In November of 1955 my dad bought a brand new 1956 ford pickup. He used it hard in his excavating business in the 50's and 60's and by the time I was a five year old boy in 1971, the truck was beaten up, old and not very cool. I remember driving out to the farm with my dad and not being big enough to see out of the windows. All I could do was look at the heater, the dash, the glove compartment, the seat, and my dad. I still remember looking up at him and seeing his big smile and knowing that he loved to drive his truck.
As a teenager in the 80's the old truck started to become more and more cool to me. I learned to drive in it and loved to hear it's loud engine. One day I remember racing down the driveway, looking in the rear view mirror and seeing dad just shake his head on the porch with a great big smile.
When I was newly married, my dad signed the title of the truck over to me. Still, I had no money and nearly sold it to help pay for the kids-we had three of them. Perhaps if I had known at the time my wife, Cheryl, and I were going to have six kids I would have sold it. The truck was driven less and less to the point that it would not start anymore. For a few years it just sat in the barn and fell apart.
One day, my brother-in-law, Paul, a mechanic,offered to rebuild the engine and get the old truck moving again. After months of work on the truck, he called me and told me I could come pick it up. Boy, I felt like a teenager again the first time I took it for a drive. I could feel a big smile come over my face and I remembered my childhood image of my smiling dad in the driver's seat.
One day when my older son was getting his graduation pictures taken, we used the truck as a prop. My older son, Caleb, posed by the now restored, cool truck while my younger son, Isaac, "photo bombed" his graduation picture while playing in the back of the truck. That photo is one of my favorites because I see myself in younger years in both of the boys' faces.
Just last week I took my youngest son, Isaac, for a drive. Now, over 40 years later, he's the five year old. For some reason I handed him my phone--perhaps because I remembered how bored I could get as a little boy who couldn't see out the windows. He turned the camera on and began to take pictures. When we got home, I picked up my phone and took a look at his photos. He took a picture of a stoplight high in the air and the second story of the old jail. Then I had some flashbacks as I scrolled through the next few photos....a picture of the heater.... then a blurry photo of the dashboard and the glove compartment. Then I found a photo I wasn't prepared for...a photo that opened over 40 years of memories and a flood of tears. I saw an upside down photo of a father with a big, big smile.
Then it hit me. I always thought my dad was smiling because he was driving the truck. Now I know he was smiling because he was with me.