"It's red," dad said, in understatement.
This was a car with a hue that was pretty obvious without putting it in place on a color palette. In fact, the tint of the car that my father was gesturing toward could have been identified by no other shade than red. It was a quite bright shade of red. Some might say it was a blinding shade of red. This was the kind of car that caused people who were looking at the vehicle while it drove past them on the road to stop their conversation and audibly notice it.
"Wow, look at that red car!"
Granted, it wasn't a sports car. It was a mid-sized vehicle. Standing at better than six feet tall, with the aches and pains that come with living to early in his 80s, dad wasn't about to stoop into a late-life crisis and buy a car that he couldn't get into without groaning.
He had no wish to road race with younger dudes who were driving vehicles that were nowhere near as bright a red as his car.
His dream was not for speed. It leaned more toward style.
I recall the car was not new. It was a used car − pre-owned, people say today − that nevertheless was new to my dad. And, polished to a sales-lot brilliance, it satisfied an old desire. That was clear from my father's demeanor as he displayed it.
Dad was smiling as he looked fondly at his newly purchased ride. He was honest about the reason he bought it.
"I always wanted a red car."
Living a family life
To be equally up front with my recollection, I never knew growing up that dad had desired a sporty-looking car.
During his days in the Army while serving in World War II, his vehicles were painted the same color as he dressed − olive drab. Little deviation from that base color was allowed by military superiors.
Emerging into civilian life, he stayed simple instead of stylish. He bought a black hardtop DeSoto big enough to transport a growing family. He purchased green and blue Plymouth station wagons large enough to carry the tools of his carpenter trade. Other cars − inconspicuous in color − were utilitarian in nature, with trunks sizeable enough to carry the necessities for family outings.
None of the vehicles was anything close to being considered a dream color.
How would his offspring know that their father harbored a hidden desire for a color that was "fun and impulsive," as one online color analysis noted about red − capturing the feelings of people "who have a zest for life."
Dad always seemed like our father, a dependable and protective guardian, not a "red guy."
Death of a dream
He enjoyed driving the red car for awhile, but then the dream was destroyed.
The accident that totaled the red car was not my father's fault, and the other driver's insurance paid for it to be replaced. Dad himself was unharmed, except for the fact that cherished red car was gone, and he had to seek out another "new" used vehicle that would bring him a similar amount of late-in-life pleasure.
When the purchase was made and the keys were in hand for that car, he again showed it off to family. He seemed proud of it. We all knew why.
"You found another red car," noted my brother, putting the still-obvious facts into words.
"Yep," answered dad, a smile of satisfaction gracing his face.
Then, after a pause for thought, a hint of sadness crossed his features and a slight tone of disappointment entered his voice for just the moment it took to get out an observation that he never mentioned again.
"It's not as red as the other one, though."
Reach Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @gbrownREP
This article originally appeared on The Repository: Gary Brown: Seeing brightness in a memory of dad