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What My Dad Taught Me

I was sixteen or seventeen and learning to drive the car. To teach me, Dad (a doctor) had me drive him all over the county visiting his patients. (Though this was the 1960s, he still made house calls. Most of his patients were very old or ill with cancer, and lived in the country.)

We lived in a house with a very steep driveway. There was a retaining wall on one side and big drop-off on the other, if you didn’t back down “just so,” you’d be in trouble. Guess what? I drove the station wagon backwards over the bank so that three of the wheels were down in the hole. There was enough car still on the driveway so that the tow truck could not drive around to pull it up from the front. At Dad's insistence, they looped the tow cable around a sturdy redwood tree in front of the car, hooked it to the bumper, and pulled from behind. Dad sat in the car and pushed on the accelerator until the car was safely back on the driveway.

I was crying "I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry!" the entire time, thinking I had destroyed the car and other dire thoughts.

After the tow truck left, Dad said, "Let's go," and got in on the passenger side. I wailed, "I can't, I almost ruined the car! Please don't make me!" He said "Get in the car and back it down the driveway. When you fall off your horse you get back on again."

There was no arguing with him. I backed the car down without incident, though my eyes felt like boiled eggs from crying so hard.

To this day, I think about my dad when I back down that stinkin’ driveway. He gave me curiosity, strength of character, an ability to laugh at myself, and taught me how to channel being stubborn into the quality of sheer determination.


Tags: Character, Character-Courage-Conscience, Fatherhood, Motherhood-Fatherhood, Read On-Air, Values
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