Life Lesson Learned at a Young Age
“It’s called a lug nut,” my dad said to me.
As a Navy Chief, his dress whites were immaculate. This day, though, his hands were darkened from the oil and grease that caked the wheel and wrench and the big, heavy metallic objects he asked me to put down one at a time as he changed the flat tire. “You have to put them back on evenly.” One of seven children and the last of four boys, dad was both teaching me and saving money. He knew the gas station charged “an arm and a leg” to tow the car and do the job. He would do it himself, thank you very much.
I had seen him a few times showing my older brothers about how to make sure the parking brake was engaged, that you jacked up the car after you loosened the nuts. This day, however, they and my sisters were not around, and I was happy that he (pretended to) need my assistance for this job. I cherished these rare learning moments.
Twenty-plus years later…
… as I was finishing a business trip in Florida, I made plans to visit my parents who had just moved there a few years before. It was Sunday and I was in the middle of the state among orange groves and strawberry farms that sprawled forever. The beauty was calming. But as I was about an hour from their house, the back left tire flattened. This was before good cell phones and reliable reception. A.A.A. was out of the question and no cars were headed in either direction.
So yes, in my early 30s, for the first time in my life I had to do some auto mechanistry. Remembering as much of the DIY my dad had taught me (admittedly, I also used the guide in the rental car’s manual), I did it- I changed a flat tire! Some say you’re not a man until you have a child, publish a book or plant a tree. I say it happened on Florida State Road 555 to a smiling fool holding a tire iron… proud of stained hands and a sweaty shirt.
Becoming a Man
When I pulled in to my parents’ home and regaled the story, dad was proud; mom rolled her eyes in mock teasing. We laughed and enjoyed a wonderful meal.
After mom died, dad’s mind began to falter. We knew he missed her, but he was also missing other things- appointments, keys and then inhibition, names and words. The diagnosis was almost certainly Alzheimer’s, we were told. One day, while taking him to the bathroom after I fed him, it occurred to me that there was no manual to fix my dad’s flattened mind. I was now like a father to him and, perhaps for the second time in my life, became a man.
Daddy, you’re gone now 7 years, but your patience and love, together with mom’s wisdom and strength, are the wheels in my life that keep me going.
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Born the sixth of seven children, Daniel Francis grew up a traveler- on three continents before his 6th birthday with a father in the Navy and a mother who loved globetrotting. In 2014, he began DMF Coaching which contracts support to individuals for one-on-one life coaching and offers speaking opportunities to groups. Daniel has been a motivational speaker for the past 24 years and has given presentations in over 250 cities in 12 countries and on 4 continents. He and his wife live in Tampa and enjoy gardening, exercise and (in non-pandemic times) trying out new local establishments. They are Cofounders of Alive ‘n Well and continue to turn every seemingly negative moment into a seed for positivity and love.
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