Daddy’s Trailer

by Cindi on July 1, 2018

Up until today I couldn’t have told you what year my Daddy bought his utility trailer. I do remember, though, when I saw him use it for the first time. I’d left my house, passing Loehmann’s Plaza, our nearby shopping center, and saw him unloading a lawn mower on the side of the road. I didn’t know it at the time, but he had just accepted a post-retirement job as a landscaper with a family friend’s company.

I waved at my Daddy and kept on going; the encounter was reminiscent of the hundreds of times since I’d gotten my driver’s license that I’d seen him, a lineman for Duke Power, up a pole somewhere in Durham, waving down at me from the safety of his “bucket.” So seeing him this time didn’t seem significant…just another chance meeting as we both threw our hands up and yelled, “Hey!”

As it turns out, the trailer (and the landscaping) would become part of a bigger story. My Daddy started experiencing severe back pain, and numerous doctors’ visits presented just as many diagnoses. But the one thing Daddy kept repeating is that he “dropped a lawn mower off the back of the trailer and just pulled something.” A month (and a CT scan) later, we knew the truth: Daddy’s back was broken due to a cancer called Multiple Myeloma, a disease in the bone marrow said to “eat the bones from the inside out and leave them looking like Swiss cheese.”

The diagnosis was devastating, horrifying, and traumatic. And the landscaping job ended. But the story of the trailer didn’t. In between chemotherapies and surgeries and hospital stays, I’d still see that trailer rolling along behind Daddy’s car. When he felt like it, he’d haul yard equipment two hours to my Granny’s old homeplace where he and Mama would tend to that big, uninhabited yard.

Once I had to make the drive there myself, after hearing the news that my uncle, my Daddy’s twin brother, had not woken up that day. I drove along, dreading sharing that news, but not even sure I would find my parents there (they didn’t have cell phones at the time). Once I arrived, I didn’t see them from the driveway, but I immediately saw the trailer parked there and knew I had found them. I’ve never forgotten the image of my Daddy looking surprised to see me, then leaning on the tailgate of the trailer as I said, “Daddy, Harry didn’t wake up this morning.” His voice cracked on two words, “He didn’t?”… then he turned to secure the trailer to his car for the trip back to make arrangements for a funeral.

A few years later, there was another funeral, and my Daddy’s trailer sat idle in his yard for five years. It’s a thing, an object, but every glance toward that trailer gave me a lump in the throat. There it was, sitting beside his shed full of tools where his work boots laid by the door, everything just waiting…

When my mother broke her hip in 2009, we sold the house (and the yard) and packed up everything. The trailer stayed with us, though, occasionally used to haul mulch for our yard or furniture to some child’s college apartment. It hauled a washing machine to one of our children in Charlotte and suffered a flat tire somewhere on the side of the interstate. That was an adventure; you can’t buy a utility trailer tire just anywhere on a Sunday. But that appliance delivery, and the story surrounding it, became another chapter in the life of Daddy’s trailer.

One fall, when all the grandchildren were visiting, they asked to go on a hayride. We didn’t have hay readily available, but we had plenty of pine straw in the yard which the kids gathered up and placed in the back of the trailer. We drove them through the neighborhood with them all screaming at unsuspecting neighbors, “We’re having a PARADE!”

But time moves on, and so did we. The trailer followed us to the beach where our neighborhood association doesn’t allow extraneous items, vehicular or otherwise, in yards and driveways. We rented a space at a local storage facility and have paid to park the trailer there for three years now. We talked about selling it a zillion times. I had long conversations with mama, making sure she didn’t care. I took pictures of it for social media advertising. I told David to post it. Then I changed my mind. Again and again. Recently I started my own post-retirement job, passing the storage facility twice a day on my way to work and back. On those trips, I could see Daddy’s trailer from Highway 17, the beach highway.

I said hey to it….every time I passed it.

Sometimes, I said out loud, “Hey, Daddy.” Sometimes I just waved. But always I saw it sitting there, 200 miles away from where it started, and could still see my Daddy with his lawn mower standing beside it, big grin on his face.

Recently we again talked about selling it. We needed that storage space for our boat. I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer, but a thought popped in my head, and I called my brother. Today we made the three hour drive to deliver Daddy’s trailer to my brother’s house “in the forest” (as my nephew called it when he was little.) What utility trailer wouldn’t want to live on eight acres of land under the beautiful shade of tall, country trees?

It was harder to leave it there than I thought, but at least we didn’t sell it to a stranger, and it’s still in the family. My Daddy would be happy that right now it’s sitting beside a utility shed that he helped install in my brother and sister-in-law’s yard.

As I left, I handed the registration card to my brother and saw something I never noticed before: the date the trailer was purchased. 1998. The year my Daddy was diagnosed with cancer.

The year everything changed.

We drove down the long winding path of my brother’s driveway with him reminding us, “Just come get it if you ever need it!”

Something tells me we will.

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