A daughter cherishes her time with her dad. It was not glamorous. In fact, it smelled of oil and smoke. But, it was with dad.
When I was growing up, my dad lived in a world foreign to me: the garage. To be honest, I didn’t have a clue as to what he did in there. To be more honest, I really didn’t care, either. I was too busy with my own life. I was more interested in how I was getting to Friday night’s football game and when I was going to find time to make spirit pants. The garage couldn’t help me with any of that.
Still, the garage was a large part of my childhood. I remember when it was built. The picture of the framework is still clear as crystal in my mind. I can close my eyes and see it. The walls are up around part of it, but there are no steps leading to it all. The frame for the car port is built but is only a bare skeleton. I remember thinking it was so cool to be up there while they were working. I was so small then and it seemed so high up. In actuality, it wasn’t really that high, but that’s how it felt to me. My dad would lift me up to my Uncle Lawson and he would sit me down on the concrete floor where I could gaze out over the yard. It’s one of my fondest memories with my Uncle Lawson still to this day.
The thing I remember most about the garage is the smell. It’s the same smell that lingers on all of Dad’s flea market work shirts, the ones that have names on them that are not his. It’s the smell that would fill our house when he walked in from a long day, especially in winter. It carries best on cold air. And it’s the smell that I breathe in with every hug and goodnight kiss: the smell of motor oil and smoke.
It’s the one smell that I associate with Dad. It reminds me of hard work, because that’s what he’s has always done. It’s simple, too. Nothing fancy about it, just like him. My Daddy is as simple as they come. He doesn’t do drama and he’s a man of few words. No yelling or small talk for him. You might get a nod of the head if you pass him on the street, or a “hey brother” if he calls you a friend. Other than that, he’s quiet. He’s not the type of person you ask for advice about life or love or what to wear on a first date. But when my mother passed away, he was all I had. We were left walking the same street of grief, just me and him, and I like to talk. He didn’t have much of a choice.
The days and nights that followed after we lost Mom are mainly a repetitive blur. Wake up, miss mom. Go to school, miss mom. Come home, miss mom, and talk to Dad. Sometimes, we’d go play pool. Sometimes, we’d listen to music. The conversation always turned to Mom and he always pushed me to keep on living. He didn’t say a lot, but the words he did say were powerful. I found out my Dad was not just a Dad, but was a husband and friend. He was someone who thought much more than he spoke. I saw him for the first time through new eyes, and I was amazed.
When I finally started listening to the few words he had to say, my life changed. With one conversation, my Daddy gave me the greatest gift I could ever receive. It was after I finished nursing school and right before I was supposed to get married. We we’re having one of our daily conversations, when he gave it to me. We were talking about our futures and the life I had yet to live. He was excited for me. That night, I heard the heart of a poet speak from a man who smelled of motor oil and smoke. He said these words, “The whole horizon is yours, I leave nothing out. It’s all for you.”
With that, Dad set in motion every dream I will ever reach, every success I will ever aspire to have, and all the love my heart can hold. He gave me everything I could every look for in this world and more. He gave me the horizon, and in doing so, assured me there is nothing out of my reach.
As fate would have it, my office is hidden in the garage of a local Peterbilt dealership. Monday through Friday, I’m surrounded by eighteen-wheelers. It’s loud, oily, and rough around the edges. The mechanics who I work with have become my second family.
They all try to make sure my vehicle gets me safely from Point A to Point B. They routinely gauge the air in my tires, check fluid levels, and inspect any noises I hear. They take care of me. So I spoil them. I keep them snack cakes of all varieties in what we call “The Community Snack Chest.” They visit my office regularly to rummage for food.
I don’t mind a bit, especially when it’s cold outside. When they step through my door, they bring a piece of my childhood back to life. On their uniforms, they carry the scent of motor oil and smoke. I breathe in deep, smile, and look for the horizon my Daddy gave me.
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