Monday, June 16, 2014

The End of an Era

When I was sixteen, getting my Driver's License was the most important thing in my life.  The day it arrived was cause for great celebrating on my part and cause for worry and dread on the part of my parents.

My Dad taught me how to drive.  He started by taking me out on the frozen lakes in winter, showing me the various steps in forward and backward motion, how to shift and how to brake.  Then he turned me loose and let me practice out on the snow covered ice, where I couldn't do much damage.

When I had my learner's permit, we traveled the gravel back roads running between the corn and soy bean fields.  When he felt that I could drive those roads safely, we graduated to the blacktop county roads and finally to the two lane state highways.

From there it was on to town driving. This was a fairly small town with a population of maybe 10,000 people at that time.  He taught me to drive the residential streets and the busy downtown area.  I learned to parallel park.  I learned that if you pay attention you won't squash the kid who dashes out in the street in front of your car.  I learned that just because the law says you have the right-of-way at an intersection doesn't mean that the other driver knows this.

When it was time to take Drivers Education classes, I was ready and passed with flying colors.

But Dad wasn't done with me yet.  One warm summer morning Dad asked me if I wanted to go to Minneapolis with him...a distance of about 100 miles.  I loved road trips with Dad.  I was ready in two minutes flat.

Road trips with Dad weren't just about the trip.  There was always a stop at some little cafe for coffee and maybe a slice of pie.  Then there was a stop at a roadside stand to buy whatever fruit was in season.  This time it was cherries.  We drove along, munching on red ripe cherries, spitting the pits out the windows.

When we reached the outskirts of the city, Dad pulled over.  He told me it was my turn to drive.  "But you are driving through downtown Minneapolis," I objected.  "No, you are," he said.  So I did.

Minneapolis was a scary place for a country girl to drive.  If the freeways had been built then, I don't remember them.  We took two lane state highways right into the heart of the city.  I was terrified.  If Dad shared my terror, he hid it well.  He sat in the passenger seat, looking out the window and enjoying the view.  He offered no advice.  He didn't tell me how to handle each situation that presented itself.  He just let me go.

Years later I told him how scared I had been on that drive.  He just smiled and told me that he knew I could do it.  He said that if I could make it through the city just once, I would never have a fear of driving anywhere ever again.  He was right.

And now I have come full circle.  My driver's license was due for renewal last week.  Although my arthritic hip is much improved, it has not improved enough to be able to go to the courthouse.  So I just let my license go and later I will get an ID card for when I need to prove who I am.

I thought it would bother me to let go of my driver's license, but I am gratified to find out that it really doesn't.  After all, it has been at least 10 years since I owned anything to drive.  Physical limitations keep me from even thinking about long trips alone.  I manage just fine with the use of the local bus and of adult children who take me where I need to go now and then.  So in reality, nothing has changed.

As my Dad aged, his memory and sense of direction seemed to fail him at times.  He would set out to drive somewhere, get turned around in his mind and wind up miles away from his destination.  Because of the severe Minnesota winters, we were always fearful that he would get lost and wind up frozen in a snowbank somewhere.

I just told Youngest Son that even though I intend to live long enough to be a problem to my children, my continuing to drive long after I should stop is not a problem they will have to deal with.  And I believe I am OK with that.


  1. Your dad sounds like he was a lovely and sensible man - and one who knew his daughter very well and cared about her wellbeing.

    I've told my kids if I'm unfit to drive they have to take the car keys away from me. No point endangering anyone for the sake of headstrong independence...

  2. Dad believed in teaching by doing - and he had the patience to let us learn by doing. I admired him for that.

    I guess I am realistic enough to know that in an emergency driving situation, I would be in trouble, physically. I would rather give up a little bit of independence than to subject others to problems just because I am too stubborn to deal with it.

  3. Same happened to my father. One day, a few years back, he didn't arrive home at his usual hour. That night the state troopers found him on the side of the highway...he'd lost his way and refused to drive another foot. These days he only drives on his property, to the local grocery, or post office - all locations within just a few miles of his house.

  4. Stephen...That's scary when a person doesn't know where they are. We weren't so worried about Dad in the summertime, but a few hours in winter weather can kill a person. At least now, my kids won't have that worry to deal with. But I expect I can find one or two other things to keep them on their toes. :)

  5. I took drivers ed in California, the problem I had was both of my parents cars are stick, I learned on a automatic. My dad had to teach me to drive stick. My wife had auto., my car was stick. She didn't drive for awhile until we bought a auto tran.

    I was once asked were did I learn to drive?? Calif. why?? You drive like a cop...OK. When I got my Fla D.L. the DMV guy looked at my D.L. from MN and signed me off. He said I know you know how to drive, good luck down here. ;)

    I don't want to think about not driving anytime soon.

  6. Rob...If my circumstances were different, it might bother me to let my license go, but I am not going to buy another car and I have been getting along without one for years. It helps that my family all live fairly close and are willing to take me where I need to go. I rarely go anywhere that I can't get to by bus, so it all works out. If I still had kids at home, it would be a different story.

  7. Most folks drive too long. No doubt you are just as well off, since you haven't been driving anyway.

  8. Gorges...Yes, it really doesn't matter much. I've kept my license for an ID, and I can get a state ID card for that. One less thing to worry about.

  9. I learned how to drive in dad's truck (stick) and my brother's jeep (stick) and mostly drove on the country road to my home. On the first day of Driver's Ed, the teacher asked if any of us had driven before. Of course I raised my hand and was placed behind the steering wheel. Imagine the teacher's fear when I sailed right through three stop signs. Yes. I HAD driven before, but there had been no stop signs on the country roads where I was raised.

  10. lotta joy...Now that is funny! All things considered, I would rather ride with someone who had driven before, even if they hadn't yet learned about stop signs, than with one who had never been behind the wheel, like a girl I took
    Driver's Ed with. That's where I learned the value of prayer. You know that old joke about if you don't like the way I drive, get off the sidewalk? It was written about her.

  11. I'm definitely putting you on my sidebar blog roll because I'm too forgetful to find my way back on my own. lol

  12. lotta joy...Thanks. I am returning the favor because I believe my memory is at least equal to yours. ;) I have been known to go from one room to the next and forget why. Ain't the golden years grand?!