From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

The Lesson

Screech! Crash! The old black pickup truck in front of me stopped. I didn’t. I slammed into its rear, crushing the fender and bending the driver’s door of my car. Except it wasn’t my car. It was my father’s. I shouldn’t have been driving it, and now I had destroyed it.

The farmer climbed out of his truck, slowly and deliberately, and looked at the damage. I sat sobbing, my lip bleeding where I’d bitten it. He was quite concerned, but we managed to exchange names and phone numbers before he pulled out onto the highway again. I cautiously followed, knowing I dared not go home. I’d be in big trouble.

It was my high-school graduation day. I drove to school and crawled out through the passenger door. Surveying the mangled fender, contorted door, scrapes and dents, tears flowed down my face, which was rapidly becoming more swollen by the minute—I didn’t cry “pretty.” I climbed up a ladder in the gym and began draping crepe paper for the dance that was to follow the ceremony. Word traveled fast, and soon a teacher stood at my feet.

“You’ll have to go home to get dressed for graduation sooner or later,” she reasoned. “Sooner would be much better; you have to tell your parents.”

I finally agreed and slowly drove home. The “Death March” sounded in my ears.

My mother took one look at my face when I walked in the door and screamed, “What on Earth happened?”

I hung my head and tears spilled from my eyes again. “I crashed Daddy’s car.”

She threw up her hands in dismay and rushed to the backyard where Dad was grilling burgers.

“Stop cooking, Ted. We’re not going to eat. Jean has wrecked your car.”

He looked at her and quietly said, “Is she hurt?”

“No, except for biting her lip.”

“Well, then, what does that have to do with eating dinner?” He flipped a burger, piled it on a plate with the others, then walked across the yard and put his arm around me. “Let’s go in and hear all about this—if you’re sure you’re all right.”

I sniffled and nodded.

The phone was ringing when we got to the back door. The farmer wanted to make sure I was safe and had no other injuries. He refused to let Daddy pay for the scrapes on his truck.

I pressed ice to my lip while Mother brought cold washcloths for my swollen eyes. My father smiled at me and whispered, “Cars can be repaired . . . “

I graduated that evening with my family in attendance, joyful I had earned my diploma, yet knowing my greatest lesson had come from my father. High school taught me what is important in books. Daddy taught me to value what is really important in life.

Jean Stewart

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