I can still see my dad sitting on the porch on a bright summer weekend as I pull in the driveway with my young family.”Tires look a little smooth!” he shouts disapprovingly. “Shouldn’t be driving around on bald tires.””I noticed that the other day,” I lie as I dismount from behind the wheel. “Plan to buy a couple when I get my next pay check.”Fast forward 30 years and I pull into that same driveway, and see Dad’s car parked out front. I’m looking it over as he peers out his front door.”Tires look a little smooth!” I shout. “You and Mom shouldn’t be driving around on them. You could get stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a couple of flat tires and one bad spare.”Role reversal, that curious flip-flop between children and parents after the latter are freed to feed in the pastures of post-retirement, is very real. It has made great fodder for comedians over the year as my generation marvels at how they have become the parents, in many ways, of the people who raised them.My Dad was one of those Jacks of all trades who were so highly valued in post-WW II society. He had what they called mechanical aptitude—something I, sadly, lacked. He could tune up his own car, repair the TV before they became a maze of circuitry panels, do carpentry and plumbing and figure out just about anything in between. I, as the eldest son, struggled to do any of this stuff, compensating for my aptitude-lessness by working hard. I was a hard worker if you needed somebody to pound the nails, saw the boards and dig a trench out to the overloaded septic tank. If you wanted somebody to remove a rusted muffler and replace it with a new one, let’s say, or put in a new lighting fixture after upgrading the wiring, I was not the guy. I was, and still am, mechanically retarded.My father will be 90 next January and though he is still drives (refer to the following post) and gets around okay, he’s got a pacemaker and can’t do the physical things he could do two or three years ago. Even clearing snow from his front walk, unless it is just a dusting, is something he shouldn’t do. He doesn’t even try to do it anymore. The ritual of putting the house’s one air conditioner in at the start of summer and taking it out at its end is no longer in his domain. Ditto with pushing a lawnmower and, even more recently, operating his riding lawnmower.The weird thing that happened is that my Dad started losing the ability to perform the most basic mechanical tasks. I’m fixing things for him now, and if it is too complicated, my next oldest brother, who inherited some of Dad’s aptitude, will do it. As recently as the summer of 2008, I would come up and trim around the house and shrubbery and Dad would do the rest on the riding mower. Last summer, he seemed perplexed on how to operate the mower, so I would do it all. That was fine, because, for years, he had taken care of all my repair problems, as well as plumbing jobs, papering walls and re-flooring the kitchen.Believe me, it is neither a problem nor a burden for me. I owe him a lot, and he was always there for me. The least I can do is be there for him.
Wes Skillings is a Pennsylvania-based copywriter whose recent emergence into this field brings a freshness and vitality that will make the words on your website, newsletter, direct mail marketing or news release reach out and grab the customer base you are seeking.