My Dad has never had coddling issues. I had barely been behind the wheel four times when Dad had me on the highway for two hours straight going to Michigan- and yes, in rain and traffic.
That experience killed most of my fear. I knew that my new-found confidence would result either in me being a fantastic driver- or dying before I ever got a chance to get my license.
For the longest time I had no reason or desire to drive at all. I had nowhere to go. But Dad said, “You need to get your permit.” So I got my permit around the time I turned seventeen... But I still didn’t have my license at eighteen. However, with commuting to college this semester, suddenly the pressure was on. My college is 40 minutes from home. If I wasn’t driving it, my parents would have to, which would mean Dad leaving work or Mom leaving my four younger siblings and driving two and a half hours a day. Not happening. In Dad’s words, “You need to get your license.”
On roads I was good- really good. Dad, my protector, company, and driving-instructor, found my driving so “smoooooooth” that he would fall asleep on me. Thanks, Dad.
But while I could zip smoothly around our windy country roads, I hadn’t the foggiest notion of how to park. Nor was Dad much help either. His laissez-faire attitude which had been so helpful when getting over the fear of the road wasn’t helpful when it came to the delicacy of parallel-parking.
He took me out to a deserted parking lot where he set up hay-bales. He then sat on them and watched as I attempted to park. He watched, and watched, and then would cry out in horror as the hay-bales would go toppling over, “YOU JUST HIT A CAR!!!” I knew I should feel guilty, (hitting imaginary cars), but Dad was so relaxed in the face of pending disaster I could only grin and quote, “Women, for pity’s sake, don’t drive!”
After six failings (and exhaustion setting in) I asked Dad to show me. So I got out. He got in. And I watched--- as he showed me how to park by successfully hitting those hay-bales (eh, cars) and discovering the space was too small in the first place. Thanks, Dad.
So it was Mom, on-line videos, and my grandfather who taught me how to park. Mom also took me to the road test.
It was at 10:00 in Peekskill a half-hour away. We left at 8:30. Mom drove- talking to me, trying to relax me, (my eyes closed, heart pounding, trying not to think about just how important it was to pass this test. College would begin in less than two weeks). We arrived at 9:00, practiced till 9:20, and showed up at the test-site at 9:30. The driving instructor informed us that he couldn’t administer the test because we were driving an illegal car. The previous owner had been out-of-state, and in New York we needed a license plate in the front as well as in the back.
But the man was kind and said he could get us in if we were back by around eleven. We rushed back home. 10:00. I called our car-place (they kindly agreed to do an emergency mounting) while Mom got Dad and went searching for the missing license plate. We ransacked for half an hour before admitting defeat. Dad didn’t know where the license plate was. He hadn’t just forgotten where he’d put it, he didn’t remember putting it anywhere. Thanks, Dad.
But then we got the bright-idea of taking the test on our huge, lumbering 8-passenger Suburban truck. I had never driven the thing before and certainly hadn’t planned on driving it during my test, but hey- the worst thing I could do was fail.
So I drove it over. Talk about a crash course. “Where’s the break! Where’s my turn signal! What does this thing do!”
We arrived. 11:06. The man got in the car. Aaaand… I couldn’t turn the car on. The wheel had locked. The man helped me unlock it. Then the car wouldn’t move. :Eyes darting everywhere:. Ah. That lever behind the car-wheel. ’Still in Park.
We were on our way. The test was a cinch. We never even went into town, only around the residence blocks. The man only talked to me during the test once- during the parking. I backed up into the space beautifully and began to straighten out and he said that was unnecessary and I should just pull out of the spot.
Then he made his one and only real comment: “You have a caterpillar on your car.”
I think I murmured something demurely. In retrospect I should have said something like, “Do I get Echo-Friendly points for cuddly-critters being attracted to my gas-guzzling machine?” But no such thoughts came to mind.
We came to the end. He said, “You’re good to go.” I had passed. With 10 points docked for engine-control: cruel irony for the smooth-driver. Mom asked if I wanted to drive home. Heck, NO!
It’d been a long day. But I was driving to college.
But the real significance of having that license I would learn just four days later when my Dad had a heart attack. His calmness in the face of pending disaster was the only thing that kept me together as I drove the boys to hair-cuts, to church, and my shook-up mother, when she came home from Virginia, to the hospital to see him.
God knew I needed my license that week. Divine timing leaves me awe-struck. God also knew I needed a Dad who would make me get one.
So thanks, Dad. And thanks, God.