I reflected recently about the time we took my father-in-laws driving away from him. He had been living alone for some time after my mother-in-law had passed. He managed to drive sufficiently to the McDonalds for breakfast every morning and the Steak and Shake every day for lunch or supper. Egg McMuffin every day, plain hamburger and root beer float for the other daily meal. His stroke was at least a decade before, his speech never recovered nor many other aspects of normal life. We worried over his driving, many times he believed the break was the gas and the “car just wouldn’t go”. Luckily for us it wasn’t the other way, where he thought the gas was the break! The day came to move him into assisted living, but his car never made the trip.
I thought about this a lot, the loss of driving. It made me remember how as kids we so looked forward to the right of passage—-the drivers license! I got to put a drivers license in my wallet that carried nothing else but a couple of dollars. When I was in high school, cars dealers, as a potential sales gimmick, would loan cars to the high schools for drivers ed. Drivers Education, that class held in the summer, which benefited your ease of passing the state drivers exams and eased your parents insurance costs.
My drivers ed. class was taught by Principal Stucker. I was in the last afternoon driving group. I was familiar with driving, at least working around or driving small tractors and occasionally pickup trucks. But drivers ed. did give me road experience. Once in a while, Mr. Stucker would have us stop and he’d buy us cokes. Cokes in the 8 ounce bottles. He would drink his slowly while he was riding, then sit the empty on the floor. This was a test of being able to drive, and make turns without tipping the bottle. Those were good days.
It takes a special person to teach. It takes an extremely laid back person to teach driving. I accepted that I could never teach my children how to drive. I lacked patience AND I lacked the ability to release control! We were heading across county when my wife said I should let my eldest drive for practice. We were on a rarely used older four lane road, it was summer, no hazards, sure why not. We changed places. Not five miles down the road, we came to stop. An accident made us detour on to a country road no wider than a lane an half, meeting other vehicles. I was a nervous wreck. I took over driving. Certainly I must have made him feel bad. Type A controllers just have to be in control. We’ve never talked about that day, and I wish to heaven I could have just let go……
Our oldest grandson has just turned 15. He visited us a few times in the last six or eight months. My wife says, “why don’t you take him out driving?” (My mind goes, “woman?, where’d you come up with that?) My voice goes, “hummm, maybe I should”. We live on an almost mile long lane, that we share with a neighbor farmer. So off we go, driving up and down between our place and the grain bins. Practicing turning, backing and paying attention to turn signals etc. It wasn’t much but it was something. I had some improvement in attitude, well at least we didn’t meet any traffic! I was amazed that I had enough patience to even attempt it. Maybe it makes up a little for what I couldn’t do for my children. At least I could do a little teaching before the day comes when they take my driving away.