A Wise Dad’s Big Dent


They’d gotten their new car. At last. It was 1979. Ward and his wife Karen had saved up enough money for a down payment on a brand spanking new ’79 Ford Galaxy 500. The couple had admired the car for some time—a dove-gray model with a vinyl roof and FM radio—so when they finally made the purchase, it felt like they had arrived.

On the day Ward and Karen brought the Galaxy home, they parked it in the garage so Ward could wax it and make it really shine. Then Karen went into the house to make supper while her husband massaged their beloved car with a buff rag. As Ward waxed, his five-year-old son, Chris, was riding a bike in circles around the driveway. More than once, Chris’ bike got dangerously close to the new car, so Ward advised his son to be careful and keep his distance from the Ford. Each time Ward reminded him, Chris listened at first, only to venture back toward the car again later.

Time passed like that, until Karen called outside to say that supper was ready. At that, Chris came racing into the garage like a bandit, and his father watched in horror as Chris’ bike bumped the back fender of the brand new Galaxy. Before he even realized what he was saying, Ward reacted. “Why, you little @#$*&^!”

Almost as soon as the word left his mouth, Ward felt despicable. How could he have said such a thing to his child? He looked at Chris. The boy’s gaze had fallen to the pavement as he slowly shuffled his feet toward the house. It seemed too late for damage control, but Ward attempted anyway. “Chris,” he asked, “will you please take a walk with me?” The boy looked puzzled, but fell in step beside his father. The two walked together down a long country road, and all the while, Ward tried to come up with something to say that would resolve the terrible name he had called his son.

The two of them reached a crossroad, turned, and kept walking. Ward still couldn’t think of a way to bring up the one subject that dominated his thoughts. But then the five-year-old slipped his hand into his father’s, and the man was so touched that his words just came. Ward knelt in the gravel and looked his son in the eye. He explained how he had been wrong in using the word he did. “Chris,” he said, “can you ever forgive me?” Chris nodded his little head, and in response, Ward gave him a big bearhug right there in the middle of the road. Then he picked up his boy and carried him home.

When the two of them reached the house and entered the garage together, Ward paused to look at the day-old Ford Galaxy. Then, without a moment’s hesitation, the man gave his car a good, hard kick, leaving a size-ten dent in the brand new fender. Watching nearby, Chris looked confused for a second. But while the damage was still fresh, Ward looked at his son and cracked a wide grin. The five-year-old smiled with glee. Then father and son made their way inside—a giggling little boy with his daddy chuckling right behind him.

If you would ask Ward today about the time he gave his ’79 Ford the boot, he’d tell you that he’s never felt an ounce of regret about it. For years, he let that dented fender serve as a reminder of his son’s love and the day that child forgave him on a country road. And if you’d ask Ward about it, he’d tell you why he’s so glad his Galaxy helped to put it all in perspective. In his own words, “I’ll bet that Ford has been in the junkyard for many years, but Chris and I are still best friends.”