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Lessons I learned From Dad's 1960 Austin-Healey

By Vicky O. Misa

(First published July 22, 2010)

When I was young, there was a lengthy period of time when my dad wasn’t around. Many might say that no good could ever come of a situation like that. It wasn't really a big deal in my eyes at the time - my mom and I were well established as a duo before she remarried. She was extremely proficient at taking care of me, so I never felt like I was missing out. Still, I was curious about this whole ‘dad’ thing. Besides, mom apparently couldn’t live without him so he must’ve had something good to offer. I trusted her judgment, so I waited to see. Throughout that time I could have pouted and whined that he was never there, but I didn’t. I could have wondered what point was there in having a dad who was hardly around, but I didn’t. I could have become rebellious and defiant to get his attention, but I didn’t. I just watched and waited. Even through those early ‘MIA’ years, I was learning from him. (Though I suspect that what I was learning ended up being very different than what he feared he had taught me.) One thing is certain, he didn’t need to be in the room for me to get the benefit of having him in my life. He spent all his days in the usual fashion, working hard and earning a living as an electrician. But seeing him after he got off work was pretty rare. Every night he would head straight into his garage. He hardly came in the house except to clean up and go to bed (which was long after I was asleep). Weekends were spent the same way. To me, the sun seemed to revolve around that garage. Sometimes I would get to carry his dinner out to him. You see, he didn't even come inside to eat. All I could figure was that this man must have something really important under way to dedicate so much of his time and energy to it. I was right. This special project of his spanned three years and changed the way I would approach life forever. What was he doing all that time? To a 10-year-old kid, he was doing the impossible. By typical standards, people might say he had lost his mind for attempting it. Even more of them might flatly turn down millions of dollars if they were challenged to accomplish the same feat. In his beat-up, broken-down, tiny-excuse-for-a-garage, he was giving birth to something magnificent. He was building a car from the ground up - but more importantly - he was building a legacy of character in the eyes of his new daughter. People might have assumed that he didn’t want to spend time with me, but I didn’t. People might have assumed that he loved a heap of metal and rubber more than his family, but I didn’t. People might have assumed that he was just following a selfish dream and that it was the most important thing to him, but I didn’t. You see, even if those things were true, the cool thing about being young is that you’re not weighed down by all that emotional garbage. Kids naturally accept things that adults often can’t. I had simply let this man be what and who he was. I didn’t let assumptions or personal issues get in the way. And for that reason alone, I was allowed by the grace of God to view the situation from a much better perspective. I saw patience in a man determined to achieve something no matter how long it took. I saw boldness in a man confident enough to reach for anything he desired. I saw fortitude in a man pushing through innumerable challenges and unforeseen problems. I saw tenacity in a man keeping his eyes on the prize and letting nothing keep him from it. I saw strength in a man achieving an awesome goal he had set for himself. I saw stability in a man who utterly refused to give up. I saw hope in a man believing day after day that he was going to see his purpose through until it was finished. In the end, dad got a neat little car out of the deal, but I got so much more. What I learned was priceless, and he taught it to me when he wasn’t around. *** When the only consistency we see in this world is that of human failure, when we are overwhelmed by those who constantly fall short of our expectations, when we can no longer tolerate disappointing ourselves and those around us, perhaps what we need is a change in perspective. We need to get back to that child-like acceptance that understands that people aren’t perfect. Even in the middle of our screw-ups and messes we make for ourselves, God can turn it around and rework them into something truly amazing. In fact, oftentimes, He already has.

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