Over several get-togethers, beginning a week or two before Susan and I bought the Ford Escape on July 31, I’ve been able to be a dad to my daughter Katie more than anytime in the past five years since we started seeing each other again, and maybe in her entire life — not for lack of trying, mind you.

It was awhile ago, when Susan and I were just barely thinking about getting a new car that I suggested and Susan agreed that rather than trade her 1994 Honda hatchback in for the $500 a dealership would give us or sell it privately for perhaps $1000, we give it to Katie.

And when we saw Katie over the July 4 weekend, we told her our plans, in part because she mentioned that she was considering saddling herself with the costly burden of a new car. She seemed excited and appreciative, but she was also a bit apprehensive in that she had minimal experience with a manual transmission.

So about a couple weeks afterward Susan drove my truck to work one day and Katie and I took the hatchback out for the two of them to get acquainted in the parking lot across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, which was an entirely intentional choice because that was the same exact place 36 years earlier at 10 years of age where I first drove a car… if you can call cruising around the parking spaces in low gear at less than five miles an hour with my mom nervous in the passenger seat and me barely able to see over the wheel of her 1965 mustang, driving.

Everything was going great with Katie until an over-zealous groundskeeper told us we couldn’t practice driving there and grumblingly I obliged and we left, making our way over to a parking lot at another somewhat-less-positive personal point of interest: the Los Angeles Zoo.

Fortunately we were left alone and Katie went through the basics of first and second and reverse gears. Some aspects went smoother than others, but overall she rocked it and  I was as proud of her as I was thrilled at the opportunity to be of service and of benefit to her.

The next week I brought the car in to my awesome mechanic (Long Automotive on Rowena in Silver Lake whose motto should be “You Can’t Go Wrong With Long”) with instructions that he tune it up, smog it and look it over veeeeeery carefully because if anything needed fixing I didn’t want it becoming Katie’s problem. Turns out he recommended some relatively big ticket items: the water pump, timing chain and right front axle. But despite a repair pricetag that was more than the car was worth, I trust Long implicitly: he wouldn’t say those things needed fixing if they didn’t. So I didn’t hesitate.

The following weekend I drove the Honda out to Granada Hills and picked Katie up for some more practice. By that time the new Ford was in our garage and if things had gone according to plan Katie would be the new owner of the Honda, but the car’s pink slip had pulled a disappearing act and Susan had to order up a replacement from the DMV. And wait.

So instead we did some more first/second/reverse practicing in a nearby parking lot and then some residential street driving before ably tackling busy Reseda Boulevard north into the hills and back.

And yesterday, with the pink slip still nowhere in sight, I drove out there again and in addition to some parking lot and residential street/major thoroughfare driving, we graduated onto the 118 Freeway out to Rocky Peak and back to Balboa Boulevard, which is when I snapped this picture of her.

So proud I am. Of her. Of me. Of us.