The Final Lesson

I’d locked the keys in my car. Well, it wasn’t my car exactly, it was my father’s. A 1974 Plymouth Satellite. I had just started my first “real job” in downtown Edmonton, and was borrowing the car to commute from the family farm into the city.

I couldn’t yet afford a car of my own, nor could I afford to park downtown, so I parked across the river, walked over the Dawson Bridge, up the bajillion stairs from the river valley. After work I’d walk back then drive home. But on that day, I couldn’t, I’d locked the keys inside where I’d left the car that morning. What to do?

Well, my father would certainly have an extra set of keys, though he was 45 minutes away. I knew I’d probably have to endure a lecture after he came and got me, but I didn’t know what else to do, so I called him from a phone booth and said, “Hi, I, umm, locked the keys in the car.”

There was a long silence. Then he said, “So?” and hung up.

Although I had recently graduated from college, I had not yet graduated from childhood. That “So?” was my diploma. In no uncertain terms he was telling me that I was no longer a boy, that I was a man, and as a man it was up to me to solve my own problems. How very focused the mind becomes after the realization that “no one is coming.”

This was the last lesson my father taught me, and one that has served me well. Before that year was over, he died of lung cancer. The cruel reality that he would never be there to save me again, was softened, if only a little, by his final lesson.

Oh yes, and I did get the car unlocked and get myself home that night. My father didn’t have a lot to say about it, neither congratulations nor interrogation. He just smiled and nodded. For a man, that was enough.

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