I bought a newer car last week. It’s a little embarrassing because it’s exactly the same color and style as my last one (except that it has some very cool little features like remote start and a sunroof). Anyway, I was thinking about how important driving is to my independence.
About a week before my dad died last year, the hospice people came to his house to tell him what to expect in the coming days. They talked about moving from a walker to a wheelchair, about the eventual possibility of a hospital bed, about what kinds of drugs would be available. Near the end of the conversation, the nurse said, “And of course you won’t be driving.” That seemed to be the only thing in the entire conversation that my dad heard—forget wheelchairs, hospital beds, and imminent death—when he heard that he got the saddest look on his face and said, “You mean I can’t drive anymore?”
It struck me so forcefully how driving in our country is almost the only way to get around. When we can’t drive, we can’t be independent. Something should change here.
My dad was competitive, so he liked to drive sort of fast. He didn’t like anyone passing him on the freeway—or on Center Street. He’d immediately speed up to catch up and pass the offending vehicle. I talked to him about it when he was in his 80’s and he agreed it probably wasn’t a good idea and said he’d try to stop doing it. I’m not sure if he was successful. But I like to picture him in heaven in the ’68 Thunderbird he had for a while, with its giant engine and its super get-up-and-go. My mom is in the seat next to him saying, “Hell’s bells, Ed, you’re going to kill us both!” He’ll say, “Eleanor, don’t you remember? We’re already dead!” as he puts the pedal to the metal.