Dreams can be strange things to say the least, but sometimes they blend things together that seem so very real, albeit impossibly out of place. The subconscious mind is an inexpiable thing, even though psychologists have studied it for years.
This particular dream was certainly not as bizarre as many I’ve had in the past, but it left me wondering if there was some underlying meaning or message. Many people of different faiths believe that dreams can be forms of communication. I don’t know if that was the case with me,if so, I have no clue at this point as to what the message could have been.
I dreamed I was walking out to my mailbox, and all of the surroundings were as normal as when I have done this in reality hundreds of times. As I was leafing through the sale fliers and other junk, the silence was broken by the familiar rattling sound of a diesel engine. I turned to take in the sight of a behemoth, a tu-tone blue and black, Dodge Ram pickup truck. Not just your mundane pickup mind you, this was the macho, hairy gorilla ape model. This long bed,crew cab, dually four wheel drive rolled up and stopped right next to me with its Cummins turbo diesel chattering away. The passenger door swung open and my next sight left me speechless.
Sitting tall in the driver’s seat was a fit,vibrant man with slick black hair. His smile was wide and bright as he wiggled the gearshift to check for neutral and then patted the passenger seat, inviting me to climb aboard. Some how from the first moment I looked into the cab and saw this man I knew right away it was my Father.
I would say right off that he was my age but that would be skewed, especially since I will turn 51 years old in couple of days and he was 51 when he passed away. All I knew now was that whatever his age might be, he was without any of the ailments that plagued so much of his adult life when I was growing up. Yet here he sat, behind the wheel of this shining new truck like a kid with a new toy.
From the inside, the truck appeared to have all the bells and whistles anyone could ask for, but since so much of his life had been spent driving trucks and buses, it came as no surprise that this truck had a manual transmission. We pulled away from the house and we motored through the subdivision with him shifting and double-clutching, smiling with glee at every movement of the gear lever. It was almost as though he was showing off that he still had the skills he had honed so long ago.
He began to ramble on about how he fell in love with this truck the moment he laid eyes on it, he added that he had no clue what most of this electronic crap was all over the dashboard, but it was a diesel and he could shift gears and that made it beautiful.
I still seemed to be speechless, not being able to gather myself together enough to ask any kind of question. He drove on, smiling over at me as we rode, and it was then I noticed the surroundings had changed. Suddenly we were in an older section of Petersburg where he used to take all of his vehicles to a place called Kump’s Garage. Charlie Kump was my Father’s car inspector and general mechanic. I guess Dad wanted to show off his new toy to his old friend. The old neighborhood however doesn’t look like it did back in those days, Kump’s Garage is long gone and the street was busy with thugs and drug dealers. I kept trying to utter the words to tell him we were in a bad place and we needed to make tracks, but he motored steadily on.
The next thing I knew we were back in my subdivision and the passenger door swung open without any assistance. I climbed down and looked back into the cab as he flashed a wide smile and clicked the gear lever into first. The door swung slowly closed without a touch, and he goosed the throttle and pulled away.
I woke in my bed to a dark room, only the glowing numbers of my wife’s alarm clock provided any kind of light. 4:15 am, and I rub my eyes as I try an orient myself over what just happened. I suppose I’ll never really know or make any sense of it, since it was after all, only a dream. Yet I wonder.
As Thanksgiving has just passed and my birthday closes in, I have been reflecting on the impact my Father had on my life. He was gone so much of the time during my youth, away on the road at the wheel of a Greyhound Bus. Today just the sight of a Greyhound is synonymous with thoughts of him and the many miles he rolled away as he earned a living for his family.
He never was crazy about the idea of either me or my brother playing sports as we grew up. I think he considered it a great deal of effort for something that was what he thought to be a waste of time. I can understand how he felt that way since growing up on a tobacco farm in North Carolina during the Great Depression supplied a whole different set of circumstances that I have never faced, and hope I never will. Hard work and chores were the order of the day, every day, and every member of the family had something they were responsible for doing. So I’m quite sure our lives growing up appeared to be padded with luxury by comparison.
So very often when I was middle school age, I was dragged kicking and screaming (not literally) away from my favorite television programs to help him work on the family car. I suppose I was learning by some level of osmosis, but it certainly didn’t feel that way since my major task was to hold the light so he could see.
“Don’t shine the light in my eyes…hold it on the god-damned work!”
This phrase was uttered by him so very often that I hear it echo in my head every time I see a shop light, a drop cord or some fancy new gadget design to be a hands free device. I chuckle about it now, but back then I heard those words in my sleep.
It wasn’t until after I had gotten my driver’s license, (which the experience of getting is fodder for a blog post all its own) and I over came my fear of speed and dying behind the wheel (another story all to itself) that all the things he had been trying to pour into my head finally began to come together.
After I graduated high school, I got job at a local Chrysler-Plymouth dealership. The next year of my life was one rich with the growth of my automotive experience. The basics my Father had given me almost against my will proved to be a solid foundation that I built rapidly upon. The times that followed were those passing-the-torch kind of moments, as he would come out to the garage where had been force-feeding me these lessons of cars and lawnmowers, only to find me ripping apart my own car in my early go-faster endeavors. You know there is a silent pride when you re-assemble something and it fires over on the first try, as he then would elbow one of my friends and say; “The little shit is pretty good ain’t he?”
Any less color would have been out of context for his personality.
As I look back now, I find I owe my Father an eternal debt of gratitude. He set my hands and feet on a path I never thought I would follow at the time. He taught me the value of hard work and anything worth having is worth working for. He taught me the reality that there are more things hard about life than things that are easy, and that the easy ones are that way for a good reason. He told me repeatedly; “Any idiot can learn from his own mistakes, a really smart man will learn from someone else’s mistakes.”
I have found that to be valuable advice on more than one occasion, as I have watched co-workers destroy their own lives over and over again. I have learned that peer pressure is backed mostly with cowardice and that true friends are counted usually on one hand.
More than anything, I find it so ironic that the very thing my Father tried so hard to teach me in my youth, that I loathed so much at the time, would become a life long passion that I relish to this day. Virtually everyone in this country and in many places around the world, owns at least one car. To so many they are mere appliances that carry them about their routines, but just like in the days of old, there were many who owned horses and then there were those who cared for them like dearest friends.
Most will say that cars are just machines, and maybe they are in the final analysis, but part of me believes when you build something with your hands, part of you remains with that you have touched. We wrench, we toil, we pray and we breathe life into these machines. We craft them into expressions of ourselves, and when we drive them they become extensions of ourselves, enabling us to do and see so much we could barely accomplish alone.
I often wonder if my Father had gone it alone outside all those nights, and left me in front of the television, how much different a man would I be today? This is a path that I draw a blank about.
As my age this year surpasses the lifespan of my Father, I hope he is proud of the portion of his legacy that he passed to me. I hope he is pleased with what I have built upon the knowledge he gave to me. I’d like to think maybe this dream was his way of reaching out to me, to let me know he looks down on me with approval, that his advice and teaching was not in vain. That I have the ability to overlook his faults and retain that which he tried to make worthwhile.
I may have hated holding the light, and I still hate mowing grass, but thank you Dad so very much for putting a wrench in my hands, for putting me under the hood and behind the wheel. I cannot express how much I have loved the drive, and thanks for the ride.
-T. August Green