Like many kids, I grew up thinking my parents knew it all. Any question I had could be answered. Any problem I had could be solved. No matter what was going on, I knew I could turn to them for support and assistance. And like many kids, I remember the moment when that curtain fell.
I was living in Topeka, so this would’ve been in 2000. It was wintertime, the roads covered in snow. Dad had taken my brother to school in the Explorer and had run over something in the road that shredded his tired. Mom got a call from my exasperated father, asking for help changing the tire. So Mom and I got into my car and drove the few miles out to the Walgreen’s parking lot Dad had pulled into. There he was, in his long black winter coat, frustratingly fumbling about. The truck had already been jacked up and the front right tired was almost off. I helped take of the rest of the bolts and took the tire off the hub.
Something snapped. Evidently, Dad had placed the ridiculously-small jack under a plastic piece of the side board instead of the proper setting and the brittle molding broke away. The truck lurched downward on top of the tire, which was still standing next to the axle. Unfortunately, my hand was on top of the tire when this happened and my right hand was now pinned between the shredded tire and the wheel well. It was at that instant that my father morphed from the all-knowing strong man of the universe to a mortal being, a guy trying to do the best he could in a world he increasingly didn’t understand. Here he was, angry and upset that he was late to work because of car trouble, and suddenly his oldest son may have just lost his hand. He panicked and tried to pull my hand free, but the truck had already settled. I calmly told my parents to just find the jack (it shot out from underneath the truck), get it lifted somewhere stable, and free me so I could get to an urgent care facility. After about five minutes, this was achieved and Mom drove me while Dad waited on a tow truck. Thankfully, I had no nerve damage and I regained full use of my hand after a few months.
The real damage (if you can call it that) was that after that I saw my folks as regular people, just trying to make their way. It’s a natural thing, and my relationship with both of my parents grew stronger after that. Even though my understanding changed, I still found myself reaching out to them when I had questions. Sure, they didn’t know everything, but they still had all the answers. I always took that for granted. So many of the figures I’ve looked up to in my life are tarnished or gone entirely. It’s part of growing up. But no matter how human I see my parents to be, they are still Mom and Dad. And they always understand.