In 1985, the year daughter Cookie was three and son Teebo was born, my father-in-law bought a brand new Chevy Scottsdale pickup. In its heyday the truck was a handsome two-toned brown, only slightly the worse for wear when Grandpa W accidentally let a falling tree dent the tailgate. When Grandpa W's health began to worsen in the early '90s, he sold the truck to my dad. Ever since, we have affectionately thought of it as "The Grandpa Truck."
Although Dad had made a living for our family as a mechanic, he was too frugal to invest much money as he and the truck got older. When one of the two gas tanks began to leak, he used only the other one. When a belt squealed mercilessly every time the truck was started, well, not to worry. It would quit in just a few seconds.
Eventually, the years took their toll on both of them. The truck acquired a bent passenger-side running board, and the bed looked like it had fought with a hailstorm and lost. Patches of rust replaced the brown paint and pretty well ate up the toolbox. Late last summer, shortly before Dad passed away at age 86, we acquired the grandpa truck for Pa-pa to use on the farm in an effort to save some wear and tear on his nicer pickup.
This past week, Pa-pa's newer pickup has spent some time getting a face lift, so I have glanced out the window many times to see the grandpa truck parked in front of our house. It makes me sad to see it there, and for the longest time I couldn't figure out why.
In the eight months since Dad's passing, I have come to terms with his death. Every day, I pass an 11" x 14" picture of him and Mom as I go out the door to the garage, and that doesn't bother me. Just last week, Mom and I made our first trip back to the cemetery to check out the newly set gravestone, and I wasn't emotional about that either. What, then, was the deal with this truck? Why the twinge of melancholy at the sight of an old clunker out by the curb?
It is this: Every time I look up to see the truck, it catches me offguard. There is a split second when I actually think that my dad has come to see me. I imagine him tottering slowly up the front steps and pulling his 6' 4'' frame up onto the porch by the handrail. I expect him to open the front door and walk in. For that one brief instant, I actually forget that he is gone.
Soon after Pa-pa leaves the house in the morning, I hear that familiar belt squeal and watch the grandpa truck head down the street and out of the neighborhood. "So long," I think again, and oh my God, Daddy, how I miss you.