My dad, my brother and I in 1978 or so, appropriately at Niagara Falls.

Two and a half years ago, on a Friday night, my son and I were leaving Houston when our car broke down. That was the beginning of an adventure: getting towed off the interstate in rush hour traffic, figuring out how we'd get home (we lived three hours away) and then figuring out the repair of the car. The short version of the story was that my car needed a new engine. As this was during the tail end of the pandemic, engines were in short supply, and so we waited for many months.

During this time, we still needed a car. And we were also paying for a new engine. So this meant that our budget for a back up car was small. And because I was paying for a new engine, I wanted a car that was reliable. I found a car - a silver grey 15 year old sedan that had been driven by an older gentleman until he couldn't drive anymore. I don't think the back seats had ever been sat in, and it even had a warranty. This car was so immaculately cared for that my mechanic guessed it was five, not 15 years old. He said, in so many words, you'd better buy this car.

Driving this car feels like being showered by a blessing from a grandfather I've never met - the grandfather who cared for his car so beautifully that his care extends to me, giving me rest. This grandfather taught me that our caring matters - it leaves a wake that others rest in. We have no idea how far that wake will travel, or how many it will touch.

I was thinking about this story when I wrote a poem for my dad for Father's Day. My dad is like the grandfather who unknowingly gave me his old sedan - everything he touches shines from his care.

My mentor in developmental psychology, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, says that we're meant to live within 'cycles of cascading care:' where the care that's been given to us overflows so we can give to others, which they give to others, which allows them to give, and on, and on, and on. That image was with me as I wrote this poem. So this poem is also for Gordon, and what he's taught me, and for my unknown grandfather, and especially for my dad.

Happy Father's Day Dad. Happy Father's Day to all our fathers. Happy Father's Day to all who father.


For Dad

You gave me a truck that another had loved,
and it showed. The soft brushed seats, the precise
fit of the car mats, and the well oiled engine
served our family for years. When it was time
for me to sell the truck, I cleaned each door
and window with care. You taught me
how to care for things – not with words
but with yourself. You've cared for cars
and lawn movers, raspberry bushes and snow
blowers. Each year's crop of tomato plants and
mom's boxes of Christmas trees, stored for next
year. Two flat tires on my trip home from college.
Your care surrounds me. It's easy to miss
because it's always here. But if it weren't here
I'd notice. Perhaps I wouldn't know
the soapy smell of a freshly washed car
or the satisfaction of a job done well
on a hot summer day. I live too far away
to offer your care back to you, to rake your leaves
or to cook you dinner. But the care you give to me
I give to others – the river I lie in that floats
me downstream where it overflows,
soaking so many, a waterfall.

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