It was late in the year 2000. I was seventeen, sitting in the middle seat of our tan '92 Ford Aerostar, 8 hours into an 11-hour trip to see my sister and brother-in-law who were stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia. It was more than a casual visit for me. We were going to visit Mercer University after stopping by Julie's house, where I would compete in "Scholar's Weekend" for some type of scholarship, which would ultimately be the deciding factor in what brought me to the South. We were cruising down I-95, a trip I had no idea would eventually become intimately familiar to me. The day was beautiful, picture-perfect even. Not a cloud in the sky. My mom was talking (naturally) in the passenger seat. My dad was driving (as is typically the case) and listening, occasionally nodding.
All of the sudden, the windshield wipers came on.
And they would not turn off.
They had a mind of their own.
My mom and I got the giggles.
My dad was not amused.
Surely you can imagine the sound of dry wipers on a dry windshield. Flubbing across, struggling back and forth as we cruised along at 75mph on a beautiful, winter day.
After tolerating the rubbery reverberations for about 15 minutes, all the while I watched as his ears changed from skin-colored to pinkish to angry-red, my dad pulled a classic "John" move. He turned off at the next exit and ripped the fuse out. Those wipers couldn't turn on if they wanted to now.
Can you guess how many minutes after we headed south again before it started raining? About ten. No lie.
My mom and I got the giggles again.
My dad was once again not amused as he pulled off at the next exit to put the fuse back in.
For the duration of the trip, that fuse went in and out as the weather deemed it necessary. When we got home to Maryland, he made the repair in classic John fashion. He installed a toggle switch under the steering wheel. Left meant the wipers were off, right meant they were on. There were no speeds anymore. Just on and off. Stop and go. But the wipers were at the mercy of the driver, and that's what mattered to my dad.
I have nine bajillion stories like this. Because my dad is a fixer. His fixes might not be the most glamorous, but they get the job done. Without having to call in a professional.
On their last visit here, my mom informed my dad, once again, that she had dropped the camera and it was not working. The lens was stuck open. He didn't do a fancy fix. As Sam looked on and cringed, my dad pounded that thing against the wall a few times. Sam's evaluation of the situation was, "That's the difference between a mechanical engineer (my dad) and an electrical engineer (Sam)."
He has a great sense of humor and finds things to laugh about every single day. Sometimes he laughs so hard, he has trouble catching his breath and has to wipe tears from his eyes.
He appears a burly, tough guy, but that's strictly for show. He's a teddy bear who melts with every hug from his grandkids. He's a pushover who will read "one more book" all night long. He's a tender-heart who, especially as he gets older, tears up regularly when he hears a good story of human kindness or bravery or valor. He's the yes-man, willing to lend a helping hand to pretty much anyone who asks. And when the baby cries, he's the first one to offer to hold him. You know, so they don't have to cry.
He's a man of commitment. He's been married to my mom for 42 and a half years. He has served in the same church his entire life. He sets his mind to something and does it, like read his Bible every morning and do 100+ pushups per day. And, my goodness, his bills are paid in full and on time.
He doesn't necessarily say lots, but he can if you get him started on certain topics - WWII, the civil war, guns, politics (sometimes), 90's comedies, soccer, motors (particularly how to fix them and how they work), and mostly food. He has strong opinions and might share them if you ask, but he will never stir the pot.
He's been an amazing example. He's a good man, my dad.
I had some pretty high standards going in to marriage. Thank God I found Sam. He has done an awesome job filling some big ol' shoes.
A BREAK IN THE ACTION
6 months ago