“It doesn’t matter who my father was. It matters who I remember he was.”
I was so young, I think about 5 or 6 years old, sitting in my grand mothers bedroom watching her her sew, when I heard the brakes of my dads white Ford Cortina screeching outside the gate. He was home from work, I remember this ball of excitement exploding from my tummy, bursting out of me, as I ran around the house, so happy that he was home from work, I don’t think he knew or understood how excited I was to see him every single day. He’d come out to open the gate, I’d help him open it and then closed it behind him after he pulled the car in.
The best memories I have of my dad is in the car or on the road. I used to be in the car while he was under it, fixing something. I remember helping him wash the car on a Saturday morning, him with his bucket and shammy and me with my little bucket and cloth. He’d never allow me to hose it down, instead, he’d hose me down, till I was soaking wet and my mum would get annoyed because she had just given me a bath. When we were done, he’d put my little sister and I in the boot and we’d just hang out, until my mum would bring us something to drink and snack on.
Seat belts weren’t very important to him back then, he’d put me on his lap and let me steer the car, then let go of the steering wheel and say “look I am not driving, you’re doing it all on your own.” I’d be so scared and so thrilled all at once, sometimes I’d even help change gears.
The drive to Kruger park was the best, playing games on the way there, then spending all day in the car looking for animals, nearly having our dashboard stumped by an elephant, and just really not having anything to care or worry about.
Times got a bit tough after that, he wasn’t very present in my life for a long time, but by the time I turned 17, things had started to settle down in our lives, and I was back in the car with him, this time was a bit more stressful, he was now yelling at me for indicating and moving through all 3 lanes all the way to the right lane, nearly giving him a heart attack and almost causing a massive accident, after which, he needed a smoke.
Now, Sunday afternoons were spent yelling at each other on the roads. Him telling me he’s been driving for more then 20 years so he knows best, and me trying to explain to him this K53 thing that my driving instructor was teaching me. I remember it getting so intense, that one day, I had just pulled over on the highway, and refused to drive anymore.
Until one day, as we approached dead mens bend (a road on the way home), he said “You know the way from here, I am going to sleep,” then he fell asleep. This was a defining moment for me, he finally trusted me on the roads, he wasn’t watching anymore, he just let me drive home and trusted we’d get home safely, and we did.
A few years later, he got ill, now it was my time to drive him everywhere. I’d drive him to the malls, to his customers, to visit family… I’d still get the odd scolding for speeding or doing something silly on the road, but I treasure those memories now.
My dad and I literally drove each other mad, but I document this, because other then pictures, and a very special teddy bear that he bought me, this is pretty much all I have of him.