Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I worked hard to make this picture reflect how I felt at the time. If you look carefully you can see my dad's face.

Sometimes this is how my memory works. I can remember some things easily. Others I wonder if I really remember or if its just stories that others have told me. Every once in a while, something triggers the most powerful memories. These are usually obscure, random, and wonderful occurances.

My dad was a mechanic. Could fix anything. He taught auto mechanics at the tech school near our home. He didn't mind sharing what he knew. He didn't mind helping others. There were always cars at our house being worked on.

We also raced. He would have loved to see what NASCAR has become. We raced small dirt oval tracks. We also drag raced. I think that's where my competitive nature and love of speed come from. He would not let me drive until I could drive a manual transmission vehicle. I also had to be able to change a tire and other things required for maintaining a car. I thank him for that. I am passing that onto my daughters.

I wasn't aware of how much of that had been suppressed until one night at a restaurant. A group of us was eating in Commerce, Georgia the weekend of he drag races. A young man came in and was seated behind us. I never saw the man, but I was crying immediately. Why? He smelled of the racetrack. The smell of grease and burnt rubber. The smell of my dad doing the things he loved. At that moment I could remember clearly Daddy doing those things he loved. I could see him. I could remember him sharing those things with me and my sister. I could remember him. Random - powerful - real. I now realize how powerful my sense of smell is. Those emotions poured out of me. All triggered by a smell.

My dad gave me life skills. Not by lecturing me. He gave me life skills by showing me. He was open to my being involved in what he was doing. Conversation was easy between us most of the time. He was always telling people how proud he was of us. He allowed me to see life as it really was. Good - bad - and ugly. He tried to protect us from the ugly, but it came anyway. And it took him from us. Took him from me.

I think the most damaging thing I did after he died, and still do today, is to wonder if things would have been different had he still been here. He's not here. My life has played out exactly as it was supposed to. At times I accept that. At other times I try to play the senario without his death in it. I need to really focus on today and get away from the "what if" way of thinking. My life and my girls need me fully present - not second guessing what might have been. I need to give them more of those memories that someday will come flooding back as a random - powerful experience. I miss him.

Damn - he's still teaching me today.

Do you have experiences triggered like this? Is there a smell that causes an emotional reaction for you? Please share.

I hope you have a beautiful day.


lalheg said...

My dad was a mechanic too and I lost him in my early 20s. I love to fetch the car from the garage and smell that oil smell in there - comforts me and takes me back to memories of his big, capable hands, always ingrained with oil no matter how much he washed them with swarfega

Tongue in Cheek Antiques said...

The sense of smell is the strongest tool to take us back to a memory.
I can relate to what you wrote here about "crying" without turning around. The overflow of a memory!
My father raced too, reading this I can hear the sound, see the track, taste the dust...but it was the smell that brought tears to my heart!

Shula said...

My 11 year old daughter walked up to the perfume counter in a department store and chose (from among hundreds of options), my mother's perfume, Bluegrass, by Elizabeth Arden, and then walked over and kissed me. The smell knocked me off my feet. She had no idea. Brought me undone in front of the entire city lunch rush.