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Another holiday disaster averted, thanks to Dad - Jason Smith

Sometimes, it takes an unwanted event to remind us of some very important lessons in life. In my case, the catalyst of my latest life-lesson was another verse in a song I've heard too many times in recent years.

I had car trouble on a holiday weekend, again. It never ceases to amaze me how my vehicles seem to know when a holiday is approaching. In the last few years, my vehicles have staged revolts on, or around ,Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July.

This time, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, birthday provided the occasion. I visited my parents Saturday, and was on my way home when a belt came loose on my van. This, of course, was no ordinary belt. It was needed to make things like the air conditioning and -- more importantly -- the power steering work correctly.

I knew I wasn't going to be able to drive the van home, so I pulled into a gas station and called my wife, who accompanied her best friend to get me, because our other vehicle is also on the fritz. I left the van in the parking lot of the gas station, uncertain as to whether I'd actually be able to get to work on Monday morning.

On Sunday after church, I went back to the gas station, where I had arranged to meet my dad to see if there was anything he could do. I knew I was completely clueless regarding car repair, and all the auto shops in the area would be closed.

At this point, I must note a few things which are essential to an understanding of my father. First, I believe my dad is one of the most underrated and underestimated men on the planet. Aside from being deaf, he didn't finish high school, and doesn't have the most extensive vocabulary. Some might take this as an indicator that he is somehow lacking in the intellect department. Those people would be wrong, as he is much smarter, and more capable than most people -- including myself -- have given him credit for.

Secondly, I must mention that my dad is an excellent handyman. He's always been good at fixing cars, putting things together and figuring out what goes where. Lastly, as anyone who knows my dad to any degree would attest, he is one of the hardest-working men you'll ever meet. This is a man who, when his baby girl was getting married, worked overtime, and on his off days, just to make sure he would be able to give my sister the wedding of her dreams.

He worked under the hood of my van for nearly three hours. My wife and her best friend didn't know how to help him, and I, as stated earlier, didn't have a clue what to do, aside from holding a flashlight when daylight escaped us.

Although I felt a bit sorry for myself because I was, obviously, superfluous in this equation, I couldn't help gaining more and more respect for my father as I watched him working. Just when I started to get a little worried that I might have to call in sick on Monday, my dad emerged from under the hood -- his arms a black, greasy mess -- and said: "I got it!"

We tested everything out on the van and, sure enough, my dad had rescued me from my own ineptitude. And, he did it in a way that wouldn't cost me any money, which was a nice bonus. Ever since my latest automobile holiday fiasco, I've thought about those people who might judge -- and have judged -- my father based on what is most obvious, his deafness and his lack of a formal education. Those individuals, in my opinion, are completely missing the boat with him, and others like him.

It took a loose belt and a tight steering wheel for me to be reminded of this valuable lesson. In retrospect, I'm glad I had the chance to learn it while I can still give my dad the respect he so richly deserves.

Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached via e-mail at jsmith@henryherald.com.