A Daughter's Shambles, and a Dad's Reaction
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
Four years ago, just before Father's Day, the father of commentator Nanci Olesen died. Today, she remembers that afternoon when the right words from her dad made all the difference.
NANCI OLESEN: It was almost 1 o'clock in the afternoon on a Sunday, 30 years ago, the day of my high school graduation party. I was supposed to go pick up my little sister from a birthday party. I backed the Oldsmobile out of the garage and was shocked to hear a crashing sound. I remember my mother coming out of the back door of our house, screaming.
I remember walking in slow motion to the back of the car to see the panel of wood that used to divide the garage doors, lying half on the back of the car, half on the driveway. I remember frantically calling my boyfriend Jack to help. I don't remember how my sister got home from her birthday party. I think my mom had a lot to say, a torrent about disaster and inconvenience and emergency.
My dad was on the radio. He hosted a local music and talk show. He was playing all the music I loved, and quoting Shakespeare and Aldo Leopold and Emily Dickinson, weaving together a sentimental afternoon of goodbyes and affirmations to his oldest daughter.
(Singing) When you walk through a storm. Hold your head up high and don't be afraid of the dark.
Mom called Dad at the radio station to let him know that I had torn the garage down with the car. He would be returning home in a half hour to a yard full of people who were arriving for my graduation party. I hated that mom had to tell dad what had happened. We still had the radio on but dad had nothing more to say. The news of the crash muted his folksy radio tributes. He played continuous music: Sousa, Mancini, John Denver, Rodgers and Hammerstein.
My boyfriend, Jack, arrived. He had a bandana tied around his shoulder-length hair. Oh how my mother hated that young man. With all his strength he jammed the wood partition of the garage between the arch and the concrete. I grabbed a sledgehammer and ran toward him. He flashed a big smile and swung accurately at the panel to force it into position. Oh how I loved that young man. The garage doors wouldn't shut. The paint job was all messed up. The car was dented.
Guests started arriving and meddling around the accident scene in the garage. Our poodle started barking. Ice cubes were spilled on the kitchen floor. There were halting conversations between people who were all connected to me but didn't know each.
Dad walked up the driveway and stood at the garage doors. I held my breath. He muttered I would have cleaned the garage if I'd known everybody was going to be staring into it. He patted me on the back. He looked at Jack, who he rarely made eye contacts with and said, thanks. Then he went inside to get a beer.
ELLIOTT: Nanci Olesen is the host of the American Public Media program �How's the Family?� She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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