labor of love

“What year is that?”

“Is it all original?”

“What color did you use?”

Shop talk shot back and forth, as clouds just dark enough to hint at rain drifted from one corner of the sky to the other. The the stars and stripes held in each passersby hand fluttered with gusto at the 7th annual Bastrop Veterans Day Car and Motorcycle Show.

Up and down Main Street and few side streets of downtown Bastrop, classic cars of all kinds lined the curb, hoods propped open to display the goods inside.

But inside each car or truck, there was also a story.

Saturday was the cherry on top of my Uncle Flash and Papa’s story.

My uncle has always loved cars. From stories of racing Papa’s car as a teenager to restoring a 1971 Chevelle SS, he’s the one you talk to when you’re mulling over an automobile purchase.

But not only does my uncle love cars, he loves his dad. And the restoration of a 1953 Chevrolet pickup truck was a labor of love.

Since Papa’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it’s been a mixed bag. Some days his mind has such clarity — no fog, no clouds, you almost forget he even has the disease. On other days, the clouds roll in and the fog hangs thick, and you have to look really hard to still see “Papa” through the muddled confusion, the missing links, the frustration and agitation.

But despite the unpredictable nature of Alzheimer’s, Papa is a mechanic. There’s not a memory I don’t have of him without grease under his fingernails, and this truck would daily put his mind to the test.

For two years or more, Uncle Flash and Papa have toiled on this truck in Papa’s shop, affectionately known as “Lee’s Place.” They stripped it down and took it apart. They rebuilt the engine, restored the interior and sent it off for a paint job in Transport Blue — Papa’s color choice, of course. They have scoured junk yards, eBay and driven out to the middle of nowhere to look at trucks. And they both almost killed themselves trying to hang the doors. You name it, they did it.

It was a family affair to see the old pickup rolled out on Main Street. Papa, who we all know is a talker, ate it up as men stopped to appreciate his handiwork, and after a rough week at home, the Alzheimer’s clouds didn’t roll in that day. After investing countless hours, father and son stood arm in arm sharing in a story that will long be remembered.

“Dad, we’ve got to get that scratch fixed,” Uncle Flash said.

“What scratch?”

“You know, the one on the passenger’s side door where you took the door off and laid it on a bolt that was on the ground.”

“I did?” Papa said, trying to pull the memory. “I don’t remember that.”

“Yeah, that’s because you only remember the good things,” my uncle said chuckling.

It might do us good to take a lesson from Papa. Let’s remember the good things.


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