Friday, February 17, 2006

A Gift from Dad

[Father Fridays: An ongoing series about my Dad...]

When I was 11 or 12 years old, I had an irrepressible desire for a go-cart. A friend of mine, Heath, had a small motorcycle and while I probably enjoyed sitting close behind him and hugging his chest as a passenger, I longed for similar knobby-wheeled freedom to call my own. Unfortunately, because my second cousin was killed on a motorcycle around this time, I had to seek something with less risk of bodily injury. A go-cart seemed to fit the bill.

My father subscribed to the notion that children shouldn't be spoiled and that they should earn everything that was considered a "want." Sure, they fed me and put a roof over my head, but unless it was Christmas, I earned money through manual labor. Usually mowing the lawn, pulling weeds or helping around the house. By my calculations, at the going child-labor rate in my household, it would've taken me 137 years to earn enough for the go-cart I wanted. So, in a stroke of prepubescent brilliance, I decided I was going to BUILD one.

My father was amused by this plan and showed great interest in it. First, he took me to the library, where we researched go-cart design and engines. I found several books and took them home to study like mad. I made drawings and parts lists, and asked my Dad lots of impressive questions that regular 12-year-olds shouldn't ask, like "Dad, what's torque?" or "What do you think a good turning radius would be?"

This went on for a couple of weeks, maybe more. I would work every day on my plans: How to assemble the frame, what size engine to get, where I'd buy the tires and parts, etc. etc. Now, before you start to think that I possessed mechanical aptitude beyond my years, you should know that my design
wasn't exactly crafted with safety, stability or even rolling in mind. In fact, if memory serves, it looked a lot like this. I just wanted it to be fast and really bad-ass looking. Those were my only requirements.

Apparently my Dad, while impressed with my enthusiasm, was not so confident in my ability to make my dreams a reality. One day after school I came home and went directly to work on my masterpiece. After 30-40 minutes, my Dad calls me into his bedroom.

Dad: Hey, how's the go-cart coming along?
Me: Well, I'm still trying to figure out how to mount the engine on the back.
Dad: You know the Auto Parts place we go to?
Me: Yeah.
Dad: Well I talked the owner, Mr. Jensen, into donating a couple of parts for you. They're out in the garage.
Me: Really? That is AWESOME.
Dad: Wanna go look at them?
Me: YES!

I was giddy with anticipation. I imagined a series of shiny bolts or even a chain to turn the wheels. Maybe, if I was lucky, big tires. As we got outside, both garage doors were closed as usual. Dad walked nonchalantly to the bay doors and pressed the remote that was suspiciously in his pocket. Both doors slowly started to rise.

Dad: [Hoping to add to the suspense]. Now, this may not be exactly what you want...

Much like a game-show prize, the doors slowly revealed a brand new, five-horsepower, two-seater go-cart. It was bright red with a blue seat and a white, shiny, never-started engine. On the front seat was a helmet. I jumped with utter joy and gushed with appreciation. This was, without a doubt, one of the happiest moments in my previous 12 years. I beamed.

Dad: Now Dave, we got this for you because of how much effort you put into trying to build one. Your Mom and I are really proud of how much work you did. Really proud. This is your reward for all your hard work.

And though my childhood naivete didn't pick up on it at the time, this day would eventually morph into something infinitely more special that a go-cart. This was the day my father taught me that hard work and dedication to a task was the backbone to getting what you want in life. It was the most valuable lesson I ever learned.

Thanks, Dad.


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