Luck landed me an awesome dad. He was a typical blue collar union father of the 1950s. One car in the family and he drove it to work, often stopping at the bar on the way home, maddening my mom. (They had an interesting dynamic.) Dad always had a new car: Cadillac, Thunderbird, Fastback Mustang. He’s alive and healthy now, in his 70s, and has a red Corvette.
Many car-related memories remain for me to savor, especially our trip down Route 66 all the way to Los Angeles, California in 1959. Dad fitted out the back seat of whatever car we had at the time specially for the comfort of his kids. There were three of us, so he took out the bench with the hump in the middle and installed a plywood floor. Mom added a soft mattress and pillows. We each had our own blanket. We could sit, lie, sprawl, sleep. It was excellent.
We didn’t live in California long; our roots are in Michigan and dad had a big family. Seven kids. Our little family of five would drive to grandma’s rambling farmhouse every Sunday in that car for her crunchy-tender southern fried chicken and flaky homemade cherry pie. There were cousins by the dozens and big berry bushes bursting with fruit in summertime. Mom always warned us not to eat too many. We always did anyway.
My father got his sweetness and good nature from his mother. From his father, he learned other lessons. My grandfather was a gifted, troubled man, in and out of places where he could get, and try to stay, sober. They didn’t call it rehab back then. Grandpa managed many sober years, just not all in a row. So there were two of him, one loving and grateful for his big family, the other rambling and, to my young eyes, a little bit pitiful. What I feel most about my grandfather now is his courage. He never stopped trying to be a better man.
My children’s father is the man I chose especially for that quality. I looked at him and knew he’d be a great dad and I fell in love with him based on that fact, which proved true. When my oldest son, Mike, was just two months old, he caught his first cold. His dad slept on the nursery floor all night, just to make sure baby would keep breathing. Like my own father, he didn’t have a lot to do with the day-to-day running of the home and family. That was my department and I sunk into in with glee for five happy years. My second son, Tim, grew alongside an increasing discontent with my marriage, although we hung on for a few more years.
Then I was a single mom and dad became even more important in my boys’ lives. He took them boating, fishing, and to car shows. I didn’t stay a single mom for long. A little over a year into that time, I met Al and we married when the boys were just five and seven. He’s a great step-dad, taking them to sports events, showing them how to repair our ancient snowmobiles, and my favorite memory of all: building an addition onto our house with my dad. The four of them. Mike was 16 and Tim 14. Al paid them $10 an hour and they only worked when they felt like it. Or needed the cash:)
Al still talks cars, sports, and 401Ks with the boys, who are no longer boys. In fact, we have a new father in the family as of next month. My first baby boy, Mike, is going to be a dad. He will be the best dad in the world. He already reminds me of his own father. When Jessica wanted a glider instead of a rocking chair, they looked at all the models available and Mike said he didn’t like how there were so many moving wood parts that a baby’s fingers could get pinched in. He insisted his wife buy the more expensive glider, completely upholstered.
That cinched it for me. Mike is next in a long line of fabulous fathers. Here’s to all the great dads out there:) Your women and girls adore you.