Friday, July 3, 2009

It's Just A Piece Of Tin

For as long as I can remember, Dad had a saying that, to my adolescent mind, seemed rather strange. He would say, "Either you own the car or the car owns you." To make that point, he would refer to people who buy a really nice car, but won't let anyone drive it - including those closest to them. (I think we all know some of those people). They pamper the car more than they pamper the important people in their lives - and sometimes even themselves.

Little did I know at the time that a lesson Dad taught me when I was 17 would be a lesson I would teach my own son, 29 years later.

In 1976, Cadillac was producing "the last convertible". It was the beautiful, heart-stopping, powerful Eldorado. I remember vividly the day Dad drove that car into our driveway. It had a shining white exterior, with tan, ultra-soft leather. It seemed to silently glide into the drive. It looked enormous, even for the days of the giant gas guzzlers. I still remember the smell of the new interior, and the huge smile on Dad's face, as if it were yesterday.

I always loved driving that beautiful car. I learned to drive in it. I got my license in it. As far as cars go, it was "my first love."
Back then, like today, my father travelled a lot. He was - and still is - on the road more than he is home. When I was younger, this could be a big perk, because - yes, you guessed it - he would freely leave his car for me and my cousins. We all got to enjoy that very special vehicle while he was away.

During one of his trips, I got into a pretty serious accident. I drove into the back of another vehicle - it was completely my fault. I remember looking at the damage to the front of Dad's car, and feeling dread, sorrow and then fear, at having to tell him what I had done. I had no idea how my father would react, but my imagination took worry and fear to new heights.

It took awhile, but I mustered up the courage to call Dad. I told him the whole story - how it was my fault. I described the damage that his beautiful Eldorado had suffered.

I will NEVER forget the concern and the peacefulness in his voice, as he asked me, "Brian, are you ok? That's all that matters. The car is just a piece of tin. It can be fixed." Then he said, "It's called an accident because that is what it is. You didn't intentionally go out to wreck the car, so don't let it bother you another moment."
The car was repaired, and life went on. The next time Dad went out of town, I got to use the car again, without hesitation. Dad loved that car, but he didn't let it control him. This is a lesson I carry to this day.

How lessons can come back around in the strangest ways.

I am often asked what it's like to have Bob Proctor as a father. For a presentation to a large audience, I decided to incorporate a story about my dad, and I chose to tell the story of the Eldorado, because I really wanted everyone to understand what a great man my Dad truly is. It was fun reliving it, and I enjoyed the story as much as everyone else in the group.

Ironically, the very next day, I got a call from my son saying that he had wrecked my truck.

I could hear the worry in his voice. I believe I responded, word for word, exactly as my father had, 29 years earlier. I know my voice was also calm and peaceful; Danny hadn't been hurt, and that was truly the only important thing - not the piece of tin.

No comments:

Post a Comment