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What My Father Taught Me: A Father’s Day Message

When I was a little kid, I thought my dad was the best. At everything. Nobody could build a deck as sturdy as my dad’s. Nobody could create a garden as beautiful as my dad’s. Nobody could skip a rock across a pond as many times as my dad. Nobody could sing in the shower with as much gusto as my dad. Nobody was his equal. Nobody.

My father shaped me into the person I am today. Because of his influence, I enjoy getting outdoors and being physically active. I love hiking — the warm, alive-and-awake feeling in my muscles, the earthy smell of the forest, the flash of iridescence that is a hummingbird and the soft chiming of leaves in a breeze.

Like all dads, he had his favorite expressions. The one I recall most often is “Rachel, you need to take care of things”. Over the years, I’ve discovered that my father’s saying is more than a platitude. It has a larger meaning. “Taking care” encompasses many things, not just possessions. Let me explain.

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One afternoon, when I was about eight, I grabbed a wrench from the garage to tighten my bicycle handlebars. My friends were yelling, “Hurry up!” so I quickly stashed the wrench under a hedge. Of course, I forgot about it. My dad found it two weeks later while trimming the boxwood. He didn’t get mad but he did make me clean off the wrench and put it back in the drawer. He told me that a craftsman always takes care of his tools and keeps a neat, orderly shop.

As I got older, my father started teaching me how to maintain the family car. The first lesson was straightforward. We replaced the air filter. He said that a clean air filter makes it easier for the carburetor to do its job. As a result, the car performs better and lasts longer.

Tires were the next topic. Using a pressure gauge wasn’t difficult but the noisy air compressor scared me. My father stood by me patiently, giving me the courage to try to put air into the tires. He explained that when tires are correctly inflated, the car’s gas mileage improves.

Then he showed me how to change oil and replace the oil filter. By this time, I had learned about ecology in school. I was aware of the dangers of pollution. And as a family, we had taken camping trips through several National Parks. I was entranced by the wild beauty of Sequoia, Zion and Crater Lake. I took to heart my father’s advice about protecting the environment by properly disposing of used motor oil.

Later, he demonstrated how to change a flat and explained the principles of tire rotation. Sadly, I wasn’t strong enough, or interested enough, to undo the lug nuts. And I rolled my eyes when he brought up the subject of spark plugs. Sorry, Dad.

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I guess I never caught the bug for DIY car maintenance. My excuse? Not enough time. Plus working on cars has become a lot more complicated than it used to be. The truth is if I’m going to get all dirty and sweaty, I’d rather get that way scrambling over a rocky trail or wrestling with shrubs in the backyard.

Luckily, I have a fantastic mechanic, Hillside Auto Repair. I’ve been going there for years. Their work is impeccable. Mike and Andre take excellent care of me and my car. They treat me with respect and take the time to explain things. I have 100% confidence in their judgment and recommendations. Best of all, talking to Mike or Andre is just like talking to my dad.

I recently bought a Prius. The car’s fuel efficiency and environmental benefits are impressive. I’m fascinated by the technology of hybrid cars — again, my father’s influence. He too would have been intrigued.

For me, there’s an added bonus. Hillside Auto Repair specializes in maintaining hybrids and is the only car repair shop in the South Bay that’s certified to perform battery pack conditioning. I’m happy that Hillside is an alternative to the dealer’s service department. I look forward to being a Hillside customer for a long, long time.

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So, when my father said, “Rachel, you need to take care of things”, he wasn’t just talking about tires, filters and wrenches. He meant everything — taking care of myself, taking care of other people and taking care of the planet.

Thanks for the valuable lesson, Dad, and Happy Father’s Day.

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