Driving While Debilitated


Growing up, I can’t ever remember a time we’d drive together as a family when my dad wasn’t the one behind the wheel. I don’t know if the reasoning was purely chivalrous in nature, or if it was my dad’s need to maintain constant control. Whatever the reason; wherever dad drove, we went.

I do however remember a time when my dad cursed the state for allowing the elderly to share the road with able drivers, seeing as they “should have to turn in their driver’s license to receive a Medicare card,” as my dad so kindly phrased it.

Of course, the rule never applied to him when he was finally of the age that Social Security kicked in, because according to him, he was a great driver. After recently sideswiping a car when changing lanes on a highway, hitting a parked car because he forgot to put the car in drive, and almost plowing over a group of bicyclists on a weekend ride in their neighborhood, I had to put my foot down and have a “come-to-Jesus meeting” with my very stubborn father.

When I carefully approached him with my concerns and examples for said concerns, he responded in two ways. He either directed the fault on the other parties involved in his minor traffic mishaps; and yes, he even blamed the parked car incident on the parked car, stating that the butt end of the car was hanging too far out of its designated space. Or, if not for blaming others on his fender benders, my dad would respond to my concerns by reminding me of all the times my driving skills were questionable as a teenager. He also was sure to add that I’m even lucky he ever handed me the keys to his ugly 1976 Plymouth Station Wagon with its woodgrain shelving paper turned side paneling. I however, considered that to be a punishment, not a lucky reward.

While I do understand the desire to hold on to the freedom to drive wherever you want, whenever you want, I tried to find an appealing compromise to suppress the need for my dad to drive as often as he needed to. While most of his driving recently mainly consisted of to and from doctors’ appointments for himself and my mom, trips to the grocery store, or for the occasional meal at a restaurant, his need to drive was pretty limited, which immensely helped with my proposition to him.

The quick fix would have easily been to suggest that my mom take over as chauffeur. However, my mom would never survive the pressure of having to drive with my dad as a passenger. It’s also worth mentioning that my mom isn’t exactly a great driver either, and there will soon come a time when she’ll likely have no business behind the wheel either.

So, I offered to do as much driving for them as I realistically could, including making my trips to the grocery store an opportunity to ‘kill two birds with one stone,’ so to speak and suggest we do both of our shopping together. My mom also scheduled my dad’s doctors’ appointments to coincide with the times that the caregiver would be able to take him.

I have to say, it does sadden me to see my parents relinquishing a lot of their independence to me when, most of my life, I’ve been dependent on them for so much. I try and take it in stride by constantly reminding myself that I raise these concerns about their abilities because I love them and care about them. Helping them with everyday tasks just means that their quality of life is important to me, just as them providing for me during my youth was their goal to ensure I had a quality life.

So, before I get anymore sentimental, let me close this with saying that my dad ended up thinking he got the better end of the deal. Not only does he not have to worry about driving, but in his penny-pinching mind, he gets to save on gas money now too.