Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Learning to Drive in Great Grandpa's Car
My time had come behind the wheel of my great grandpa's sensible blue Mercury Sable, which my dad had sadly inherited. My learner's permit fresh in my wallet, I sat in the empty Grace Church parking lot on a cold winter night and hesitantly pushed the gas. I was surprised at how much it took to get it moving, surprised how I could feel the tires turning with the wheel, and that coordinating, hands, feet, and eyes took more concentration than I had expected.
My Dad settled in the passenger seat next to me, leaning one elbow against the window. He had me drive a few laps of the empty space, even telling me to go as fast as I could and then slam on the breaks. He wanted me to know how it felt to be out of control a bit, scared of both how fast the car could go, and how slow it stopped when you needed it to. He wanted me to feel the skid of the brakes on ice and how the pedal jumped a bit in protest under my foot.
Just when I was starting to feel confident, my tense shoulders relaxing and small grin emerging, he leaned back comfortably and said, "Ok, drive us home." I looked at him incredulously. Me, who lived by a teenage anthem of "It's not fair!" and "I'm responsible enough!" suddenly didn't want the responsibility. "What?" I asked, checking to see if I had heard him correctly. "Drive us home," he repeated calmly. "You know the way."
I obediently white-knuckled the wheel, and carefully steered the bench-seated beauty the 5 miles home. I clumsily navigated our driveway with such pride I could barely contain myself, beaming as I rushed inside. My mom asked my dad expectantly, "How'd she do?" "Well," he smirked, "She drove us home." "What?!" she asked with an nervous edge in her voice that told me she was only expecting parking lot practice, and that she was so glad Dad was the one teaching us how to drive. "Yup," he said as he casually walked into the other room and turned on football.
I would eventually get my license in that car, drive my giggling friends around, break curfew, shuttle younger siblings to soccer and piano practice, and make out with Mr. Ladd down by Lake Michigan. Our family had some growing up to do in that car, and Great Grandpa knew we'd be needing it. He wasn't physically with us anymore, but I like to think of him looking down on us with a crooked knowing grin, as my parents practiced letting go, I fell in love, and together we navigated the road to adulthood.
photo credit: bigoteetoe via photopin cc