“What do ya say? Should we give it a shot?” Andy asked.
Kris sighed and shrugged, “I don’t know.”
Andy stared at his son for several moments and nodded.
Nothing he did seemed to meet with approval from the sixteen-year-old. He’d thought finding a car for him would make him happy. Getting a clunker would be affordable and they could spend time together restoring it. However, it seemed even this idea was falling flat.
Kris cocked his head to the side as he looked at the beat-up old Camaro.
Then a grin tugged at his lips, “Can we paint it red?”
Andy chuckled, “We can paint it any color you want.”
The grin blossomed into a full smile and Kris nodded, “Let’s do it.”
Andy laughed and slapped him on the shoulder, “Alright.”
They bought the car and towed it home behind Andy’s pick up.
They looked over the car, examined the engine, got the parts they needed.
The first day they started in on the work, Andy started to hope there was a real chance for his relationship with Kris.
He glanced at Kris now, replacing spark plugs.
The boy he’d been when Andy walked out on him and his mom was gone. In the seven years it had taken Andy to get his life together, Kris had grown up into a young man. He was nearly as tall as Andy now—just beginning to fill out. His hair was the same honey gold shade as his mother’s, his eyes green like Andy’s. Unfortunately, those eyes no longer held the eager adoration toward his father that they once had. Instead they wore a distrustful, rigid façade sheltering the hurt in his heart.
Andy sighed and went back to replacing a wheel bearing.
As time went on, the car began to take shape. The engine hummed, the new Cardinal red paint glinted in the light, and Kris and Andy were developing a camaraderie.
As the two worked to change the oil in the car one day, Kris talked about one of his friends from school.
“His dad’s taking him camping up at Cold Springs,” Kris said.
“Yeah? Sounds fun.”
“Yeah… they go every year.”
The tone in his voice made Andy stop and look at him.
His friend’s father took him camping every year. All of his friends’ fathers did things with their sons—took them camping, taught them to drive, went to their Little League games, gave them advice about dating. Andy hadn’t done any of those things. He hadn’t been there to do them, even before he walked out.
Andy exhaled a heavy breath.
It was time to face up to his past.
“Kris… I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.”
“Yeah… me too.”
“Kris, walking out on you and your mom was… the worst mistake of my life. I regret it… more than I can ever tell you. The way I was back then… well, I wasn’t fit to be a father. I wasn’t fit for much of anything… and it took me a long time to find my way. I know I hurt you… and for that I’m deeply sorry. I want to try to make it up to you… if you’ll let me.”
Kris turned away as tears stung at his eyes, the muscles in his jaw clenching.
He tried to fight back the pain of seven years of abandonment and hurt.
Andy reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder.
Kris turned to face him, his eyes full of tears, his gaze bored into Andy’s.
Andy felt tears come to his own eyes as he spoke, “I love you, son. I want to be your father.”
“I love you… and I want that too,” Kris said as the tears spilled out and rolled down his face, “But I don’t trust you.”
Andy sighed, “I know… and I don’t blame you. All I’m asking for is a chance—a chance to show you that I’ve changed, a chance to build trust and a real relationship with you. I know I’ll probably screw up from time to time, but I’m going to be a good father… I promise.”
Kris stared at him for several moments and then nodded, “Okay.”
Andy pulled him into a bear hug and held him tight as tears slid down his cheeks.
It would take a while, but by the grace of God his relationship with his son, just like the Camaro, would become beautiful, in its time.
© Whitney L. Schwartz