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Spark Plugs—A Story About My Dad

Vintage Automobiles

I had an amazing father, and even though he passed away over 20 years ago, I still miss him and greatly enjoy hearing stories told about him by family, good friends, or simply someone who was a recipient of his generosity. These stories help me hold on to him and remind me of what a remarkable man he was.

A while back I reconnected with Jeff, an old college boyfriend, and we exchanged a few e-mails to catch up on each other’s lives. Jeff, knowing how much my father meant to me, asked me about him and my family right away. He hoped we were all healthy and happy. In my return e-mail to Jeff, I explained that my father had passed away right after college and how much I still missed him.

I think that Jeff must have known that he hit a nerve, because he sent me back a very thoughtful e-mail. In it he told me how kind my father had been to him and that he knew his death must have been a terrible blow to me. He then proceeded to tell me a story about my father that he knew I had never heard.

During college, Jeff and I were getting serious, and I decided it was time to bring him home for Thanksgiving to meet my family. It was important to me that my family liked Jeff and that he gained my father’s approval. Jeff and I drove from college to my home in his beat-up old Toyota Corolla and just barely made it. Jeff knew the car was falling apart, but he was a college student, and the money he earned from his part-time job at school went to room and board and that was about it. My father was a mechanic and quickly noted the poor state the car was in. He invited Jeff to come over to his garage so he could take a look at it. I’m sure this was my father’s way not only to see if Jeff knew anything about cars, but also to check him out to see if he was worthy of his daughter.

My father took one look at Jeff’s car and immediately saw that it needed a complete tune-up. He didn’t ask any questions, didn’t even ask if Jeff could pay him; he just started to do the necessary work. My dad handed Jeff some spark plugs, told him to put them in, and he turned away to get some additional parts. Now Jeff hadn’t worked on too many cars before and, not knowing what to do but embarrassed to say so, quickly pushed the plugs in. My father came back with the other parts and looked at the spark plugs. He paused for a moment and then pulled them out and put them in the correct way. He didn’t say anything to Jeff or make fun of him for not knowing the right way to put in a spark plug; he just kept working away on the car like nothing happened.

While reading Jeff’s e-mail, I reflected on that day. I remembered that when my dad and Jeff had come back from the garage, I could tell that the two of them had bonded. And never once did my father spill the beans about Jeff’s lack of car-repair knowledge.

In his e-mail Jeff told me, “I couldn’t believe how cool your dad was. I felt like an idiot, and he could have made fun of me, but, instead, he finished tuning up my car and would not accept any money from me—he even gave me gas money for the trip back. He just winked at me, smiled, and told me to take good care of his daughter.”

My heart swelled when I read this e-mail, and I got a huge grin on my face. What a treat to hear this story for the very first time and to get yet another validation of what a great man my father was. He was generous in so many ways, and this story reminded me how much he loved me and wanted me to be happy. It also made me a little sad that my father didn’t get to spend much time with my husband. I know the two of them would have been great friends.

I thanked Jeff for the story and the great memory of my father. If you have a great memory about someone’s dad, especially if his or her father is no longer alive, please share the story with him or her this Father’s Day—it will make their day!, Inc.

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5 People have left comments on this post

» Kit said: { Jun 18, 2010 - 12:58 PM }

I am so glad that Jeff shared this with you. My dad died when I was three and I too look forward to any insight into his life! I remember the first time someone said to me- You're Jim Merk's daughter- what a treat to be recognized and hear about him as a young boy! I will miss him till I die!

» MariaSantoferraro said: { Jun 18, 2010 - 1:26 PM }

Hey Kit – Big hug to you on Father's Day. We'll have to toast our father's on Sunday.

» Adele Berardi said: { Jun 25, 2010 - 12:51 AM }

I enjoyed the article about your dad. I too am sorry that I our family never knew him. What a wonderful tribute for Father's day! You have an inviting style of writing-move over Regina Brett. Your writing evokes just the right amount of emotion.
Love you like a sister,

» MariaSantoferraro said: { Jun 25, 2010 - 1:31 AM }

Hey sister – love you too! Thanks for reading my story. I missed Jimmy a lot this father's day.