Archive for the ‘Youngest Son of an Oldest Son (Series)’ Category



December 19, 2009


His bedroom was the biggest room in the house.

He needed it.

Unlike many of his friends, Kenny was not into video games and had no intention of mastering the computer. His was a very different passion.

He liked making things “go.” He once found a lawnmower that had been put to the curb for pick-up, wheeled it down the road, up our driveway and into the garage. Within a couple hours, he not only had the engine working, but had it mounted on an old wagon and was “riding” it back down the driveway.

He was twelve years old.

It was the same with every gas-powered engine he came across. If it wasn’t working, or was working poorly, he’d tear it apart, figure out how it worked, why it wasn’t working, and then get it running better than ever.

But like every teenager, he did overstep his bounds on occasion.

One evening, I walked in the back door to the unmistakable odor of an auto service garage. Kenny had brought into his bedroom (which was in the basement) a V-8 engine – a very large V-8 engine. God only knows how the steps survived the weight.

Assuming he understood why I was so upset, he said, “Don’t worry Dad, there’s no gas in it.”

Kenny! The whole house smells like Mr. Goodwrench! Get that thing outta here!”

As irritated as I was with the situation, I also gained an understanding about Kenny that heretofore, was only a passing thought.

He has a gift and passion for understanding mechanics. His love of the workings of cars and motorcycles equaled my love of music. He, like me, was blessed to have learned this about himself at a young age. And as music did for me, mechanics kept Kenny from experiencing many teenage pitfalls.

Thanks to my wife’s connection with a well-established neighborhood auto repair service, Kenny was allowed to apply for a job at age fifteen. I drove him to the location and waited in the car. I thought to myself, “If he comes back in ten minutes, he didn’t get the job.”

A half hour later, he comes strolling out of the building, expressionless.

“So how’d it go?”

In typical teenage fashion, he responded, “Okay.”

I thought to myself, “This kid would make a great poker player. His face reveals nothing.”

“Did you like the place?” I asked, hoping for more than a one word answer.


(No luck.)

“So did the owner like you?”



Realizing he was not going to offer any more syllables than absolutely necessary, my curiosity got the best of me. “Well, did you get the job?”

Completely shocked that I would even ask, he says, “Come on, Dad. Of course I got the job. I know more than most guys that have worked in a shop for two years!”

He was right.

Our next-door neighbor is a man who knows auto mechanics inside and out. He has a degree in psychology but at that time, was the supervisor of a very large manufacturing company that builds Mobile Veterinary Hospitals and Mobile S.W.A.T. Team Police Units which are delivered nationwide. In his spare time, he raced a 1967 Chevy Camaro he has owned for more than 20 years. He also owns two, top-notch Harley-Davidson motorcycles. When he was a boy living in Northern Ohio, there was a man in his neighborhood that taught him all about cars and he passed that knowledge onto Kenny, along with many great life lessons.

From the time Kenny was in his early teens, his head was under the hood of that Camaro as often as possible, helping the neighbor. He also worked on the motorcycles and other cars brought to our neighbor’s house for repair. (BTW: the tatoo is fake.)

To this day, he and Kenny are still the best of friends. Our neighbor became a mentor to him. He helped keep Kenny grounded in a way that parents can’t always accomplish. Even though the messages were congruent, it was the neighbor’s words that seemed to have the most impact during those critical mid-teen years. I couldn’t be more thankful.

In the nearly four years he’s had a driver’s license, Kenny has owned more vehicles than I’ve owned in the last twenty years and seems to be on a first-name basis with the people at the Deputy Registrar’s office. He currently owns a Volkswagen Jetta and this Suzuki motorcycle.

He’s been employed as an auto and/or truck mechanic since that first job, where he stayed for two years. His passion for mechanics has not faded although his desire now is to get involved in designing and building custom engines.


Apparently, at the tender age of twenty (next month), he’s “outgrown” simply repairing cars. 🙂