Many years ago my Dad made a miniature Kenworth truck & flat-bed trailer. Like literally cut and welded it all together. Although it’s a toy, it’s heavy and it’s permanent. And in fact, it’s amazing. It will surely survive the zombie apocalypse.
He gave me this toy when I was a young adult. Sadly, I didn’t really understand the gesture then so I wonder now if I thanked him properly. My Dad absolutely loved cars and trucks and vehicles but we didn’t share this enthusiasm much so when he gave me this gift I was confused. It wasn’t my birthday or Christmas and he didn’t explain why. But I get it now Dad. I do.
Not long before my Dad died, I re-gifted his toy to my son when he was still a boy, and I know that’s exactly what my Dad wanted. My son played with it many times. But then it was tucked on a shelf in a room for years and so I hadn’t thought about it much but recently, I was able to re-examine it from all angles, and it’s like I’m seeing it again for the first time. The details are impressive. Washers for headlights, tiny mirrors painted silver. Some sort of safety lights on the top of the cab. Cylindrical silver fuel tanks. Steel wheels. A smoke stack. (Why not two stacks, Dad?) Some of the detailing is scratched now but it still lumbers along quite well, yet I wouldn’t want to drop it on my foot.
What I especially notice about this toy this time are all my Dad’s mistakes. I can see his cuts weren’t perfect. The paint doesn’t hide all the welds and some are raised and uneven. His hammer marks are visible. Now, this is the best part. His mistakes tell his story because they illuminate his process, his time, his energy, his focus, his art, his work. My Dad didn’t much care how things looked; he preferred how they functioned. Because I too have aged, I feel like I can guess his thoughts: perfection is fiction.
The act of creating and making and giving and receiving is messy but it’s honestly the only stab we all have at immortality. In this sense, I guess my Dad was making a sort-of time machine. For me. (And for himself too.) He knew I would return to this toy throughout my life. It’s a message from the past about the investment required to be a father. It’s a tangible piece of his respect and appreciation and love. And like him, (and like me) it’s not perfect but it’s solid which, I believe, is his way of saying to me that’s what’s truly important. Thanks Dad.