Test Daughter

Test Daughter.  That’s what she calls herself when asked about our relationship.

I worked with her dad and met her when I came by their house to help her dad move some stuff from a pickup truck.  She was 6 years old.

It was one of those relationships that just kind of grew–both with her and her parents.  Our families call her dad and I “the other half of each others’ brain”. I was at their house a few times a week and I slowly, unknowingly, became her 2nd dad.

She had a very strong, “just because I’m a girl, doesn’t mean I can’t do stuff” attitude that I thought was wonderful.  I clearly remember two things from then.  One was that when the time came, I wouldn’t mind having a daughter like her and the other was me grumbling at her dad when he called her ‘my son’.   “No.  She’s your daughter.  Just because she likes boy stuff doesn’t make her a boy.  Girls can like boy stuff.”

When she was a teenager, she told me that one comment was what cemented our hearts together.  I didn’t realize that she had heard the exchange, nor at the time did I think it that important.

Even though she had figured out I was her 2nd dad at age 6, it took me 2 more years to figure it out.  She was 8 when she took her dad and I over to meet her little league coach.  “Coach Kim.  This is my dad and this is my 2nd dad. I have two dads.”   Her coach gave the three of us a faint smile before running off…and I felt HONORED.

Since I was trusted and not living there, it was often easier for her to ask me the “AWKWARD” questions.  I answered them truthfully and honestly, even when I was wanting to run and hide.  Later she said that my matter of fact answers and return questions did much to keep her “out of trouble”.

She and her dad have very similar (impatient) personalities and often clashed during the “teaching moments”.  While her dad taught her how to drive, the personality clash was making it a problem for her learning how to parallel park and use a manual transmission car.   So, I got to do both of those things.  It took her 10 minutes to master parallel parking and another hour for her to learn how to parallel park a car with an attached trailer.  She still shows off that trailer parking skill and taught her husband how to do it as well.  For the manual transmission, I kind of “got even” by borrowing a friend’s 1948 truck with a non-synchronized gear manual transmission (double clutching).  But she showed me.  It took her a couple of hours to not stall the engine when starting out, another hour or two to not give us whiplash and another day to not grind the gears when shifting.

She liked that truck so much that it is the one she used for her driving test.   She called me after taking the test and said her test lasted only 5 minutes, but she passed.  Her dad was laughing and said her wanting to use that truck for the test was a stroke of genius.  Apparently the driving test administrator got into the truck, realized it was 110F and the truck had no air conditioning, asked her why she was double clutching the transmission, had her pull out from one parking lot entrance onto the roadway, made a comment about the perfect shifting and immediately had her pull back into the other parking lot entrance…and announced she had passed.

A year later, some (fortunately it was a false positive) medical tests indicated her dad had a fatal disease.  It took two weeks for the more accurate final test results to come back and, like I said, the initial results were incorrect.  I was pretty upset at the prospect of losing my best friend and his daughter, in tears, came to me, “If dad can’t give me away at my wedding, would you?”. Just like with the 2 dad’s comment, I felt so amazingly honored. Fortunately I did not need to fulfill this role.

When she was 24, I was the 5th person to find out about her engagement…herself, her fiancee,  her mom and dad, and finally me.  At her wedding there was the mother-son and father-daughter dances.  Next, the DJ started going through the father daughter dance part again.  I, and everyone else,  was looking around, confused, wondering how the DJ had managed to mess things up so much.  At this point, I realized she was walking toward me and extended her hand to me.  I, too, got a father-daughter dance.

While we danced, I reminded her of my and her dad’s comment about the quarter.  “If you’re on a date and he wants to do something that you’re not quite sure about, give him the quarter and have him call your dad, or me and we can talk about it.”  We hatched a plan.

After the 2nd father daughter dance, someone asked her about the 2nd dance.

He was just as annoying and protective of me as my dad .  He was my 2nd dad and I was his test daughter…like he was testing the waters to see if he wanted one of his own…that if he changed his mind, he could give me back.

Oh, the plan we hatched.  That evening, after the reception, my wife and I and my own daughter were sitting with her parents and reliving the memories.  The phone rings.  It’s her.  “Dad.  I gave Mark the quarter so he could call you.  He wants to talk to you.”  Her dad laughed and hung up the telephone.

Happy 40th birthday, test daughter.  You have an awesome husband and your boys are awesome too.

By the way, the test worked out perfectly.  My daughter is much like you..and I could not be more happy.



Isuzu Trooper

In late January 1995, my wife and I bought an Isuzu Trooper.  It has been a wonderful and reliable vehicle.  If Isuzu still sold these, I would buy another one.  This car has more than 276,000 miles (440,000km) showing on the odometer and except for the wiring issues, all the work done on this vehicle was for things that would reasonably be expected to need replacement–clutch master cylinder, EGR valve, water pump, timing belt, spark plugs and wires and clutch.

The wiring issues were caused by a transmission shop not bothering to reinstall cable clamps after replacing the clutch.  The lack of the clamps allowed the wires to rub against the edge of the transmission and this wore through the insulation.

The other problem it had was it seem to “attract” rear end collisions.  All were while the vehicle was in a situation where it was required to be stopped and had been stopped for at least 10-15 seconds.  Four of the five crashes were caused by unlicensed and uninsured motorists.  Score zero points for the two laws; one requiring drivers to be licensed and one for requiring all drivers to have liability insurance.

Anyway, after bringing my now 20 year old daughter home from the birthing center and then being used to teach her how to drive, the Trooper is being sold.

It will be odd to not have it in the driveway.

It will be still in my extended “family”.  My best friend’s daughter is buying it for her husband.  I’ve known this lady since she was 3 years old and she is now almost 40.  When she got married, she split the traditional wedding father-daughter dance into two parts, one for dad and one for me.  🙂

They will be using the Trooper on their many thousand acre ranch.

Book One — The Ending

I’ve said before that my life is like two different  books.  One is finished while the other is still being written.

Normally the first book “sits on the shelf” because I don’t want to dwell on it too much, or make my wife compete with a ghost.

Two days a year, I metaphorically pull book 1 off of the shelf and remember.  The two days I chose seem weird, but they are the ones I chose.

I could have chosen many days; the day we met, any of a huge number of things we did together, meeting her parents, meeting my parents, me asking THE question, her saying YES, our drive across country to meet our extended families, the day of the phone call that brought me the news that cancer was attacking her, the day she died.

But I chose two other days.   October 31 and May 26.

October 31, 1983 was the day her doctor recommended a “new” program called hospice.  My mom was a nurse practitioner and I knew about hospice already.  I just sat there, frozen and barely breathing, knowing that our dreams would never be.

May 26, 1984, was the day we planned for our wedding.  Our wedding was going to be on the beach at sunset and attended by a dozen or so friends and family.  That time and place was chosen because she loved the beach and loved watching the sparkles from the setting sun “dance on the water”.  The day was chosen because it was a holiday weekend.

May 26, 1984, when the sparkles from the setting sun were dancing on the water, I scattered her ashes in the surf.



The Picture

While cleaning out more stuff from my mom’s house, I came across a picture that I had taken on a long past July 6, my dad’s 91st birthday.

My mom and dad are sitting close together in two chairs and are holding hands.  He has a somewhat pensive look on his face and she is smiling at him. They had been married over 58 years. In the picture, one can see bandages on my mom’s arms, elbows and knees.

On July 3, about 2 hours after I left their house to take care of their errands, my cell phone rang.  It was my dad.  “Call 911.  It’s your mom, she’s down in the back yard in the gravel.  It’s in the sun. I don’t know how long, nor do I know why.  If I call them, they’ll tie me up with questions I can’t answer. I’m going out to see what I can do. Did you get that?” After I said yes, there was a click as he hung up the phone.

Summer daytime air temperatures are routinely over 115F degrees and ground temperatures exceed 150F degrees. This was the case on July 3.

I called 911, gave them the address and told them what dad had told me, along with mom’s age (86 years old) and known medical problems.  I then told them that my dad, a retired US Marine and retired paramedic, said he was going out to help my mom. I added that he was almost 91 years old, under hospice care for heart failure and that his heart ejection fraction was under 8%.

I got to their house in about 5 minutes.  The police and two paramedic units, one for mom and one for dad, were already there.  Mom was on a gurney and they were preparing her for transport to the nearby hospital.  She had what appeared to be 3rd degree burns on her elbows, arms and knees. They had dad sitting in a chair in the shade and he was in tears.  He said that opening the doors had used up all his strength and that he had to crawl most of the way to my mom.  He said he did the best he could, but he was worried that it wasn’t enough.

The paramedics said that when they got there, the garage door and door into the house were both open, and dad was in the back yard, trying to shade her with his body. They went on to say he was using the water from a hose to cool the gravel under my mom.

A few days later, he died of heart failure, but he had accomplished what he had set out to do.  He saved mom.

It took 9 months, but her burns healed completely.

I would like to believe I have as much love as my dad showed on that day.

Happy Thanksgiving

Just a short post for now.

The turkey is in the oven, the pies are made, the beans are trimmed and waiting their turn, the dinner roll ingredients are pre-staged,the squash is waiting for ‘the right time in the oven’ and my mother-in-law is bringing over several dishes.

It seems like a lot of food, and it is, especially since the family has shrunk from seven to five (my dad and father in law are no longer with us).  I make so much food so I send it home with my mom and mother in law and what they don’t want, I freeze.  This way, Thanksgiving can continue giving to them. My mom is 97 and my mother in law is 78 and the left overs give them a chance to relax when it comes time prepare a meal.