My Dad is pretty much the personification of kindness, but he hold his cards very close. I call him the Secret Agent Man- he’s well known for helping out all kinds of people, but always in a very low key manner. He’s just not in it for the attention. Most of the people I know back home have a story about Dad coming to their rescue, but he never talks about it- it’s just not how he rolls. Recently my cousin shared a quintessential Dad story with me that, at the risk of blowing his cover, was too good not to share.
It was 1986, and my cousin Teresa was having a hard time. She was not quite twenty years old, a bright and hardworking student at U of M-Flint who was struggling to keep afloat financially. She was interning as a clerk and receptionist at my Dad’s CPA firm downtown and making a grand total of about $400 per month, from which $165 went to rent.
Her transportation was a sad little 1980 Buick Skylark that had seen better days. It wore an aging blue landau top and a fading gray Maaco paint job, and on the day in question, sat inside the University parking ramp with a flat tire.
Teresa knew there was a Uniroyal tire store diagonally across the street from Dad’s office. She gently coaxed the limping Skylark the few blocks and explained her situation. Behind the counter was a lady named Louise who looked at the flat and told her not only was the tire not worth fixing, but the rest of the tires were bald and worn out. She told Teresa that the car was unsafe. Teresa explained to her that she could barely afford the $12 patch and couldn’t possibly spring for new tires. Louise put her hands on her hips and frowned- she agreed to patch the tire- but warned her that the car was not safe to drive.
The next week, Teresa and the wounded Buick were at work and my Dad told her he needed her car for an errand. She recalls being mortified- “Your Dad has fifteen cars, what does he need my jalopy for?” was the question she posed to me. She tried unsuccessfully to reach her boyfriend Dan and borrow his car instead, but she was stuck on the phones and Dad pressed the issue, so she handed him the keys.
An hour later he came back from lunch and put her keys on the reception desk. “Your car will be ready after work,” he said to her. She panicked, hoping that it hadn’t broken down on him. The rest of the afternoon passed slowly.
Finally she clocked out and walked across the street to the tire store, where a smiling Louise handed her the keys to her car, which looked resplendent sitting on four brand new Uniroyal radials. Whitewalls, of course- my Father is not a cheapskate. Louise said “I told you that you needed new tires.”On the seat was a paid receipt for $164- exactly one dollar less than her rent. She was completely shocked.
She had no idea that Louise was the sister of my soon-to-be-stepmother, Wanda, or that she grew up knowing our clan, recognized the last name and immediately called my Father, who hatched a secret scheme to rescue a damsel in distress. Teresa said she literally cried when she saw the tires. She says she would not have made it through college without my Dad. She sent him a giant thank-you card through the interoffice mail but he never mentioned it. And to this day he claims no memory of the incident. It’s just how he rolls.
Happy Father’s Day to my amazing Secret Agent Man. You’re the best. And try as you do to disguise it, the whole town kinda knows it, too.