Daddy Drove a Studebaker

Daddy drove a Studebaker. It was a Studebaker Lark. It was painted Green. Not Green Bay Packer green, it was more algae green. Painting cars this color green could very well be why Studebaker went out of business. Well….I did hear they are still making cars in Canada. Maybe they get so much snow up there they can tolerate “Studebaker Lark green”. All I know is it was the yuckiest shade of green I’ve ever seen.

But it wasn’t the color of the Studebaker that made it special anyway. It was the sound. It had a distinctive sound. Maybe it was that the muffler had a hole in it. I don’t know. What I do know, is that I could hear it coming from a half mile away. And when I heard that sound, I knew Daddy was coming home.

He worked at ACIPCO. American Cast Iron Pipe Company. It was dirty, hot, sweaty, dangerous and exhausting. You could see the fatigue on his face as he stepped from behind the wheel of his old green Studebaker. He’d have black soot on his face and hands from the grime of the foundry. The black stubble of his beard matched the color of the lunch box he carried cradled under his arm. You know, I never saw him carry it by its handle. It was always tucked under his forearm like it was a football.

As he walked up the driveway I’d run to him and he’d take time to throw a football or pitch me a few soft lobs so I could hit a baseball. The fatigue would drive him indoors pretty quick so I learned to make the most of those few moments with Daddy. And even as he walked away, I could still smell the lingering smell of cinders. He didn’t do a lot of hugging but we would wrestle for a while and afterwards I would, for a short time, smell like him.

I now realize how special the time is between a boy and his dad. Even now at fifty-five, I have moments when I can still smell the cinders and feel the stubble of his beard. And yes, I can still hear the sound of the obnoxiously green Studebaker Lark.

I thank God for the five senses that so recorded these memories that I have them even now. But Daddy, you see, lives without memories now. Alzheimer’s took most of this away from him. He used to talk about ACIPCO when he first moved to the nursing home, but even that has left him now. When I visit him he doesn’t know who I am, but I know who he is, and that’s enough.

I believe in heaven and because of that, I know this is all temporary. I look forward to a day when Daddy and all the rest of us will be liberated from the frailty of our human inadequacies. I look forward to that and it gives me hope. But I also look back and this too, gives me joy.

So when my memory serves me well, I remember an Ed Cleveland who carried himself with strength and stamina. Lunch box locked between bicep and forearm. Khakis, starched and ironed crisp as he began a new work day. Hands made hard by furnace heat. But a heart made soft by a faith in God.

As a boy I learned to identify the sound of the green Studebaker Lark with the realization that Daddy was coming home. The anticipation of Daddy’s coming Home was never as comforting to me then as it is now.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, I am making everything new!” Revelation 21: 3-5

Postscript: Dad passed from this life only a few days after I wrote this blog. He now knows who he is once again. Better yet, he knows God in a whole new way. Alzheimers can no longer confuse him or distort things. He now sees things more clearly than those of us left here. I know he would tell us if he could, “coming home never felt so good.”

About Gary Cleveland

An old chunk of coal waiting to become a diamond some day. I spend the bulk of my time focused on spiritual development. I teach, preach and stand by the hurting and wounded. I believe our heavenly Father offers us daily opportunities to discover who we are and what we can yet become. I serve as a bringer of good news in and around the city of Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
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3 Responses to Daddy Drove a Studebaker

  1. Jim Martin says:

    Gary,
    I just discovered your blog. A very nice post! Brought back a lot of memories for me.

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  3. Joshua says:

    I just read this entry. Again, throwing a tear or two in the local coffee place.
    There is something special (not near a good enough word) about seeing your father and his father stand together. Watching as they stand proud of thier families. Proud of the good that has come from their lives despite any hardship. Blessed because grace gave them children who look past mistakes and say things like “daddy” and “Papaw” with the anticipation of a good wrestle and hug, or perhaps, if you are lucky, a good round or two of horse shoes.

    It is something entirely different seeing your father stand over his father. Wathcing as one stands with honor in his heart and an aching in his soul, while the other lays down for the last time. Still there is pride of the son who looks at the life of the father who has gone before him. Proud to remember the good time that was spent together. Perhaps prouder still to know that through the bad times they could say things like “I love you” or “I miss you” at the end of the day.

    It is quite amazing to watch your father say goodbye to his. It is sobering, heartwrenching, and comforting all at the same time. Sobering because it smells of what may someday be for this son and his father. Heartwrenching because love makes letting go, if only of a portion of things, near impossible. Comforting…comforting because this life will not be the end of us. This death is a mere change of what someday will be. It is a comfort to know that the next time my father sees his father he will be recognized. He will be called “Gary, my son.” He will be welcomed home.

    Until that day, if the Lord doesn’t beat us to it that is, I say it’s time for a game of catch, a good game of mini-soccer, a romp in the pond, and if we’re lucky a round or two of horse shoes.

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