There were so many things to love about my dad. He was the kind of guy who made you feel better about life, faith, and yourself. Just from being around him. What a gift.
One of Dad’s favorite things to do in his spare time was tinker around on old cars. Our family car was always the best he could afford, an Oldsmobile or Buick or something equally long and luxurious for that time period, but invariably there was a jalopy of some sort in our driveway, too. I often wondered why. We didn’t need it. It was kind of an eyesore. Nevertheless, it was there and Dad was invested. He had this checklist, of sorts, that he went through when he bought one. Most of the time the car needed major mechanical work, so first on the list was to drop it off at the auto shop to get the necessary engine repairs taken care of. Once done, he would bring it home and park it off to the side of the driveway. And that’s where the real fun began.
The interior got the first overhaul: steering wheel cover, new radio complete with a fancy cassette player, carpets vacuumed and shampooed, vinyl cleaned, new floor mats, windows sparkling again. If it was dirty, he cleaned it. If it was broken, he fixed it or replaced it. Once the interior got a good makeover, he went to work on the outside. New tires, new rims, new wax. In the old days, you couldn’t apply wax to the rinse cycle of the corner drive through car wash. No, it was an entirely different deal. Turtle Wax came in a cylinder container and the process took hours. Days. Several coats. A lot of elbow grease. Every once in a while I’d get a burst of energy and offer to help him, and he always let me, but I don’t think I ever finished an entire section because it was hard work and my arm got tired.
At a certain point during this transformation a familiar dread would start to creep in. I knew we were quickly approaching the day when he would do the unthinkable, the inconceivable: drive me to school in it. I would walk out the back door and head straight to the Buick, wait by the passenger door, and just pray that he would join me there. But inevitably, one day he would wind up saying, “Let’s take the Dodge today” or something equally dreadful. Oh, the horror. I didn’t stop to think that he could have made me ride the bus; I was too busy being embarrassed.
The finished product was something else, though. That, I admit. He drove it everywhere: to church, the store, around town, on trips. For a few months he forgot about the Buick and just enjoyed the fruit of his labor. Then he would sell it. Just like that! He’d sell it and start over. And thus it all began again.
Dad loved cars, and he was a fixer. It was in his DNA to fix stuff. Not to pay someone else to do it, but to actually take the time to pour into it himself. Maybe he loved the challenge of refurbishing. Maybe he worked on his sermons while vacuuming floor boards. One thing I know: his life was no different. He had a gift for seeing past beat up clunkers and visualizing something completely different. Something repaired. Something restored. He couldn’t turn a Dodge into a Cadillac, but he sure could put that Dodge back into mint condition. And he sure could draw you out of the shadows and invite you to the table, to his life, and introduce you to the love of his Father. The place where real renovation happens.
When Lindsey was a baby, I took a quick trip to Mineola where Dad pastored, and slipped in on a Wednesday evening Bible study service. He was teaching on Psalm 16:5-8.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will never forget that service, because I decided that day I would live a life of gratitude. Dad was grateful for his life and for the opportunities he had been given, on stage and off. Today we call it mentoring and making disciples. To him, it was simply living out his faith. I continue to miss him like crazy, and long for the day I will see him again. Until then, I will remember his life on earth and all the time he invested in others. I will be thankful for all the jalopy outings. I will be grateful for boundary lines that have fallen for me, too, in pleasant places. This inheritance? It’s the best.