Friday, March 8, 2013

Learning to Drive: Stay off the Sidewalks

My Dad was of the throw-them-in-the-deep-end-and-they-will-learn-to-swim school of parenting.

Teaching me to drive was a classic example of this.
Paul Mayne via photopin cc

To call me a hesitant driver would be a bit of an understatement.  I was terrified of the thought that I would be in control of 3 tons or so of metal that could in seconds cause death or disfigurement to me, innocent bystanders, and property.

The day after I got my permit Dad drove me to an appointment downtown.  As we walked back to the car, Dad suggested I should drive home.

Given the fact that
   a) I had never been behind the wheel before
   b) We were downtown in a major city
   c) It was rush hour
   d) The drive home included expressways, and
   e) His car was stick shift
I didn't think this was the best place to start.

Dad seemed genuinely puzzled by my hesitation even when I pointed out my reasons, but he reluctantly agreed to drive.  He then spent the entire drive home demonstrating and explaining in great detail how to shift without using the clutch.

The next day Dad took me out on the quiet suburban streets of our neighborhood to practice driving for the first time.

I was nervous. He was not.

He was however full of advice and direction. Non-stop.  Occasionally contradictory.

Next thing I knew I was crying too hard to see the road.  And I was parked on the sidewalk.

Dad drove us home and Mom took over as driving instructor.  I didn't drive with Dad in the car again for years.

The last time I was in a car with Dad was the day I drove him home from the hospital.

It was 4 days after the surgery, 2 days after the diagnosis of terminal, stage 4 cancer.  I helped him climb into the car and carefully arraigned his oxygen tank between his knees.

I didn't cry on that drive home and I didn't drive on any sidewalks, but it was hard.  Much harder than learning to drive.

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