This morning a military mom handed me a check and I handed her the keys to the best physical gift my Dad ever gave me.
The gift was a 1973 signal flair red Mustang. It had a 302 engine with 145 horsepower and a 3 speed automatic. It wasn't a racing machine but it had power and when I sold it was a beautiful car.
My Dad bought it 19 years ago from the original owner. At the time, the engine was an oily mess, the paint had faded to a chalky, dull orange and it had rust around the rear wheels. The fact that it ran, had a well-maintained interior and was the right price made it a good deal.
I was 13 at the time and all that mattered was that Dad had brought home a MUSTANG! It didn't matter that that the engine wasn't huge or that it wasn't ever going to win a race, it was a MUSTANG!
For the next five years my Dad and I worked on that car in the evenings after work and on the weekends. I took large portions of the engine compartment apart, stripped and sanded parts, repainted them and somehow managed to get them back in the car even though my organization of screws and parts was haphazard. I even straightened every little fin in the radiator because this car was going to be perfect.
By the time I graduated from high school, the car was a head-turner. It had been repainted, the interior still looked good and the car ran great. I can still remember standing in the living room of our old house after graduation when my Dad handed me the keys and said the car was mine. I was shocked. This car had been his dream ever since he had had to sell his green Mustang back when I was first born – it wasn't a family car and didn't hold groceries very well.
Fourteen years after my Dad gave me the car, I took a look at my budget, five – going on six kids and decided that it was time to give up the car. It was costly to maintain, costly to fill the gas tank and after one of my kids put a scratch down the length of the car with a bike and another thought drawing on the trunk lid with a stick was a good idea, I decided that I couldn't justify keeping it.
Two days ago when mom and son showed up to look at the car, I saw in his eyes the same enthusiasm I had when my Dad had brought the car home ninteen years ago. I knew that the right person was buying the car.
The son and his mom saw the same thing in the car that my Dad and I found when I was a kid. The Mustang wasn't just a red sports car, it was a lesson in commitment, pride and trust that I plan on passing on to my sons. Someday I will buy another car and my sons' eyes will light up because I brought home a MUSTANG and I will pass on lessons that can only be learned by fixing up an old car.