total piece of crap.
That car was a Buick Skylark, circa 1984 (it could have been a year or two either side of that, but I’m pretty sure that’s the era).
No, this one wasn’t ours, but I’m sure just the look of it will cause him to clench his teeth. But ours looked just like this. In addition to being a white car, it also had the inability to hold paint on the panel right below the front door–and this drove dad crazy. This car, in fact, seemed to just totally mock my father, because no matter how he cared for it or tried to keep it clean and in good shape, it absolutely refused to operate in any kind of reasonably consistent manner.
So it wasn’t long for our family. Dad dumped it as soon as he could, which actually came after the engine block cracked only a couple of years into its existence.
Then we got the Mazda 626. I loved that car. I mean, I adored that car. After running around in the rattling trap of a machine that the Buick was, the 626 was gorgeous: solid and tight, great steering, a brilliant manual transmission, comfortable, and sleek-looking and cool and really modern.
Or at least I thought so at the time. Looking at the pictures now, I had to stop and actually say to myself: whoa…I liked this? It looks so…dated. It was the ’80s, remember. Now I realize that it looks about like every other comparably sized Japanese sedan of the time.
But yes, I did, I thought it was gorgeous. And I know dad loved that car too. It never gave us a day of trouble, except for when I ran it into a curb on an icy curve in St. Paul: dad was out-of-town, mom gave me permission to take the car out on a date, and I promptly crippled the mistress. I recall coming home and crying to mom about the damage done and knowing that dad would not be pleased.
So on this, my father’s birthday, I want to thank my dad for giving me an appreciation and desire for caring for the cars I’ve had. I’m sorry for not having the drive or finances to do it as well as I should, but I’ve certainly appreciated the lesson.
Happy birthday, dad. May your car treat you well today.
See you tomorrow.