Remembering Dad--And All the Cars

I remember a lot of things about my Dad.

Arnold was big. Six foot eight or so. Huge. He told me that he told the undertaker to cut off his feet so he didn't have to buy an extra large casket. I never looked, to see if he went through with the threat.

Stern on the outside, gentle on the inside. Disciplinarian. His way or the highway, as they say. And it was certainly easiest just not to disagree with anything he said. Even if you thought, or indeed knew, he was wrong.

Proud of his kids. Although he never told us. Others told us that he bragged about us frequently in public.

A Shriner, Potentate of Abu Bekr, which, along with the Masons, was about his only outside interest, other than golf. And he loved to play gin rummy, which he practically forced me to play in his spare time. He always won, of course, and we'd play three games at once. He'd win all three, saying he'd just "triple schneidered" me.

Generous to a fault. Until he died he entertained all "The Widows," every New Years, after their husbands had died.

And, maybe it was a Swedish thing, because I've since discovered other old Swedes with a similar trait, but he kept enough food in the house to eat for at least a year. Maybe more.

If he bought something, he bought a lot of it. Service for 16, instead of for eight, for example. Or, gallon drums of liquid smoke, for barbecuing, when an ounce lasts a lifetime. And, a lot of liquor. My brother took a vanful home after Dad died.

He smoked incessantly, even, at the end, turning off his oxygen to have a cigaret.

But, most of all, I remember cars. Dad was a car salesman. For several dealers, over the years, when I lived at home. Some went by the wayside. Hudson, for example. Studebaker, too. The Edsel. And Packard.

Cars were never in short supply at our house. My mother, looking out at the driveway one day, commented that we had more cars than people in our family.

There was the beautiful, sporty, and bright yellow Studebaker. One of just a succession of cars that would appear, and disappear, with regularity.

I got several of them. Like the red and white Lincoln. The gas gauge was always wrong. It said full when the car was empty, or empty when the car was full. So I kept track by mileage. On my way to my grandfather's funeral (well, the funeral of the man my grandmother eloped with when she was 80), I warned Dad to get gas. He told me we had gas. And we ran out of gas. It was, of course, my fault.

It was also my fault when another car-a huge car of a now forgotten make, had a "vapor lock." It stopped, in the middle of a hot August day, in the middle of the viaduct in Sioux City, stopping traffic, and in need of towing. Dad said it never had a vapor lock when he drove it. Whatever a vapor lock is.

The Packard I had in high school. A 1950, steel grey hulk. The Big P, my friends called it. I sideswiped a snowplow once (although I never confessed) and the Packard won. Snowplow lost. Wish I still had it.

I had a couple other Packards along the way-long, big fendered things. With spotlights. On both sides of the car. Bushwhacking lights. To go out into the parks to focus those lights on couples parked to neck!

The Sunbeam Rapier, sort of a compact British car. Yellow and Black. Sort of a, well, Bumblebee appearance. My father sent me out to teach my brother, Gene, The Bank Examiner, how to drive. Gene crashed it into the bridge abutment. Dad was not happy. But, he had it repaired and I got it back.

Later, Dad sold the Sunbeam. And bought it back again. And I got it back, still again. The car that wouldn't go away finally went to that great junkyard in the sky, when it decided only to go in one direction, in high gear, for the rest of its shortened life.

There was a 1959 Triumph, a TR-3, low slung, spare tire mounted under the trunk. Black. Wish I still had it.

And a 1964 white Triumph, a TR-4, sacrificed in the days before mandatory carseats for children, when I had a one year old and was incredibly pregnant. Too pregnant to fit behind the wheel. Wish I still had it.

No, there was never a dearth of cars in my family! Dad even supplied a huge Cadillac for my wedding party to go from church to reception in.

And, his last car, a huge green Cadillac, complete with footrests, reading lights, and every imagineable luxury, went to college with my daughter after Dad died.

It's strange what you remember about people, after they're gone. And, Dad, I don't just miss the cars. I miss you, too.

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