Your truck (Henry’s truck), the one you drove to Memphis (an eternity ago), sits on the parking pad behind our house (still with its New Mexico license plates), where it has sat, flat-tired, for a dozen years, neglected.
Our son, who used to sit in the bathtub with you making shampoo mohawks and blowing bubbles, is 16 and driving, and he wants a 4Runner, because all of the boys he runs around with drive 4Runners. So we agree that you and he will rebuild Henry’s truck (your truck) for him to drive. No one will have a truck like this, you say. And you are right.
We agree to this plan for many reasons, one of which is that your truck is a standard shift, and it’s impossible to text and drive a stick-shift at the same time. Also, almost no one else will be able to drive it. Also, the truck is charmed, in its own magical way. Mostly, I understand now that you can never relinquish this truck. It is part of who you are.
You are excited about this work. And your excitement becomes contagious. You buy a second truck, for parts, and tow it home, where our backyard now looks like a junk heap, like a Joe Dirt movie set.
I am thrilled and mortified: thrilled for a father-son project, thrilled that our son is excited, thrilled that you want to teach him what you know about fixing things, and mortified by the sight of the mess, a throwback to my grandparents’ farm and its display of discarded, rusty cars.
You work all summer, you and our son. You teach him about brake calipers and fuel lines and solid axles. How to paint an even primer coat. You teach him the things you know by heart, by instinct. You get sweaty and greasy and cross with each other when neither of you stops to eat lunch.
Then you get dejected, because it takes longer and costs more, because teaching is sometimes frustrating. You get dejected, but you keep going.
Our son cleans out the car, removes the sheepskin seat covers I gave you (how many years ago?), and starts to take them to the trash.
No! you yell. Those are real sheepskin, cool in the summer, warm in the winter. You’re gonna want to keep those in the truck.
And he says: Dad, dude, these things are gross. They’re dirty, and dusty, and I don’t even want to know what that stain is.
It is deck stain, you explain, and you tell the story, a not terribly interesting one, about spilling it. Your memory is sometimes fuzzy, but when it is clear, it (like you) is precise and detailed.
You compromise and agree to take the seat covers to the cleaners. Then you shuffle off, grumbling about kids these days. Our son shuffles off, grumbling about teenage things.
Whatever we had dreamed of, long ago, about ourselves and our lives and our children, it was not this. But this is real, and it brings its own kind of comfort.
You come back to the truck the next day. You work all summer and into the fall. You work right up until now.