Changing the Oil–A poem

 One of the more interesting sites I’ve come across lately is Mike Rowe’s Profoundly Disconnected. Rowe, of Dirty Jobs fame, wants to challenge the “absurd belief that a four-year degree is the only path to success.”  Rowe’s S.W.E.A.T. Pledge is worth reading and I’m hoping to return to this idea in a later blog. It surprises folks when they hear that I, a tenured college professor, don’t think everyone needs to (or should) go to college. 

But it’s really cold outside, 4:30 on a Friday, and I’m not sure I’m intellectually capable of much more than promising to write at a later date.

I was, though, reminded of a poem I wrote a while back as I was looking at Rowe’s site. 

Like plenty of folks, there was a time in my life when I did many of the hard, menial tasks around the house. Not only did I save money, but working with my hands, in some ways, was a nice change of pace from writing, teaching, and grading papers. When my kids were little, I tried to get them involved. We have pictures of them painting, working with a hammer, and even crawled under the car helping me change the oil.

Of course, all those photo ops ended when they became teenagers, but that’s another story too. These days, I’m not sure they know the difference between motor oil and canola oil. Since it’s late, and almost the weekend, I’ll just blame our ascent into the middle class and smart phones. No self-flagellation heading into the weekend.

Either way, I’ll post the poem below. My advice: go visit Rowe’s site and skip the poem, but if you read I hope you enjoy.

Changing the Oil

My son’s hand stretches toward the
Oil filter. It’s not easy being five
And working on a car.

“What’s that?” his finger lost in
Dirt and grime.
He reaches up with his other hand.
“What’s a transition . . . mission?”
He corrects himself.

“What would happen”
His head turns, eyes serious,
“if the car falls.”

He asks so many questions his
Hands can’t stay focused
On the work to be done.

It’s not easy being patient,
Under a car, dirty, hot, busy.
I want to be finished. Oil
Changed, filter recycled
Grease out from under my nails.

Loosening the plug, I
Tell him we’ll get squished
“But I’ll use the bike pump
To fill you back up.”

He laughs and reaches his
Hands toward the plug,
Telling me it’s his turn.
And the oil slides down his arm
Like syrup. “Nasty”
He says laughing.

Crawling out from
Under the car is easier
When the job is complete.
“Why did we empty it,
If we have to fill it back up?”

Standing on the bumper,
Holding the funnel
He looks at me
And I keep answering
Questions. A
Labor of love. A
Job I hope never ends.

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About John Wegner
John Wegner is a Professor of English where he also serves as the Dean of the Freshman College. He and Lana, his wife, have been married over 25 years. They are the parents of two great sons who (so far) haven't ever needed bail money.

2 Responses to Changing the Oil–A poem

  1. John Wegner says:

    Nick,
    Thanks for the kind words and thanks for reading. We always just hope the good memories outweigh the bad. Or at least they repress the bad ones.

  2. Nick says:

    Nice work, John…reminds me of “helping” my dad when I was little, and he was a single dad, and needed to know where I was while he was working on stuff, more than anything…but it was cool being there with him. I bet your boy will remember those moments when he least expects to.

    I appreciate your honesty when you write; that’s one reason I nominated you for a Sunshine Award…if you haven’t gotten the notice, stop by my blog and check it out – you deserve it!

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Things I Read

And Things I Learned

Washington Monthly

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Joanne Jacobs

Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs

Inside Higher Ed

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

FiveThirtyEight

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Balloon Juice

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Scott Adams' Blog

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

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