It often surprises me how difficult maintaining a car can be, and I can still hear Dad laughing as I spilled oil down my pants 15 years ago.
Dad was an undemonstrative man. His feelings shone like a thin beam of light that escapes through a barely opened door, always careful not to open too much. My efforts at friendship with Dad appeared hopeless.
On my 16th birthday, however, that door opened just a little bit more. After I received my driver's license, Dad took me car shopping. This proved no simple task. Dad was an auto mechanic, and his expertise made him settle for nothing but the best our money could buy.
After talking to countless private owners and 10 different dealerships, we found the right car for me. With a heavy hand on my shoulder and a clearing of the throat, Dad opened the squeaky door of the car. "Well, son, it needs a little work, but the cost is right."
Fixing a car wasn't my idea of fun, but Dad enjoyed it, so I endured the rigorous hours spent under the hood. This labor did have its benefits; I was learning the fine art of auto mechanics. But more important, I got to know Dad, and he got to know me. Not a bad deal.
Before I knew it, he was asking me about my friends and how school was going. He was finally talking with me and not at me.
I knew we had a long way to go, but we both tried harder than ever. We talked for hours underneath that hood.
Trying to understand Dad was an effort in itself. It seemed we only talked when he was comfortable in his surroundings. The garage became an important place.
Over the years, things stayed pretty much the same: The garage is still there, and Dad and I have an understanding. Once a month we get together and take a look underneath the hood to see what's new in our lives.