“You got a fast car
But is it fast enough so you can fly away
You gotta make a decision
Leave tonight or live and die this way”
My sister and I fantasize about not having to drive, being chauffeured around, no more losing our cars in the mall parking lot or scraping the windshield on frosty mornings. But driving is a status symbol for the elderly. It represents independence and mobility and a level of personal freedom not felt since the pubescent exhilaration of getting your driver’s license as a teenager.
It’s been a year or so since DooDaddy reluctantly gave up driving. Gmamma quit long ago, letting DooDaddy tote her to the beauty parlor and her bridge games. This was B.M. – Before Moving – to the Old Folks Home. DooDaddy LOVED driving up and down Kingston Pike all day, running errands and bumping into people. He was a legend at Kroger. Back in the day, whenever I went to the grocery store, my dad was there. Sometimes, I’d call him on his mobile phone only to hear it ring on the next aisle. Ronald, a long-time bagger, still asks about DooDaddy.
Once he was dashing home with groceries, and the road was blocked off due to a fatal traffic accident. Rather than saying he had to get through to care for his frail wife, left all alone, DooDaddy indignantly declared that his ice cream was melting and they simply had to let him pass.
Then A.M. – After Moving – there was the time he braved snowmagedden traffic in his Ford Taurus, on his walker, with his Frankenstein shoe lift to get Gmamma’s furs (pronounced “fuhs”) out of storage. Yup. Not sure where she was going to wear her full-length mink (female pelts, of course), but if it’s chilly in the dining room at Shannondale, she’ll be elegantly warm.
DooDaddy explained it away as “casual driving.”
“Have you talked to your physical therapist about driving?” my sibs and I inquired tentatively after his broken hip.
“I’ve been meaning to do that,” DooDaddy replied. “After all, I’ll just be doing casual driving, nothing elaborate.”
Facebook became a place for BREAKING GEEZER UPDATES like this one:
DooDaddy has just completed his latest “casual driving” excursion. He took his electric toothbrush to Walgreen’s, because he forgot how to use it. They showed him. Mission accomplished. Repeat: Mission accomplished. The geezer is back in his wingback.
We were worried, because DooDaddy was having wrecks, like getting T-boned pulling around a bus into oncoming traffic, simply because Gmamma told him to, from her dubious vantage point in the passenger seat.
So we came up with a plan to get DooDaddy off the road without losing his self-esteem. Maybe, just maybe he would give his car to my sister, and it would be his idea, instead of ours.
Keeling is a notoriously bad driver. As a teenager, my sister totaled our grandmother’s Nova, buckling the seatbelt without noticing that her feet didn’t reach the pedals. She rolled helplessly down a steep parking lot and over an embankment, stranding the car like a beached whale and destroying the transmission in the process.
My sister once abandoned a car on the side of I-40 on her way home from Memphis. She hitchhiked the rest of the way but couldn’t remember where she’d left her car. DooDaddy called every filling station west of Nashville before he located Keeling’s broken-down Honda Civic and had it towed back to Knoxville.
Naturally, all these years later, DooDaddy still worries about my sister making the road trip to Knoxville in another unreliable automobile. So when she drove a rental car to town, because she didn’t have a decent vehicle to make the trip, DooDaddy gallantly gifted the Taurus to her. She drove it back to Memphis and that was the end of his casual driving.
It was a “Gift of the Magi” moment. My sister needed wheels, so my father gave up his independence for his child. She accepted it with grace and left his dignity intact. This was not about driving. It was about a father helping his little girl. Because you never outgrow being a parent. Even when you’re a geezer, and your children are parenting you.