Time quickly slowed. Like a replay on the giant screen at a football game, 18 years of game time splashed across my own cerebral screen. Besides reviewing the past, there was ample time to appraise the seemingly short-lived future. As our small orange Chevette made its second complete 360-degree turn and began sliding aimlessly toward the steel boundary, I began to consider the most effective escape maneuver. It seemed inevitable that upon coming into contact with our momentum, the guardrail, meant to protect, would betray us and allow our car to plummet into the frigid Snake River 30 feet below. An icy chill prematurely seeped into my skin.
It was deathly silent inside the Chevette. My three friends and I were lost in thought and frozen in fear as thoughts of mortality settled in around us as thick as a roux. Creeping toward the railing, I glanced into the rear-view mirror to assess the chance of a collision from behind. “Let death come,” I concluded with a peaceful dread.
The encounter with the guardrail came soon enough and interrupted the silence with the tintinnabulation of broken glass. To my surprise, the guardrail held firm and asked no more from us than the sacrifice of taillights and twisted metal. After sputtering to a stop, I re-started the engine and drove home. Shaken and shaking, my thoughts now turned to how I was going to break the news to my father about his car.
“Mom, do you remember when you threw a frozen burrito at the window?”
“I did not throw a burrito,” I said resolutely.
“Yes, you did. You were so mad at something that you threw a burrito at the car windshield.”
Making my way to dad’s office on the 3rd floor of the Ricks College Smith building, I felt the dance of gastric butterflies quicken. My father, upon seeing my somber and ashen face, asked what was wrong. Speaking quickly, before my nerve had the chance to take flight, I told my father about the snowy and icy conditions on the way back from Idaho Falls. And I told him about the accident. Without hesitation and without scorn or vexation, my father gathered me in his arms, caressed my head, and held me as though he were keeping me from falling into the icy river. He expressed his love for me both verbally and non-verbally and spoke of his gratitude that I had escaped unscathed. My father had bespoken his hierarchy of values.
Unlike certain instances in my own life (although I still maintain I never threw a burrito), inflammatory reactions are not my father’s style. Mercy, justice and unconditional love are more his character. And serve as a powerful teacher. Always patient and understanding, my father operates on the premise that people are more important than objects.
“Mom, will you come play basketball with us?”
“I can’t right now sweetie." I lamented. "I have to finish this assignment for school.”
“Kids” my father announced, “tonight, I would like to teach you something. Please come into the kitchen.” As the five of us gathered, dad placed a pot of water on the stove to boil. After it began to bubble, dad held a cookie sheet one foot above the pan to catch the steam. Soon, the moisture turned into a growing army of raindrops, evanescing onto the pot and stove. This was how I first learned about condensation, evaporation and the miraculous genius of the water cycle. After our lesson, we moved into the family room where dad announced that he had made up a new game.
“It is called the Sock Game,” he explained. “Everyone starts out on hands and knees. The object of the game is to remove everyone’s socks while trying to keep your own. The last one with one or more socks still on their feet is the winner.”
That first game was a hit, and led to many, many rounds of the sock game promulgating family fun and beefy bruises. My dad was good at the game and rarely gave up a sock. In exchange, he gave up his laughter and his time.
Assignments come and go. And so does childhood. I am thankful for my father who did not squander away our limited time together on good uses of his time that were not the best use of his time. Our fishing trips, gathering firewood, sitting in the forest listening to conference, swimming at the college, interesting lectures of learning, and family camping are among my treasured memories. And they all include my father.
Time again to change the oil. Steering the car into the shop bay, I carefully tried to avoid driving into the 7 foot deep pit. Two men in solid brown uniforms quickly arrived at my car window and pleasantly asked how they could help. After explaining my request, I returned to answering emails on my iPhone, preoccupied by my own [social] maintenance. Soon, the men asked for payment and waved a cheery good-bye as I drove away smugly excited to check off an item from my do-list.
“Jenni, how long did they take to change the oil?” my husband asked the next morning.
“Oh…I don’t know, about 10 minutes or so.” I absent-mindedly replied. “Why?”
“I don’t think they actually changed the oil. The oil and oil filter are filthy.”
The retaining wall was complete. Strong and secure. A crucial addition to the new house. “What do you think of it?” my dad asked.
“It looks really nice dad,” I confirmed.
The conversation continued about the need for the wall despite more appealing alternatives for precious dollars.
“It cost a lot of money,” mom piped up.
“Maybe you should have tried to get it cheaper,” I said.
Dad replied, “I do not want to cheat someone out of money. I thought his price was fair and I wanted to pay what he deserved.”
As the world yearns to get gain, my father yearns to give goodness.
I am eternally and incredibly thankful for a father who has unwavering integrity, unrivaled wisdom and clever wit. He has so many talents and hobbies and does each well. His garage is organized and immaculate. He is resourceful and frugal. He is a great guitar and piano player, smooth and melodious singer, thought-provoking and engaging writer, creative gardener, and wonderful cook. He finds and appreciates beauty in the earth, music, poetry, people, art and literature. He has an accepting and willing heart. And he has dedicated his life to religion, family and serving others.
Dad, I love you so much. You aren’t allowed to get old or die.
Mom and dad 1977
Mom and Dad in Virginia Nov 2008
Photo credit: Justin Hackworth
Photo credit: Justin Hackworth.com
Dad and grandson, Miles Hackworth
Photo credit: Justin Hackworth