Monday, June 25, 2007

Dad’s Porsche, two words that in my family engendered knowing looks, rolling eyes and outright snickers. It’s not that Dad had ever owned a Porsche, he hadn’t, but he talked regularly about wanting one. The prototypical Dad-Porsche moment is that he hears one coming and turns in that direction, his eyes follow it as it passes and then he wistfully says, “Someday.” And it’s not as if he couldn’t afford one, at least a used one, as he owned a couple of BMW’s when I was growing up, one that Kenny claimed was ‘hot.’ At some point for Dad the desire slipped over to become denial, and he doesn’t have any insight into it.

For his own part, Dad traces his fascination with Porsche’s to when he was in college and the company introduced a new model that he instantly wanted. His first idea was to ask Grampy to buy him one. Gramp's response is said to have been frosty and final. So a Porsche went on the wish list. After college Dad went in the Army and when he returned home it was off to grad school and then exile to a small midwestern college with a wife and baby in tow. But the Porsche was always, someday.

Dad’s obsession had benefits for we kid’s, as we knew just what to get him for his birthday and Father’s day, anything Porsche. It got so out of control that Mom decreed only one Porsche gift per holiday and none at Christmas.
When I was five Kenny brought home a puppy and the howling chorus of, “Mom can we keep him,” from the four of us was more than she could resist. We could, but only under the condition that Kenny, since he brought the puppy home, would feed it and pick up after it. Kenny for his part readily agreed, but soon began to tire of the responsibility, but he knew Mom wouldn’t let him weasel out so he needed a plan. That was me, the offer K made me was that for each day I picked up the dog’s poop he’d pay me a dime. His expectation was that I’d complete the task once or twice a week, but he underestimated me, as I was out in the yard with my trowel and pail, followed by the puppy every day. Of course I needed to invoke the rule of mom to get paid, but he grudgingly did. By the time Dad’s birthday rolled around I acquired what seemed to be a small fortune, most of which Mom had convinced me to place in a piggy bank with the remainder being my candy slush fund.

For his birthday it was my turn to buy a Porsche gift and Mom suggested that I should use my savings for the gift. We went shopping and I sound a yellow Matchbook Porsche with a racing stripe that fit my budget. In the corner of the family room Dad set out his gifts in sort of a shrine and after opening his present he placed the yellow car among the others.

The last summer of their marriage, my parents decided to send me to my grandparents (Mom’s) for the summer. I guess it was so I wouldn’t be watching the final brutal months. A day or so before I left, Mom smashed the shrine, what Dad saw as loving gifts from his children, she saw as the childish obsession of a man she had grown to loath. I don’t know if that was the last straw for Dad, but it was close.

Upon my return home at the end of the summer, Dad picked me up at the airport. The trip home would take about 90 minutes; about half way he suggested we stop for a Dairy Queen. As we sat at the concrete table next to the four-lane, Dad told me that he and Mom had decided to get divorced and that he had already moved out of the house. I didn’t say anything; I didn’t know what to say, except that I wasn’t surprised. I just felt numb all over.

We didn’t say much the rest of the way. When we got to the house, Dad parked in front rather than in the driveway. Then it became real; he wouldn’t be going in like he always did. I asked him where he was living and he told me he had taken an apartment near school. Then I began crying, balling really, “How can I ever see you, that’s over twenty miles away…”
He did see me, as he came over at least one evening a week and we’d go for dinner and he’d pick me up on one of the weekend days.

His apartment was hideous, even by the standards of student rentals, a tiny garret over a garage with sagging floors and chipped paint. It became my mission to help him fix it up and decorate it nicely (well as nicely as possible). Over a couple of months that dive became a respite for a group of burned-out, middle aged college professors, where they bitched about the administration and their peers, over beer and cigars while playing poker for pocket change.

Late in the fall I was in our garage looking for something when I spied a box containing the remnants of the shrine that had escaped the trash bin. On top was the yellow matchbook Porsche, I picked it up and slipped it into the pocket of my jacket. I didn’t wear that jacket again and when I sorted out my room prior to leaving for college into take, trash and Goodwill piles, I found the car again. The jacket went to Goodwill and the car came with me and today sits on the window ledge next my desk.

To be continued.



Anonymous VJ said...

Lucky you. It was the most reliable Porsche ever made. The rest of them spend most of the time in the shop, and are too delicate for regular use. Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

8:33 AM  

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