by Wayne Davis
From the Editor: Wayne Davis is the energetic President of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. He is also a devoted father with a great sense of humor. Read about his adventure helping his son try to repair his car.
My wife Carmen and I are both blind and active members of the National Federation of the Blind. We are useful, productive people who believe that blind people can do anything they decide they really want to do.
We have a grown son whose name is Dave. At the time of this story David was a senior at the University of South Florida in Tampa. On the weekend in question Dave had driven home to Miami Beach to spend a little time with us and a great deal of time with his girlfriend Brenda. On his way home on Friday night, he drove through some very heavy South Florida rain, and his windshield wipers had stopped working. He finally made it home, though, and his very first words when he came into our apartment were, "I am going to fix those blankety‑blank windshield wipers first thing in the morning. It won't take more then twenty minutes, and I won't have to spend a lot of money getting it fixed if I do the job myself."
At that time his car was a 1988 Mustang with a 5.0 engine. It had every high-speed add‑on that could be put on a car and was only slightly slower than a fighter jet.
I didn't try to talk Dave out of working on his car. To tell the truth, I felt pretty proud of him for being willing to get his hands dirty in order to save a few dollars.
Saturday morning came, and, true to his word, Dave put on an old pair of shorts and went out to fix his windshield wipers. I recall that I was sitting at my computer when I heard him come into the house. "Dad," he said as he leaned against our bedroom door jamb, "Could you help me for a few minutes?"
Fatherly pride swelled my heart. My son, who is a senior in college, needs my help. Here is a chance, I thought, for some of that quality time I am always reading about. "Sure", I said as I slipped on my shoes. "What seems to be the problem?"
"I might have bitten off more than I can chew," he admitted. "I could sure use another pair of hands if you are sure you are not too busy."
"No, Dave," I told him, "What I am doing can wait." Then, like a lamb being led to the slaughter, I followed my son out to the front of our building, where he was working on the car.
"I found out what the problem is," he said. "There are two little holes that let water drain out of the windshield wiper assembly. They are stopped up, and when it rained so hard, water built up and shorted out the wipers." At that point my foot kicked a big metal something lying on the front sidewalk. Before I could even ask, he said sort of under his breath, "That's my left front fender."
"Why did you take off your fender?" I asked.
"It was in the way," he told me, "but that's not my problem, Dad. I can't get my driver's-side door back on by myself."
I tried to remain cool and cling to those earlier thoughts about quality time with my son as I asked him why he had removed his car door. "Well, it wasn't closing right. I had to lift up on it a little to close it sometimes, and I thought I would also fix that problem while I was out here. Besides, it was a lot easier to get the fender off once the door was out of the way. It all just sort of got out of hand when I removed those front bolts on the end of the fender. One end of the grill dropped down, and the left headlight sank back toward the radiator. So I went on and just finished taking off the grill. Itís lying over by the door and the fender on the sidewalk."
"Dave," I said, as I fought to see the funny side of it all, "Why don't you go into the house and get your mom to give you that large box of trash bags she bought at the grocery store. I'll help you throw the whole thing away."
"Dad," he said, "If I had wanted dumb remarks, I would have just called Brenda. What I want to know is whether we can get it put back together in time for me to make my 2:00 class on Monday afternoon." He went on to tell me that he wanted to beat out a dent or two in the fender he had taken off while he could get to them.
The problem with putting the door back on the car was holding it in just the right position while Dave reattached it. A car door is not particularly light, and with someone else working on it while you are holding it up just so, it quickly gets really heavy.
Moments later, while Dave was inside telling his mom what was going on, a guy pulled up in another Mustang and asked what we were doing. So I told him. He was impressed with all the racing gear and the big souped‑up engine.
"What will you take for it?" he inquired. I thought for a second or two and replied: "Is seven dollars too much?" At that moment Dave came hurrying back out to where I was waiting and promptly killed the sale. Somehow, he didn't find that part funny either.
I went to the trunk of his car and got out his jack. After putting my shirt between the jack and the bottom of the car door, I used it to help hold the car door in place until Dave could re‑attach the edges.
The fender was another story. It needed more work than we had the tools to do, so we loaded it into the trunk and took it over to an NFB friend's house. Bryan, who is also totally blind, has a shop, and he beat the dents out for Dave and, while he was at it, drilled out some holes for Dave to attach new 5.0 emblems to the fender.
Dave and I both worked all day Saturday and Sunday on the car. We put it back together a piece at a time and did a number of little extra things to it as we went along. We finished up in time for him to make that class on Monday. He didn't see much of Brenda that weekend, and I wasn't able to get any of my own work done, but I don't think either of us would have swapped that weekend working on that old Mustang for anything.
What does all of this have to do with being blind? Nothing really. That's the whole point. Neither Dave nor I thought my being blind would have any effect on our ability to fix his car. I am his dad, and I have been fixing things around the house since he was born. He of course knows that Carmen and I are blind, but he also knows that he has always been able to come to either of us with any problem, and the three of us have been able to fix whatever was broken or work out a solution for whatever was wrong.
I am sure he never doubted that together he and I could reassemble his car because he knows that the only difference between us and sighted people is that our eyes don't work. The rest of us, including our minds and bodies, works just fine.
Even today, five or six years after we put his 3000-pound model car kit back together, he still calls or stops by to find out what we think about some question he faces in his life. Isn't that what parents are there for?
Members of the National Federation of the Blind are far too busy living our lives to have time to say we can't do something. We may have to develop our own methods of getting it done, but you can rest assured that we will get it done, and it really isn't that big a deal. As in this story, what else could I have done but figure out a way to help Dave fix his car? Sure, I am blind, but after all, I am also his dad.
Have you made your campaign pledge yet? We need everyone's help. The construction cost of our projected National Research and Training Institute for the Blind is eighteen million dollars. Please take this opportunity to complete your pledge form. Without you our job will be just that much harder.
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