I was at Kroger getting gas when a silver mini-van pulled up at the pump next to me. Before I saw the driver, I saw the dent. It looked like it had been hit pretty good, and then, to save some money, had been banged out to a useable shape. It was probably like that for a while because rust had started to color the cracks and give it a crinkled look. Were it an old dresser, or an antique dining room buffet we would have called it “distressed” and made it a feature in our home. But when it’s a mini-van, we only wish we could trade it in, and try our best to be thankful that we have a reliable vehicle, no matter what it looks like.
The driver stepped out and I immediately recognized him as dad to one of my son’s classmates. Suddenly a flood of warm remembrance came over me.
Something to do with dads, and driving dented vehicles, and love, and care, and sacrifice hit me good, and I turned away from it, because dwelling on it was sure to bring emotion.
I know just enough about this family to know that they are more friendly than some others. They show up, they speak when you see them at a store outside of the school environment. I don’t hear about their son cheating at playground games, and I see them together often. They aren’t the kind of family that takes each other for granted, and I think that dented fender was just another sign of the kind of family they are.
It made me think of my dad, and the numerous dented fenders, broken doors, windows that wouldn’t roll down, stalling engines, and beat up floor boards he drove. It reminded me that when there’s just enough to get a nice car and something else to get around in, he gave mom the nice car.
I have fond memories of the oily smell in dad’s manual transmission trucks. I can still feel the seat covers, hear the loud click of the 8-track player, remember the stiffness of the hand crank windows and I especially remember the door that wouldn’t open from the inside. He drove me to the school to meet the bus for an away game one afternoon and pulled close to the doors of the building because it was raining. He parked it, said,
“Hold on” then ran around the front of the truck to open my door from the outside. When I ran into the school building my teammates were in awe and I had no idea why. Finally one spoke up and asked if my dad always opened my door for me like that.
No, he didn’t, in fact that wasn’t much like his personality at all, but there was something equally chivalrous in the fact that he was driving that truck in the first place.
It came back to me there at a Kroger gas station. Seeing another dad, willing to drive the dented car, the difficult car, the one that didn’t feed any ego, and didn’t satisfy any whims, but somehow has the capacity to make a family secure.
When we taught engaged couples in a class about marriage I loved hearing Kris explain what it meant to be the head of the home. It’s not a dictatorship, it’s not a powerful place to be at all, being head of the home, means being first-servant. It means giving instead of receiving and building up instead of puffing up.
You don’t have to drive a dented car to be a good dad, but every now and then when you see a dad in a car that doesn’t speak directly of his success, keep in mind that there’s a good chance that his wife is driving the nice car, and his kids look at him with adoration that no car will ever produce.