Do You Hear That?

by Anniel9/25/16

A Poem In Two Voices

His automobile, always new, was my
Father’s sustaining and one true passion.
It took some going, round curves and mountains,
In order to fill his driving ration.

[Ruth*, do you hear that? This car has a ping.]

His times of wandering were somewhat spent
As each new child joined in chaining him down,
But his summer-long journeys were sacred
As he loaded and prepared to leave town.

[Listen, that sound, it’s the carburetor.]

He packed up the food, tarps and wool blankets,
Coleman lantern, stove and full Water Boy,
Then stuffed children in spaces remaining,
Everyone sharing in vacation’s joy.

[Did you feel those springs when we hit that bump?]

We drove high hills and deep river valleys;
Through billowing dust and roads made of stone.
Dad always pushed on, through cloudburst and drought
And lung searing heat all parched to the bone.

[Listen, my dear, it’s the radiator.]

Daddy wanted to see all that he could,
But driving was the ultimate reason
He kept on the move, speeding and shifting,
Braking and turning, through summer’s season.

[Gas mileage is down. It’s time, Ruth, it’s time,]

We rode in autos, wagons and pickups,
Hair mangled by wind, skin dirty and beat,
As Daddy listened for clatter or squeak,
That meant a new car, all spiffy and neat.

[Let’s buy a new car and not hesitate.]

Oh, Daddy listen, those sounds that you hear,
They’re the sounds of children in a new car,
Learning the world as they travel with you,
Learning of beauties that nothing can mar.

[Buy, before it dies and loses value]

Those cars never died, they lived in our hearts.
And somewhere Daddy yet drives up a hill,
Twisting and turning, and showing the way
To little children who ride with him still.

[Time for a trade-in, before it’s too late!]

Daddy, listen, it’s the wrong thing you hear,
It’s only some noise and not what it seems,
It’s the sound, the brief sound of forever
As children ride in the heart of their dreams.

October 2008
*Ruth is my mother’s name.

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6 Responses to Do You Hear That?

  1. Annie says:

    It was funny how going on so many trips with our father affected us. My older brother can still tell all the auto details and where we traveled in any given year. If I want to know when we went to, oh, Coffee Pot Rapids, he can give me the make and model, even the color, of what we drove, the month and year, all the nitty gritty. While I remember the sounds of the automobiles as I listened with my dad.

    Early in our marriage I would try to tell Bear when something was wrong with our car. He would just look at me like I was nuts. I was always right, but I was a girl, what did I know? Then we drove somewhere with few towns and I told him he’d better have our distributor cap looked at because it was probably going bad. We stopped to get gas and he didn’t say anything to the mechanic on duty, so I did.

    The mechanic pulled the cap, took it to Bear and said it was cracked and it would take a few minutes to get a new one there. I suspect that’s the day Bear became a believer. Do I even know what a distributor cap is? No, but I sure know what one sounds like.

    You never know what you’re teaching children who are along for the ride.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      We did a fair amount of driving around on trips when we were in Greece, no doubt part of it being my father’s job (Assistant Army Attaché). On one occasion the car needed fixing out in the middle of the Greek countryside (near Amphipolis on a trip to Istanbul). But I certainly never learned the sound of car trouble ahead, perhaps because we tended to trade in the car every few years.

      • Anniel says:

        My Dad ALWAYS had a reason for a new car every two years like clockwork. He always drove a Ford, except for one year after the war when he got a Jeep. He absolutely detested that car but felt he couldn’t do anything about it. We had it for only one year and back to the Fords we went.

        Bear says I sound like the guys who took auto mechanics in high school. But the modern cars are nothing like the old ones. I can still pick out strange noises, but computers have changed the automotive world, and undoubtedly will continue to do so.

        Parents are still the ones who teach their kids. If parents are courteous and helpful drivers, their children will know.

  2. Gibblet says:

    My brother works on cars and, through osmosis, like you, I learned a lot about mechanics from him. My Dad is not mechanical, so when he came home from work and found that his 8 year old son had totally dismantled the engine of his new go-cart, he was not very happy about it. Imagine Dad’s surprise when he came home the next night to find the engine reassembled and reinstalled and functioning properly.

    An interesting story is that my brother bought an old ’57 Chevy, and during the process of restoration discovered that it rolled off the assembly line the same day he was born!

  3. Rosalys says:

    I love this! With my new found appreciation for poetry, I’m going back to read all the as of yet, unread poems in the ST queue.

    “Hair mangled by wind…”

    Dad, while he was still working, bought a new car every year. He was a salesman and put a lot of miles on them. He couldn’t be bothered with taking time for the repair shop; it was easier to just trade it in every year. My Dad, a very talented individual in many ways, was no mechanic. One year, just about the time many men have a mid life crisis, the family watched, jaws dropping and eyes popping, as Dad drove up in a bright yellow, Gran Torino convertible! The only time the top was up was when it was raining or snowing. Even in the cold weather – okay, maybe not when it was below freezing, but at all other times – the top would be down and the heat would be on full blast! Hair mangled by the wind describes perfectly what happened to me (sitting in the back seat, where the effect is multiplied!) on a trip of two or three hours to visit my aunt. Being a teenager during the 60’s, my hair was long, and I spent an hour combing out the tangles! Needless to say, I hated that car. Dad, however, loved it, and it was the first car he ever kept for more than a year. I think he had it for three years; maybe even a little longer. He finally had to get rid of it when he had an accident on an icy road. Dad was not hurt, but the car was totaled. Ernie, the mechanic at the Ford dealership in town, bought it, restored it, and proudly drove around town in it for years with a big grin on his face!

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