Wednesday, November 17, 2004

To Drive or Not to Drive

There was a segment on the Today show this morning about older drivers and the safety hazard they cause. There was a time in my youth where I was adamant about this issue. My conviction that "old people" should not drive came from a ride with my Grandfather. He was about 75 at the time and despite diminished faculties, he was insistent on driving. My parents, especially my mother, were torn up about the whole thing. Mom was worried about forcing her father to stop driving because he would lose his independence and might just "waste away." I was riding with Grandpa because he was available to take me where I needed to be. We were traveling on a 4 lane divided highway and came to the left turn we needed to make. Grandpa sat in the median for at least a minute or two even though there were no cars coming from the other direction. I have no idea what was going on in his head. It wasn't until a car came toward us from the other direction that Grandpa decided to go for it. We were lucky; the other car saw us and slammed on his brakes thus avoiding a certain accident. Grandpa didn't say a word. I, of course, was totally freaked out. I refused to ever ride with him again. I was livid with my parents for not stopping his driving. I got my license shortly after that and riding with Grandpa became a non-issue for me. Dad put his foot down a few months after the "near miss" and they took Grandpa's keys and had him turn in his license. That was excruciating for my parents. I couldn't understand what they were so upset about. He was going to kill himself, or worse, someone else.

Once my kids were born, I was even more adamant that "old people" shouldn't be allowed to drive. I can't count the number of news stories I'd see where an older driver got confused and plowed into another car or a group of people. I had even been cut off, cut in front of and "bumped" a few times by these "impaired" drivers. I could not understand why these people would be allowed to drive if there was ANY chance that they could kill a kid. To heck with their independence.

I now find myself coming up on the same decision my parents were faced with all those years ago. My father is 72 this year and his health is failing, as I wrote about earlier this summer. The decision to stop driving won't be made in the immediate future, as my father is still fully functioning, still has his reflexes and is mentally as sharp as he was in his youth. But it's coming. I can feel it. My mother refuses to go on long driving trips with him anymore, so they don't go. They used to travel all over the east coast from Florida to Canada visiting relatives. This saddens Dad, but he doesn't complain about it – much. He drives mostly during the day, and they don't take the highway as much anymore because it makes my mother nervous. I wonder how hard it's going to be when Dad has to hang up his keys. Part of it will be his loss of independence, of course, but I think part of it for me is facing his mortality...and maybe my own. I hope it is a decision my parents make themselves, because I can't imagine my having to step in and insist.

My how your perspective changes when you're actually in those shoes you were once so critical of.


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Name: Cattiva
Location: Virginia, United States

About Me: I'm the mom of three: #1 Son (20), The Princess of Wails (17) and their baby brother - The Baby (6). I was a grad-student working on an MA in history until we were surprised - I mean blessed - with The Baby. I'll get back to it...someday (the thesis, not the kid - I have no choice concerning the kid). I am one of only a few people I went to school with who is actually using their history degree in my career (and to think my Father called it Basket-weaving!). I live a very hectic life amongst massive clutter. I call it a good day if we have managed to get home at night without losing one of the kids (no matter how hard I try!). Friends say I have a humorous take on life's happenings. The sad part is that what I write about is true. I laugh to keep from crying.

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