He had just returned from several weeks on the road. As a salesman, there were many times like this. Travel the Atlantic Provinces, work in various towns where there were good leads. Work all day and into the night as long as people were receptive. Stay at the Motel for some sleep and do the paperwork, then off again the next day and follow the same procedure. But after four or five weeks it was time for home.
I was generally quite excited on these occasions when I’d come home from school and see the car by the basement door. I knew that there would be lots for me to do; like cleaning the car – inside and out. Detailing is what it’s called these days. My reward for a clean car was that I could keep any coins I found while vacuuming the interior. I’m sure Dad must have planted some there just to be sure I’d earn enough to pay for the job. Once or twice a year I’d even remove the seats and shampoo the carpet; Q-tips for the intricate places like the instrument panel and the door hinges and hub caps. But when the car was all cleaned, we’d take it out to ther local Garage for oil and lube and other maintenance work. I’d drive, even if I was only thirteen, but Dad would be with me. I remember once in particular, we sauntered into the garage – not a soul in sight. Both mechanics, Uncle Evie (the owner) and Billie John were in the pits working away (no hoists here). From his vantage point the proprietor could see the shoes and as far up as the knees of any customers in the garage, then as soon as was convenient he would emerge to see what the person wanted or what work was needed. This time he came up and when he saw my Dad he smiled and greeted him with, “Oh, Ross, I didn’t realize you were home.” Dad reached out his hand to shake but Mr. Reid said, “Can’t shake hands with you, they’re too greasy” Dad reached over to the nearby bench and rubbed his hand along the greasy edge, then offered an equally greasy hand and said, “How about now!” The twinkle in Everett’s eyes spoke volumes.
Many times when we would be trout fishing, I’d have trouble with snarled lines or with trying to get my fish off the hook. Dad would come to the rescue and with fingers that seemed to have majestic strength and magic, the hook would just slide right out of the fish’s mouth and the lines would be untangled in no time. He never got flustered or mad. He just say, “ Wait now, wait now.” He saw things from a different angle. If he really got stumped and frustrated he’d say, “ Sow Bill’s Nanny Goat!” (I guess that was paramount to cursing!) He took a different approach and it always seemed to simplify the most intricate problem.
As a teenager I remember the firm clasp of my father’s hand as he congratulated me on my first public exam results. His big strong fingers enveloped my skinny hand. “I’m proud of you!” he declared as he drew me close to him for a hug. As an adult, I recall the careful positioning of his fingers as we shook hands, that secret Masonic handshake– we were now members of the same fraternity!
As long as I can remember Dad has played the Mandolin. The old one had its neck broken and it couldn’t hold its tune so my wife and I gave him a new mandolin as a Christmas gift. Ever since then, the highlight of our visits to Dad’s house is to have Glenda play the piano while Dad plays the mandolin. Not bad for a man in his nineties! His fingers are not as firm and nimble as they used to be, but he sure can find the right frets and pick out the melody:
Come, comrades dear, who love the Lord Who taste the sweets of Jesus word, In Jesus ways go on; Our troubles and our trials here Will only make us richer there, When we arrive at home.
The next verse has particular value. Many times at the old Church, (the one up on the hill) the saints would stand and sing this with tears flowing down their cheeks, sometimes holding hands and having a glory dance. This is the reward my parents will get for living a clean life.
And then we’ll shine and shout and sing, And make the heavenly arches ring, When all the saints get home. Come on, come on, my comrades dear, We soon shall meet together there, For Jesus bids us come.
I don’t think that Dad ever considered our time spent together as moments of great teaching and instruction, but now I look back and consider them my lifeline to sanity. He never let me down. He introduced me to so many things in life and taught such important lessons as patience and self-control. It’s easy to see the hand of God in my relationship with my earthly father. Because of my Dad I can relate to God as one who desires to be personally involved in my life. Time after time, in ways that were simple and yet profound, I saw God’s love expressed through the touch of my father’s hands in my life. I have my share of frets, but God’s finger just seems to remove all discord and place a melody in my heart.
Oren Cole firstname.lastname@example.org