The hardest part of being over 40 is that, for the most part, life becomes a defensive action. That is, we spend a greater percentage of time staving off disaster and keeping what we have (such as health or income or skills –our kids). That differs from the first half of life when we are most often on the “offense” trying to learn life skills (driving, a work ethic) to build credit or gain an education, getting through those first few jobs of a “career”, struggling with young children and so on.
And so it was with some sadness (and relief) I learned on Father’s Day that my father was giving up his driver’s license effective his birthday next week. He’ll be 74 but it isn’t age per se, rather a medical condition that has made this decision for him. He told me about this almost in passing yesterday but it struck me as kind of sad. This man, who had been driving for nearly 60 years, is now just giving it up –forever. It’s just as well; he is probably a danger to himself and everyone else on the road.
Still, this was the guy who drove me to school, who drove the family on every vacation, who drove to work everyday before retiring. We depended on him to be able to drive at one time and now, well, we don’t. It seems like there should some sort of ceremony for someone who is relinquishing his driver’s license with a nearly perfect driving record and after decades of driving service to his family and friends. But alas, nothing honorary is coming from a society that demands you drive half your life away.
I was afraid to suggest it, but I thought it would be nice if dad took an official last drive. I didn’t bring it up because he really shouldn’t be driving. It got me thinking though; what would be my last drive if I were faced with having to give up my license (and it was still safe and legal for me to do so). I think I might take the car to the place I first drove on a public street. That would be at a point near West Washington and Bradfordton Road, not far from where I live now.
I still remember that hot July morning in 1976 going out with my behind-the-wheel class, listening to Wally Phillips on WGN (the driving instructor’s choice, not ours), and accelerating east on what was then a country road with just farms on either side. My senses were alert and I felt fully alive in a way a forty-something rarely, if ever, feels while driving.
Driving to the store, hauling the kids around, going to work, they all seem so dreadfully dull as driving goes, but it’s hard to imagine having to give up that ability to do so. I dread the day.