McGregor Says: Valuable lessons from Dad

About 14 old car enthusiasts brought their classic vehicles to the parking lot of Harrison Point Seniors’ residence last week. Now to be clear, the cars were old but the enthusiasts were, well let’s say, experienced. The vehicles were from the 1920s up to the ’60s and each one was shined up and proudly on display.

When the residents came out for a look, each one of them had fond memories of trips they had taken or of learning to drive or just the fun they recalled in the Model A or the big old DeSoto. I tried to pry out some racy stories but it appeared the code of the day was, “What happened in the rumble seat, stays in the rumble seat.”

The drivers were treated to a fine lunch and Paola, the activity  co-ordinator, asked us to go around the table and share where we were born, where we grew up and how we developed the love for classic vehicles.

Being that I was sitting about half a mile from where I was born, my story was the shortest, but the others placed at least seven or eight great column ideas in front of me.

I thought it was fitting, as Father’s day approaches, that so many of the stories involved them working on tractors or trucks or cars with their fathers and how they learned the difference between the wrenches and screw drivers by being ‘gofers’ as Dad lay under the car.

Al shared the thought that he learned how the trouble light got its name.

“My Dad would often ask me to hold the light so he could repair something under the hood. No matter where I shone that thing, it was wrong and I was in trouble.”

I remember holding the flashlight for my Dad and if a wrench slipped and a knuckle got skinned, it was always somehow my fault because of the way I had been holding the flashlight.

“For Pete’s sake, hold that light steady so I don’t keep dropping my tools.”

The day my little brother honked the horn while Dad was under the hood, really broadened our vocabulary.

Whether in the workshop, the field or the garage, it was always a proud and tense moment when Dad asked for your help. Would you live up to his expectations? Would you be a help or a hindrance? Would you learn enough to be asked to help again or, better yet, be trusted with the task yourself next time?

In the later years, when Dad’s hips and lungs would no longer support him, I was trusted with planting the vegetable garden. I was given “the stick.”  The stick was just a stick, but it had three important notches on one end. Each was an indicator of how far apart certain rows should be planted.

As the vegetables grew, some rows you could still run the tiller between — they were the widest notch. Others you could hoe between and smallest were hand weeded.

It was all about not damaging the crops, but it started with the stick and the twine at planting time.

I still have “the stick,” but more importantly I gained the knowledge that measuring a project carefully at the beginning can make a big difference how it turns out in the end.

By far the best lesson from our Dad was being there, setting examples and letting us watch.

At least that’s what McGregor says.