All of my stuff is broken. Which is not at all true, but right now it feels like it.

My car was until recently one of the broken things. The weekend before last, when I was trying to leave home for an important event at my martial arts school, it coughed and spilled gas all over the parking lot instead of starting up and driving away. I spent a week and a half getting around in borrowed cars, really grateful for the cars people let me borrow. Still, one major piece of my life was broke.

It’s not good to invest too much emotional energy in stuff, because all stuff breaks in the end. Still, the stuff we use most digs itself into our lives and hearts anyway, because of the circumstances and people that surround their use. I use my car a lot. Living where I do, it’s the only practical way to get around. I’ve logged a lot of miles and hours in that driver’s seat. It was stressful that my car was broken, stressful and demoralizing, because there wasn’t much I could do about it. I can’t fix a car. I don’t have the skills.

My dad, though, has lots of skills, many of them in areas where I am clueless. He was tied up with work all last week, but on Tuesday he finally had some time to look at my car. My brother had already helped me locate the problem, a fuel line leading into the engine. But it would take some more digging to figure out how to really deal with it.

It was raining on Tuesday, but Dad came over anyway. We popped the hood and stood in the rain, Dad peering at bits and undoing connections. One end of the hose came off easily, the end containing the problem. It looked like something had chewed on the fitting. Dad suspected a chipmunk. I just growled. Blankety-blank wildlife.

Fortunately, though, it was only a hole in a hose. If we could get a new hose or a new fitting, that might be all it took to make my car run again. Unfortunately, the other end of the hose was buried under the engine cover, and Dad didn’t have the tools with him to get to it. My pathetic toolbox wasn’t any use. So Dad went home to fetch the proper tools. It would have been a lot easier if my car would have just gone to his garage, where there are lots of tools, but see previous statements re: coughing and spitting fuel. My car wasn’t easily going anywhere. So Dad drove home and back. We stood in the rain again, while he got the cover off and located the other end of the hose.

He also located another problem. Because it’s a fuel-injected engine (apparently), the hose was attached by spring clips up inside the end (so I’m told) to make sure that the hose wouldn’t come off while under pressure (I guess. Did I mention I’m not the expert on cars here?) We needed this hose to come off, and it’s designed to resist coming off. Dad looked it over and thought about it. I stood in the rain and dripped, helpfully.

In the old and proud tradition of mechanics, we improvised. We scrounged through my meager collection of tools again, looking for something to fit in the tiny space where the clips lived. A screwdriver didn’t work. Dad went to scrounge through his car; I came indoors and looked around. We tried a knitting needle, a type of tool I own in some abundance, but no luck. We tried a thinner needle. Still no progress, and a very bent knitting needle. Dad found a funny round plastic whistle thing in his car, left there from goodness knows what, and chopped it down to the right size. No luck, and some of the plastic broke off inside the hose. My toolbox at last redeemed itself, producing needle-nose pliers to help fish the plastic out. (In actuality, it mainly fell out by itself while Dad wiggled the hose around.)

Nothing we tried worked at all. Did I mention it was raining?

We dripped ourselves inside my apartment to regroup. Dad called the garage he normally sends mechanical problems that he can’t or doesn’t want to fix himself. He learned of the existence of a tool that might help remove the stubborn hose. The garage said he could borrow it. Dad went away to fetch the tool. I stayed home to do some writing work, something I have more competence with than engines.

Dad came back with a whole set of tools, weird little round plastic and metal things in a range of sizes. He tried several of them, looking for one that would fit inside the tubing and get past a weird little flange on the end. I stood in the rain, dripping in solidarity.

The hose finally came off. I was almost surprised, after we had spent so much time fighting with it. Having the broken part in hand didn’t fix the engine, though. Dad drove away again with the hose. I went back to my writing.

Dad came back this time with the old hose, but a new fitting. Success! All it took was a new fitting, and my car would run again! As far as engine repairs go, that’s a pretty simple one. I was happy.

… and then the fitting didn’t fit. It wouldn’t go back on the tube the old one had come off of. Dad and I peered at the new fitting. We peered at the old fitting. Dad pointed out to me how they were different — the old one was much deeper inside than the new one. The pipe wouldn’t go far enough up into it to catch.

Easy enough. The bit of pipe just had to be shortened, Dad said. Which needed a pipe cutter. Which we didn’t have. Dad does own some of those, actually, but they’re all located at the building project he’s currently working on. The one that he was taking a break from in order to fix my car. The one that’s over an hour away from where I live.

Dad went into town, to see if the hardware store had any pipe cutters. At least by this time, the rain was sort of stopping. I fiddled with my words and waited.

The ending was pretty short. Dad came back with the pipe cutter and trimmed the pipe. The new fitting went on. The other end of the pipe reattached where it belonged, those spring clips doing a bang-up job of making it nice and secure. Engine cover bolted down. Keys in the ignition for the real test. It coughed again, from lack of fuel in the engine, but a tap on the accelerator pedal fixed that. No gas leaking this time. I had my car back.

It took my Dad all afternoon and four separate trips to fix my car. In the end, he didn’t even let me pay for the part. It’s less than twenty bucks, he said, don’t worry about it.

Dad’s a busy guy. He has lots of stuff waiting for him to get to. But he took a whole afternoon to stand in the pouring rain and fight with my engine, because I couldn’t and to save me from having to pay a garage to deal with it. He knows I don’t really have the money right now to handle that. Even if I did, he’d still try to prevent me having to do it. Because that’s my dad. Whatever good he can do for someone else, he does. Whatever kind of time and effort it takes, he expends. Especially for family, but for lots of other people too. My car is just the latest in a long string of things Dad has helped me with, and helped my brothers with, and helped a bunch of other people with.

That’s what I want to be like too. I’m not as good at it as Dad; in fairness, I guess he’s had longer to practice than me. But I want to be like him in this: to do as much good for people as I’m able to, without fuss, without expectation of reward. Just because it’s right. Just because I can.

Thanks for fixing my car up, Dad. I appreciate it more than I can say. I love you.


6 comments so far

  1. Kim on

    That’s a wonderful story. If your dad doesn’t subscribe to your blog, you should print this and give it to him next month on Father’s Day. As a parent, it says EVERYTHING we want to hear from one of our kids!

  2. Tamm Cramer on

    You actually brought tears to my eyes with this one, Cris. Your dad truly is amazing person and he does do so much for so many. We are all so blessed to know such a kindhearted man.

  3. sherlock1973 on

    I heart your dad :)

  4. brother on

    Nobody could say it better.

  5. Other brother on

    Good one Cris.

  6. stitchesandwords on

    Thanks all, and thank you for reading :)

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