Saturday, December 21, 2013
Not really worth anything to anyone but me
It was about Christmas time, two years ago I think, when he pressed the big round steel coin in my hand at the nursing home as I was leaving.
The coin was bigger than a dollar, with a Big Horn Sheep on it. But Dad knew I always liked coins and this one appealed to me, for its heft and size, its weight, and art. I think it appealed to him for similar reasons.
Not really worth anything to anyone but me.
I had a hard time figuring out what had happened to him. He had always been solid as a rock, and still was in most, important ways. Except he really did not know what was going on.
It was like the the record-player was skipping. He talked about the way "they" had changed the maps on him. Moved all the streets around. I think he felt the county was responsible, or the state. Maybe even the army.
My dad was in the army, in the '50s, and knew that they required respect, but you have to keep an eye on them.
He would tell you he was making good money at "Cornbinder" in Detroit when when the army needed diesel mechanics for International Harvester powered tanks. He thought it was just cheaper for the army to draft him and pay him corporal wages, instead of contracting IH, in the buzzing '50s.
Oh well, they could have sent him to Korea, but instead, tank school in Japan.
His two older brothers had been at war with Japan in WWII, he was teased, but he went over there to educate them. How to fix tanks.
He was a monkey under a hood... Popeye arms and a sense of how the gear turned, where the cog fit, sound of the click... part of the machine.
I never understood that sense. I liked cars, respected them, sometimes even knew how they worked. Never felt them, like he did. He could just drive any of my beat-up old rigs for a few days and the vehicle would run better for a time.
I think it was different in later years. The sensors, computers, putting it on the monitor to read the chip, he tried to keep pace, but by the time he retired, he had enough, I think. And after that, it was even more confusing.
He still kept pretty busy after retirement, helped on wrecker calls for years.
My friends in the Dolores all marveled at his dedication to walking Amos, my brothers part Great Dane that he reverse-inherited and the damn dog dragged him around the river city.
When the dog was gone, he still liked to walk. Dogs are good for that. I like to walk, especially with my dogs. Up early, no need for an alarm, get going, we are burning daylight.
My dad always, always, always understood that he was to take care of us, and my mom.
Part of the job was, he knew, to get us to the point where we could take care of ourselves.
He did that, I think. And take care of Mom.
The challenges can creep up on you in a lifetime.
Cars and engines change from a thing you sense and smell, and feel, and know by their click. To something you need a $200,000 monitor to figure out.
That monkey muscle gets tired, and your joints twist, and your cogs slip, and your gears don't mesh.
Reality becomes someone else's.
When you are used to taking care of things, it is really hard when you can't. But you try with all your heart, and soul, and memory, of what once was.
In the end, it is almost impossible... painful ... frustrating...
But the coin he gave me has heft, and weight, and size, and art.
It is not really worth anything to anyone but me.