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WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15, 2005
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MY LIFE
Stephanie Gilliam

Time to reflect on Dad's hints for cars, toilets

This time of the year you see magazine and newspaper articles about the importance of fathers — about the examples they set for their sons and the important lessons they teach their daughters. As Dad's day nears, the number of reminders made me think about my own dad and the things that he taught me. Among the most important:

  • Stop driving over nails and important things about cars. I have a tendency to run over nails, screws, and other items that cause flat tires. I don't know if it's just dumb luck or if I have magnetic tires, but I have had many more flat tires than the average 24-year-old. My dad solved this problem when he told me to stop driving over nails — simple yet profound advice.

    He taught me other important things about cars, too. From the time I was born, my dad taught me that classic cars are cool, and that British cars are the coolest. He had a 1975 MGB when I was in elementary school, and I didn't think that life could get better than riding around Decatur in a little black convertible with my dad.

    There are a few things about cars that I still don't understand, like everything that goes on under the hood or how to drive a stick shift.

    When we were painting the concrete floor a few years ago, Dad and I had to roll out two no-longer-functioning vehicles from the garage and then push them back. (The MGB is gone, but call me if you're interested in a '61 Corvair.)

    I steered, while Dad pushed them up the sloping driveway. He showed me where the clutch was and told me to let the clutch out while he pushed.

    The car didn't budge.

    He walked around to the driver's seat and said, "Let me see what you're doing."

    I showed him how I let out the clutch the way he told me to, and then he walked back to the bumper and tried to move the car. The car didn't move. And then it occurred to me.

    "Oh, was I supposed to take my foot off the brake while you pushed?"

  • Learn to fix the toilet and lessons about tools. My dad taught me how to fix a toilet: If jiggling the handle doesn't work, then you take the lid off the tank and see the problem. He never seemed to buy into male chauvinism, always letting me use the paintbrushes, lawn mowers and power drills. My only way out of unpleasant "toolish" chores is to feign ignorance (a valuable lesson passed down by Mom).
  • It's good to be a daddy's girl. I think it's true that fathers and daughters have a special bond. Who else can you count on for a date to see "Star Wars" whenever you want? I know that there are things about me that my dad doesn't — and probably never will — understand, but he loves me anyway. He won't ever identify with my love of clothes, but he installed a closet organization system for my birthday one year. He sometimes rolls his eyes or shakes his head at my goofy jokes, but he laughs anyway. He can't believe that I think a 1951 Jaguar would make a great everyday car, but I know that he would buy me one if he could. Just because he's my dad, and I'm his girl.

    Stephanie Gilliam, 24, is a Decatur resident who works for Hospice of the Valley.

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