My dad, Dave Williamson, battled colon cancer hard for a few years before it finally got him in 2005 at only 62.
A few months before he passed, when it was apparent the countless surgeries and treatments hadn’t worked and he was on borrowed time, we took a road trip to Pembina Hills to see his buddy, Bill Harrison, who owns Vavavoom Garage — at that time Bill had several hundred vintage cars in his field of dreams.
Uncle Bill’s place is near Carman so it was a perfect day trip.
My dad was the manager of Brunswick Steel and his work truck was a crisp white 2004 Chevrolet Silverado.
The Copp family, owners of Brunswick, always treated my dad like gold and he got to order the truck himself. He took great pride in ticking off all the right boxes and his truck was loaded with everything except leather interior, which he said didn’t belong in a pickup.
He loved that Silverado and had me install a few goodies including some flashy chrome accents.
It was his pride and joy.
When he picked me up on that warm spring morning his truck was as clean as a whistle.
Spending time driving with my dear old dad was one of my favourite things to do and we always had plenty to talk about.
That day was no different and even though he knew his time was getting short, he maintained his sharp sense of humour right to the end — so we drove down the road in his beautiful truck kidding and laughing the way fathers and sons do.
On the way we stopped for lunch in Carman at Syl’s Drive Inn. My dad always ordered a hotdog with mustard and a Pepsi.
He wasn’t a big guy, he’d been sick when he was a kid and they never knew what it was, but he said after spending a few months in the hospital as a young teen he never grew much after that.
After he’d eat his hotdog and drink his Pepsi he’d always let out a loud dad burp and excuse himself in an animated tone that always made me laugh.
He called me Junior.
Our visit to Bill’s was great, the two of them caught up then my dad and I made our way out into the field of dreams and checked out all the old cars.
My dad was a walking encyclopedia of car knowledge. He could point out the subtle differences in trim lines and years of pretty much every make and model of American car ever built.
We snapped a few photos and had a few laughs and when we were done looking around my dad and Bill said goodbye to one another.
I stood by and kept quiet.
It was sad and touching to see old friends bidding farewell to one another. Although they didn’t mention it, they both probably knew they’d never see one another again.
When we got in the truck and started the drive home my dad wasn’t saying much so we just drove along listening to the radio.
A few miles away from Bill’s I looked over at my dad and noticed a wood tick on his neck. I told him and he grabbed it and swore and flicked it out the window.
A minute or so later he muttered, "Jesus Christ Junior, we are under attack," as he picked another tick off his arm.
That’s when I felt them crawling on me too. Dad quickly pulled the truck over to the side of the road and jumped out, and so did I. We must have been quite the sight hopping around on the side of the road with our jeans around our ankles pulling ticks off ourselves. We had about 50 ticks each and it took a while to pluck them all off.
I can still hear my dad laughing and cursing.
It was a simple day. A ride in his prized truck, a hotdog and a Pepsi for lunch and time well spent with his son and an old friend, checking out old cars and dreaming out loud.
Even those damn wood ticks and that horrible cancer couldn’t dampen his spirits.
Whenever life is bringing me down I think about that day and I think about my dad and what he’d have given for just a few more simple days like the one we shared together 15 years ago.
It feels more and more to me nowadays as if our vehicles are merely a means of transportation in our whirlwind world.
Maybe 2020 is the year we remember why we loved driving so much that first time we got behind the wheel.
The treasured times we’ve spent making memories on the road with friends and family.
I sure do miss riding shotgun with my dear old dad.
Paul “Willy” Williamson joined the Free Press editorial team in 2007, turning his back on a career as a corrections officer. His motor has been running non-stop ever since.