My father is a born instructor. Growing up, every chair lift ride was a lesson on supply and demand or Central Oregon’s prehistoric volcanic activity. If you’re skiing on a mountain, it is always smart to know its origins, he reasoned.
We didn’t talk much about my teen life, friends or sports teams while he was teaching me how to jump a dead battery or change a tire. Instead he gave me tips about how to properly use WD-40 without letting it drip down the hinge onto the carpet.
A practical man from double-knotted shoelaces to wool hat, if you are ever stuck in a survival situation, you want to be with my father.
Every corner of the trunk of his car is filled with treasures like spare wools socks, a roll of duct tape, ziplock bags of GORP, ancient beef jerky, a film canister full of strike-anywhere matches and flares. Same goes for his snow machine. Like MacGyver, if needed, he could probably construct a quick 3-room shelter with indoor plumbing.
These lessons on self preservation and independence were an important part of my childhood for my brother and I. Sometimes we actually listened and needed to use his experience. Once, on a snow machine trip, the left ski fell off, but we still managed to make it home creatively by leaning hard to the right the entire way.
The first summer I came home from college (where I had been living, studying and taking care of myself as an independent 19 year old) I thought I could make it home from work one day on the fumes in the gas tank.
Unfortunately, even though it was downhill, I was very wrong, and I realized this as I coasted into a hotel parking lot.
Worse than actually running out of gas, was having to call home and tell my parents that I had run out of gas. I knew there would be a BIG lecture and when you are 19, you just don’t want to hear it. As I dialed, I silently prayed, “Please let Mom answer. Please let Mom answer.”
“Hello,” Dad answered. Damn.
I guiltily confessed, and moped out to the truck to wait for him to arrive (and for the lecture). And then, like a superhero with a red gas can, he flew in with a smile, poured it into the tank, and simply said, “I’ll meet you at home.”
So that is where the lecture would happen. Home. Yes, probably better to happen at home instead being publicly shamed in a hotel parking lot.
But once we arrived at home, there was no lecture.
Not in the driveway.
Not in the house.
Not over dinner.
So strange. And the mental anticipation I was inflicting on myself during the wait was probably worse than the actual lecture would be.
So, I caught Mom in the kitchen and asked, “Why hasn’t Dad given me the ‘don’t go past E’ lecture yet?”
She paused and smiled for a moment before answering, “That is because he ran out of gas last week and I had to rescue him.”
And there we both were, getting schooled by separate gas tanks in order to learn lessons in humbleness and humility.