My dad enjoyed a serially-monogamous relationship with trucks. In the seventies, it was a little, two-wheel drive, yellow, Datsun. The eighties and early nineties brought three Toyotas culminating in a six cylinder, extended-cab 4×4. He briefly drove a Dodge Dakota, and then finally, the king of them all, a three quarter ton, 4×4, turbo-diesel, Dodge Ram. All of these trucks passed to me at the sixty-thousand-mile mark. The Ram with his death at the turn of the millennium.
I miss my dad. I miss getting those trucks at low blue book, perfectly maintained, and full of gas.
Dad took every one of those trucks to the same Arco station at 11925 SW Allen Blvd in Beaverton, Oregon. They always had the best prices, and since you cannot pump your own gas in Oregon, he got to know the petrol transfer technicians. At some point during the Toyota years, a man name Steve started working at dad’s Arco. Steve took pride (at least he seemed to) in being a jerk—never smiling, curt with everyone, angry at everything all the time.
My dad loved Steve.
I don’t know how to pack enough meaning into that last sentence. Suffice it to say that Dad’s easy love grew from humility, a great sense of humor, and sincere admiration for diversity. Writing about it makes me tear up.
Anyway, Dad learned Steve’s name and used it, with great warmth, consistently. He smiled at Steve, asked about his day, shook his hand, and thanked him at the end of each transaction.
By God, I miss my dad.
This worked at Steve, until one day he asked, “Why are you always so damn nice to me? I’m never nice to you, or anyone else for that matter. What the hell is going on with you?” Dad never told me his response. I imagine it was primarily a chortle and a smile. He did tell me that from that day forward Steve smiled, waved, and greeted not just my dad, but everyone who came into that gas station.
Sometimes Dad would fuel up because we were on our way to cut firewood from the slash piles left on state land by the logging operations. We worked hard. We worked efficiently. (I’ll never forget the time Dad found me carrying cord wood to the truck. He looked at me, smiled, and said, “You know. I’ve got the keys to that truck. How about we move it closer to the work?” Then he chortled.) We had a blast. Working hard and well, at something worthwhile, in good company, is not a bad way to spend time.
Sometimes, Dad would gas up for leisure. Until I was twenty-three and bought my own house (thanks for the down payment Mom and Dad!), I lived with my parents. Dad and I would get up super early a few times a year, take his small boat, haul it out to the Pacific ocean, and go fishing. We didn’t call it catching, because that wasn’t the point. He wanted to spend time alone with his son. I wanted to be with my dad (and we both anticipated a couple of great diner meals).
I also got to trust Dad with all the responsibility of our trip. I didn’t have to drive, plan where we were going, pack the tackle, check the fishing reports, make sure the boat was strapped to the trailer safely, or prepare conversation notes. I just got up, did what I was told, and had a great time.
My happy subordination to Dad struck me one morning about 5:30 at our favorite diner in Tillamook. We had just ordered breakfast, and I asked dad for fifty cents for a newspaper. Dad smiled, and gave his fully-adult son with his own wallet full of money, two quarters. It was an odd moment. I don’t think our eyes even met, but I knew he loved me. More than that, I knew I was always safe with him, and he had everything handled. It didn’t make me less of an adult. I just knew that I could always trust him no matter what.
I miss my Dad. I wasn’t ready for him to go, but, he lives on in me.